With the off-season officially in its “boring” stage, it’s time to look ahead to the season and evaluate players that our group of writers are most excited about. The Colts are an exciting, young football team, so there are plenty of candidates to choose from.
Andrew Aziz — Jack Doyle
Doyle was robbed of a full season in Frank Reich’s offense last year and a full healthy off-season will do wonders for Doyle. He only played in 6 games and suffered a hip injury that caused him to miss 5 games followed by a kidney injury that put him on IR. He’s 29, which is the right in the middle of a tight end’s prime, and still has plenty (years worth) of gas left in the tank.
With the addition of Parris Campbell and TY Hilton in his prime, Doyle should make a killing in the short to intermediate areas of the field since Campbell and Hilton will be taking the lid off of defenses. Doyle has always been Luck’s security blanket and is probably the most reliable pass catcher on a week-to-week basis. He is also a great blocking tight end and should help in the running game. His return should create more consistency on offense and could allow the Colts to operate the balanced offense that Reich wants to run more often this year.
Chris Blystone — Marlon Mack
The player I’m most excited for in the 2019 season is Marlon Mack. After off-season shoulder surgery ahead of the 2018 season, Mack suffered a hamstring injury and wound up missing time in the first 5 games of the season. When he came back healthy, however, he put together a very impressive season. His playoff performances continued that trend with Mack putting up 194 rushing yards and a touchdown to the tune of 5.88 yards per carry in those two games.
Frank Reich has repeatedly talked about wanting the running game to play a bigger role in 2019, and the focus on the offensive line’s technique has been mentioned by all of them. That combined with the return of tight end Jack Doyle should open the door for some massive running lanes and a dominant 2019 for Mack. Given another year in this system with Reich and the improvements they have made, I don’t think it is a stretch to say that Mack could be a top 5 running back in yards in the upcoming season.
Mateo Caliz — Denico Autry
The player i’m most excited about for 2019 is Denico Autry. Autry excelled all along the defensive line last season, leading the team with 9 sacks, while playing on just 12 games. Autry will benefit greatly from the addition of edge-rusher Justin Houston, who will draw plenty of attention away from him. Autry will most likely be used as the 3-tech defensive tackle, where he played last season. With his size, he can fulfill the role of the disruptive presence on the inside the Colts desperately need.
What I like the most about Autry is his versatility, as he is able to play either on the inside or on the edge, a skill valued greatly by the coaches. I expect Autry to establish himself as a key player in the Colts defensive line, and possibly earn a Pro Bowl nod in the process. Autry has the chance to become a force on the defensive line, as he was the second best Colts’ player on the Front 7 a year ago (obviously behind DROY Darius Leonard). He was a Pro Bowl alternate last season, which merits some recognition.
With another full off-season under Matt Eberflus, my expectations for Autry are perhaps the highest of any Colts defensive player for the upcoming season.
Elliot Singh Denton — Quincy Wilson
The Colts team is stocked top to bottom with exciting players. Picking one player was hard but I chose Quincy Wilson. After a disappointing rookie campaign and a slow start to his sophomore year Wilson rebounded well in the second half of the season. Wilson managed 28 tackles, 2 passes defended and 1 interception. While the stats don’t scream good production, Wilson took his biggest step in one category last season, maturity. Under the leadership and guidance of free agent addition Mike Mitchell, Wilson was able to mature and improve on the practice field. These two steps allowed the coaches to trust Wilson in a starting role, as he ended up being the Colts starting boundary corner towards the end of the year when Kenny Moore kicked inside to nickel back.
Quincy Wilson now knows how to be a pro on the practice field and on the playing field which will translate into the on-field production many expected when he was drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Wilson has all the physical tools to excel in the league and now he has the mentality to match. He has a year of the new scheme under his belt, plus a few new added wrinkles of some mixed coverages will play well into Wilson’s hands. Look for an exciting year to come from Wilson!
Faraz Majid — Malik Hooker and Kemoko Turay
The Indianapolis Colts roster is full of enthralling potential, and promising veterans. Choosing one player is a difficult task, so I decided to choose 2 players; Kemoko Turay and Malik Hooker. They are players I held in high regard before their respective drafts, and I was absolutely ecstatic when I found out they would be donning the blue and white.
Hooker is going into his third season and is several full moons removed from a serious ACL injury he suffered in his debut year. He has shown some promise throughout his 2-year career, posting 5 interceptions and 8 pass deflections, but now it is time for him to make the final leap into stardom. He was touted as the next coming of Earl Thomas or Ed Reed when he left Ohio State, and the expectations should be there for him to showcase that All-Pro ability.
Turay was a personal draft favorite of mine who had some promising days as a rookie (posted 4 sacks), but ultimately couldn’t make it onto the field later in the season, due to his deficiencies in the run game, among other caveats. He was clearly a raw and moldable prospect coming out of Rutgers and he seems to be working hard during the off-season to become a true pass rushing connoisseur in the NFL, aided by his opportunity to absorb quarterback hunting lessons under the tutelage of Justin Houston, after already spending a lot of time with Robert Mathis last year.
Turay can’t really ask for much better mentors than that, and I expect him to take advantage of that privilege. Watch out for Turay to start wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks in 2019 before truly becoming acquainted with his ceiling in 2020.
Brett Mock - Andrew Luck
I get it. It is too easy to pick Andrew Luck. I’ll lose style points but I’m okay with it.
In my mind, there can be no player with great potential or higher expectations coming into his second season in Frank Reich’s system than Andrew Luck. The whole offense is dependent upon his other-worldly abilities and the team will go only as far as Luck takes it.
Last year, Luck returned from a shoulder injury that saw him sit out the entire 2017 season. Some questioned whether he would ever return to the field and, even if he did, if he would ever be the same. In a new offense, with a ton of new faces around him, Luck had one of the best statistical seasons of his career. Given that he came out of the gate a little slow, which is understandable given the status of his shoulder, it’s incredible to think about what he could have accomplished if he had a full off-season to establish timing with his receivers and familiarize himself with Reich’s scheme.
This is only the second time in Luck’s career that he has entered a season healthy with the same offensive coordinator and the same offensive scheme. The last time that happened (2014), under Pep Hamilton, Luck led the Colts to the AFC Championship Game in New England. Luck’s teammates at the time: RB Trent Richardson, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, RB Boom Herron, WR T.Y. Hilton, WR Reggie Wayne, WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Donte Moncrief (Rookie), TE Dwayne Allen, TE Coby Fleener, LT Anthony Castonzo, LG Jack Mewhort (Rookie), C Jonotthan Harrison (Rookie), RG Hugh Thornton, RT Gosder Cherilus.
Suffice to say, the only position group that was better in 2014 than the one he has coming into 2019 was wide receiver. Even then, Reggie Wayne was playing out the last season of his career and was no where near the level he was in his prime. Luck will enjoy the deepest backfield rotation of his career, the deepest and most talented tight end group of his career, and easily the best offensive line of his career — which also just so happens to be the first offensive line returning all starters in consecutive seasons in his career.
I would argue that Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni are the most aggressive and modern coordinators Luck has played with since he played under Bruce Arians as a rookie. Last year, he set a career record for best QB Rating, completion percentage (by just under 4%), lowest sack percentage (by 1.5%), finished second in his career in yards per game, had his second lowest interception percentage, and put up his second highest totals for TDs, TD%, and yards.
There is a very real possibility that Luck is on the verge of putting up one of the Colts franchise’s greatest single season performances. There is a real chance he will find himself squarely in the MVP discussion and that he can help lead the Colts deeper into the playoffs. The weapons he has forming around him are formidable and the leaders he has maximizing the potential of those weapons are loved in the locker room and innovative on the field.
This should be fun to watch.
Which Player Are you Most Excited for in 2019?