According to ESPN’s NFL Nation, the Indianapolis Colts have the NFL’s 3rd best continuity ahead of the 2020 season (via ESPN’s Mike Wells):
3. Indianapolis Colts: 82.7% snaps returning
Offensive snaps returning: 87.9% (4th)
Defensive snaps returning: 77.3% (12th)
Starters returning: 20 (8 offense, 9 defense, 3 special teams)
Non-coordinator assistants returning: 12 of 18
Coordinators returning: 3 of 3 (Nick Sirianni, OC; Matt Eberflus, DC; Bubba Ventrone, ST)
Starting QB: Philip Rivers, 1st year with Colts (17th overall)
Head coach: Frank Reich, 3rd year (17-15)
What it means: Coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard have consistently talked about building a roster that sticks together to help with the team’s continuity. Returning 20 starters should pay dividends. The biggest question remains at quarterback because they signed Rivers from the outside. Rivers is an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett, who started in 2019, but he’s yet to do any work with his skill position players. The Colts hope Rivers’ experience — 16 years in the NFL — and having played in Reich’s system since 2013 will help overcome those issues. — Mike Wells
At first thought, the Colts being ranked this high was surprising to me. Despite veteran starting quarterback Philip Rivers being already familiar with head coach Frank Reich’s offensive system, he is in his first season with the Colts and has yet to take a physical practice snap with his new team—with the offseason being so far limited to solely virtual.
Rivers also happens to play the league’s most important position, having very little experience so far with his new teammates.
That being said, collectively when looking at the numbers, the Colts being ranked this high simply makes sense. In the grand scheme of things, there was very little turnover on the roster or in their overall coaching staff this offseason.
A few critical additions: Rivers, defensive DeForest Buckner, Michael Pittman Jr., Jonathan Taylor, Xavier Rhodes, and Trey Burton, but not many noteworthy losses outside of Eric Ebron, Jabaal Sheard, and Pierre Desir (the team also released Margus Hunt; Clayton Geathers and Devin Funchess were not pursued in free agency).
For the NFL, continuity can be key.
We saw it last year on a Colts offensive line that was once again one of the NFL’s best units and had each starter start all 16 games, but it also applies to each side of the football entirely.
Teams can build chemistry and trust over time, and while the combination of coaching and overall talent still typically win out, continuity can still become a deciding factor if everything else is relatively equal between teams.
The Colts have been patient and tried to build something special over the past few seasons, and it’s started with keeping their key core and young building blocks together.
Hopefully, it pays off during the 2020 season.