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Revisiting (again): 7 players to watch this season

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Revisiting the 7 players I picked to watch this season and picking 7 more players to watch going forward.

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts lost 31-13 to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, ending their miraculous season. The Colts performed admirably down the stretch, winning 10 of their last 12 games after starting the year 1-5. The offense and defense clicked in the back half of the schedule despite an overall lack of marketable names on either side. This demonstrates truly remarkable work by Frank Reich and the coaching staff, despite the disappointing loss.

Prior to the season, I wrote a piece where I highlighted which players I thought would fit into certain superlatives. I also revisited these rankings halfway through the year and made predictions for the rest of the year. Some of these predictions I hit the nail on the head. Others..... not so much.

In the third and final installment of the season, I will look back at my previous picks along with making additional picks for this offseason/reviewing this season.

Breakout Player

Postseason selection: Pierre Desir

(Previous selections: Quincy Wilson, Braden Smith)

There were so many players who could have filled this spot but nobody broke out more than Pierre Desir late in the season. Desir entered this season as a journeyman cornerback on his fourth team in six professional years. He slowly started earning more and more playing time as the year progressed and was the team’s top man-to-man corner by year’s end.

Desir only totaled 81 tackles, 15 pass deflections, and 1 interception in his four years playing prior to 2018. This season however, he totaled 79 tackles, 8 pass deflections, 1 interception, and two forced fumbles.

On top of that, Desir lined up in man-to-man coverage against top receivers such as DeAndre Hopkins and Amari Cooper towards the end of the year. He held Hopkins to just 9 catches for 73 yards in two matchups and Cooper to just 4 catches for 32 yards in one.

Comeback Player

Postseason selection: Tyquan Lewis

(Previous selections: Andrew Luck, Anthony Castonzo)

Obviously the biggest comeback player this season was Andrew Luck but Lewis stepped up big after missing the first nine games due to a toe injury. The second round selection was a great boost to the pass rush as he was highly productive from his first start. He also added a lot of talent to the run defense and helped the defense preserve their perfect regular season of not allowing a 100 yard rusher.

Lewis finished his rookie campaign with 13 total tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 8 quarterback hits, and 2 sacks. Promising start for the rookie in only seven games.

He was a vital piece down the stretch in helping the Colts get to the playoffs. With clutch pressures and sacks late in games, along with being a steady run defender, Lewis bounced back well from his foot injury and looks to be a vital piece going forward. The only question mark will be if he can stay healthy in the future.

Rising Star

Postseason selection: Kenny Moore II

(Previous selections: Jabaal Sheard, Darius Leonard)

This may be a shocking selection for some— not for those who know me— but Kenny Moore II is a stud. Much of the fanbase was confused when Moore made the opening day roster as not many people singled out his play in the preseason. Moore quickly shut up all the doubters with a near pick 6 on the first play of the 2018 season against the Bengals. From then on, he has been simply amazing playing almost every cornerback role along the way.

Moore finished the year with 77 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 3 interceptions, 11 pass deflections, and 1 forced fumble. He also put together an impressive playoff stat line of 18 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 interception, and 3 pass deflections.

The do-it-all player of the Colts’ defense, Moore got better each and every week. He lined up at outside corner, slot corner, and even as a linebacker in some sets. He was the best run defender in the secondary all season long and became one of the team’s most effective pass rushers late in the year. The sky is the limit for him going forward.

Remember Me Player

Postseason selection: Nyheim Hines

(Previous selections: Clayton Geathers, Jack Doyle)

Hines was incredible to start the year for the Colts and put together an insanely good rookie season. Serving as the team’s scat back and number two ball carrier behind Marlon Mack, Hines was effective whenever he touched the ball this season. His ability to pass protect improved a lot as the season went on and he became a trusted option for Luck on crucial downs.

For the year, Hines rushed 85 times for 314 yards and 2 touchdowns with 3.7 yards per carry. As a receiver out of the backfield, he finished with 63 receptions for 425 yards and 2 touchdowns while averaging 6.7 yards per catch.

The reason he comes in as the Remember Me player is because he seemed to fade down the stretch as the Colts got closer and closer to the playoffs. He only had 3 total touches for 24 yards in the entire playoffs for the Colts. I still believe he has a major role in this offense going forward as a pass catching running back. Keep an eye on this guy for next year.

Needs To Bounce Back

Postseason selection: Kemoko Turay

(Previous selections: Ryan Kelly, TY Hilton)

Turay seemed to be a breakout player earlier in the season as his pass rushing prowess and skillset were on full display against the Eagles, Redskins, and Bills. He showed off a variety of pass rushing moves and athletic ability that led many— including myself— to believe that he has star potential. After Lewis returned from his injury though, Turay seemingly faded away, receiving less and less snaps each week.

For his rookie campaign, Turay finished with 15 tackles, 13 QB hits, 4 sacks, and a forced fumble in 4 games started. He also finished as the rookie with the highest pressure rate in the 2018 draft class according to Pro Football Focus.

Turay’s fade into a depth player came quickly and a bit out of nowhere. The coaches explanation for the move was just that players such as Lewis and Al-Quadin Muhammad were simply outplaying him down the stretch. Whatever the reason though, he has to turn it around in 2019 and become the player that we all know he is capable of becoming.

Darkhorse Player

Postseason selection: Dontrelle Inman

(Previous selections: Jordan Wilkins, Kemoko Turay)

Is there a better story this season than Inman for the Colts? With the Colts needing depth and reliable hands in the receiving core, they signed Inman in mid-October after a disastrous loss to the New York Jets. He was able to stabilize a weak group of receivers and become the team’s number two wide out and main target on third downs.

Inman finished the year with 28 catches for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns while averaging 10.9 yards per catch in nine regular season games with the team. In the two playoff games, Inman caught 8 passes on 8 targets for 108 yards and a touchdown.

Inman was exactly what the Colts needed when he came in after the Jets’ game. He brought consistency and dependability to a receiving core that desperately needed it. His connection with Luck cannot be understated as he was one of the most important players on the team down the stretch. He was not only a darkhorse player for the rest of the 2018 season but he is also a darkhorse candidate for a strong 2019 if he returns to the team.

Under the Radar Player

Postseason selection: Matthew Adams

(Previous selections: Nate Hairston, Kenny Moore II)

Adams was yet another Chris Ballard selection who emerged this season and still remains a bit under the radar. The 7th round rookie started the year fairly slow, not logging a single defensive snap in the first four weeks of the season. As the season progressed though, he began seeing more playing time before taking over the SAM linebacker spot midway through the year. Since taking over that spot, Adams has made a bunch of big plays for the team in his “starting” role.

For the year, Adams finished with 33 tackles, 5 tackles for a loss, 2 QB hits, and a fumble recovery. Great rookie year for a player that wasn’t expected to even be drafted.

Adams has been really good at SAM backer since taking the role over halfway through the year and it still amazes me that people aren’t giving him more recognition. He is an excellent run defender and has the athleticism to improve in the passing game. He may not be a starter— SAM backers play roughly 35-40% of the snaps in a Tampa 2— but he is a reliable young player who is only getting better each game.