clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

ESPN’s Staff Ranks the Colts as the NFL’s Fourth Most Improved Team this Offseason

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Staff (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts are the NFL’s fourth most improved team during the 2020 offseason:

4. Indianapolis Colts

Big additions: DT DeForest Buckner, QB Philip Rivers, RB Jonathan Taylor, CB Xavier Rhodes, WR Michael Pittman Jr.

Key losses: CB Pierre Desir, TE Eric Ebron, DE Jabaal Sheard, S Clayton Geathers

The Colts’ high grade is more a product of quality than it is quantity, especially considering that these are moves that can get Indianapolis back into contention for an AFC South title. Rivers is 38 years old but a significant upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. His line will be much better than what he had with the Chargers, and he’ll have new weapons in the form of Pittman, Taylor and tight end Trey Burton. Buckner was arguably the best player on the NFC champion 49ers’ roster last season and is a major upgrade at 3-technique. — Clay

The ranking was based on votes from NFL writers Dan Graziano, Kevin Seifert, Jeremy Fowler and Mike Clay. “Considerations include free-agent signings, trade acquisitions, draft selections, coaching changes and even, in some cases, long-term injuries or retirement.”

The Colts’ big offseason additions of veteran starting quarterback Philip Rivers and All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner headlined their offseason. Each should present a significant upgrade over last year’s starter respectively.

Meanwhile, their top offensive rookie duo of wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor should present the Colts offense with more dynamic, game-changing playmakers to help generate more big plays and scoring opportunities.

Former All-Pro Xavier Rhodes is currently the projected frontrunner to start on the outside on the other side of Rock Ya-Sin—and he’s in a favorable situation in Indianapolis to return to being a productive cornerback again. He should help fill the veteran void of Pierre Desir in the secondary, while versatile receiving tight end Trey Burton should do the same for departed Colts tight end Eric Ebron—if he can stay healthy.

Lastly, veteran defensive lineman Jabaal Sheards absence should be felt given his versatility, but he had a down season last year, and the Colts have plans to deploy both Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis in a similar role. Longtime safety Clayton Geathers was a valuable veteran leader for the Colts secondary, but he had been phased out with Khari Willis’ arrival—compounded by some nagging injuries through the years.

When taking into account their moves collectively, the Colts have been a popular pick to rise among the AFC rankings—as a potential contender (being projected as high as the 3rd best team in the conference). There’s clear indication for cautious optimism in Indianapolis, and the Colts’ offseason is a big reason why.