With so many questions surrounding the Indianapolis Colts 2018 season, one thing that nearly everyone agrees with is that the offense gets significantly better with Andrew Luck under center and an improved offensive line. The Colts have added some young playmakers after allowing Frank Gore and Donte Moncrief to walk in free agency.
With Frank Reich’s approach to the offense being an aggressive one, the common assumption is that regardless of youth and inexperience, the ball will be getting spread around quite a bit this season. Speed and youth hasn’t just been an attraction for the the defensive change, the offense has a lot more of it to spread around now as well.
Adding Nyheim Hines, Deon Cain, Reece Fountain and Eric Ebron — among others — has considerably improved the team speed category for the team’s group of skill players. With fantasy football a major draw each and every season, Mike Clay (ESPN) has come up with a group of the Colts playmakers who he suggests will break the 500-yards-from-scrimmage mark this year.
Clay has been pretty fair to the Colts heading into a season with so much change, and with multiple ‘rankings’ out there without a single Colt on the list, it was nice to see a solid handful on Clay’s projection.
In total, Clay has 6 Colts making the mark. T.Y. Hilton (1249), Marlon Mack (969), Jack Doyle (628), Ryan Grant (532), Eric Ebron (517) and Hines (508) are all reasonable candidates to do so, and should they all meet that expectation — regardless of order — the Colts should expect some success in 2018.
Looking back to the 2017 output from the skill positions was NOT a thing of beauty. The Colts only had 4 players (Gore, Hilton, Doyle and Mack) exceed that yardage total and a 4-12 season kind of hammers home how unimpressive the offense was.
While I agree that the Colts will have a more diverse, explosive offense with more contributions from some of the new faces, I think the order should be switched around a bit. For example, I don’t think Doyle out-gains Ebron in this offense. Ebron adds so much more flash than the Colts have had in the past that it gives Luck a lot of freedom to use him to create mismatches.
This could serve as an avenue to using Doyle in a more traditional role as the in-line blocker, resulting in a significant drop in targets from his career high of 108 in 2017. That doesn’t mean Luck won’t still see Doyle as his safety blanket, rather he’ll simply see Ebron as another explosive option at his disposal — a role Doyle clearly does not fit.
In addition to the Doyle/Ebron suggestion, having a guy like Deon Cain showing what he can do in OTAs and minicamp could supplant him into that spot where Clay has Ryan Grant sitting, or even Hines for that matter. Cain caught a touchdown every 4.8 receptions, and posted an average of 18 yards per reception in his first two seasons at Clemson which, if nothing else, clearly points out his ability to make plays post-catch.
Other than that, Chester Rogers certainly adds enough to eclipse that 500-yard threshold, and much more, but I can understand the hesitance considering his health issues from a year ago. We’ve all seen Rogers’ workouts in the offseason, his abilities as a pass-catcher with limited targets earning the respect of his teammates, thus making him another candidate to be in this mix.
We can all agree that we don’t truly know what will come of these players this season. On the other hand, this group is much more fun to project than recent year’s as most of them have some real intriguing upside and potential for long-term success. Most fans are feeling this with the young group Chris Ballard and Frank Reich have assembled, and it appears that Clay finds himself intrigued as well.