The early offseason can be an unsatisfying time of year for Colts fans. The Ballard era has ushered in a relatively conservative approach to the offseason that doesn’t make for interesting headlines and can feel inadequate to what seems to be needed for the team to move forward into relevancy.
So how do Colts fans feel about what’s been done so far, and how do they feel about the Colts chances in the 2023 season? We asked you, and here’s what you had to say.
Not aggressive enough
Opinions across Colts nation vary widely. Talk to enough fans and you’ll encounter every opinion from the diehard RTDB folks to those who think every free agent that didn’t sign with the Colts was a personal failing of Chris Ballard, and everything in between. One thing fans can agree on is that they aren’t particularly thrilled with the Colts’ relaxed approach to many of their moves this offseason.
A healthy majority, nearly two-thirds of Colts fans, said that they believed Chris Ballard should have been more aggressive when targeting pieces to add to the team this offseason.
I will confess that in general, I disagree with that mentality and think Ballard has done the right thing playing it safer in years past. However, I think the point carries more weight this offseason. This was a talented team with some spots missing, and by deciding not to add at several positions, this feels like a team that will be locked in to drafting for need (eg. a receiver or two early) just to make up for what they’ve lost.
If you think you have a real talent at quarterback, you have to make moves to surround him with talent so he can take you as far as possible.
An answer at QB?
That leads us to our next and ultimately most important discussion point—quarterback. If that position isn’t right, a lot of other things can go in your favor and it ultimately won’t matter (See 2021 Colts). So did the Colts get it right by trading for Matt Ryan?
Ultimately that will remain to be seen, but what isn’t in doubt is that Colts fans by a wide margin believe he still has what it takes to perform at a high level, and they feel strongly that he can return them not just to an AFC South title, but to a deep playoff run.
Once again I find myself in an odd position where I agree with the majority of Colts nation. What the Colts lacked in 2021 was a quarterback who could efficiently run Frank Reich’s preferred offense. Carson Wentz could make some incredibly compelling highlight plays, but when it came to hitting the “layups” as Ballard called them, Wentz struggled.
Matt Ryan will be cut more from Philip Rivers’ mold, though he hasn’t seen his arm fade like Rivers had by the time he arrived in Indy. A revered teammate in Atlanta, and a heady player who wins at the line of scrimmage, Ryan will likely usher in a new level of success for players like Nyheim Hines, who thrive getting the ball in space.
With a far better running game and offensive line than Ryan has been accustomed to, we’ll see how far he can take this Colts team.
The Big Q about Big Q
Speaking of that offensive line, it is no surprise to hear that more than 70% of Colts fans want them to get Quenton Nelson signed to a new deal and keep him in place. Fans being in favor of keeping a multiple-year All-Pro is hardly surprising or controversial, but it is worth asking how much money makes sense to have tied up in the offensive line.
Personally, I find myself a bit of an outlier in that I would absolutely consider moving Quenton Nelson if the price was right. The interior offensive line positions are far more replaceable than those on the outside, and with many teams overpaying for talented offensive linemen, it is possible that the Colts could really get a nice deal for him.
Do I think the Colts will do this? Not at all. It would be a real risk to try it without a solution at the left tackle, and they did not re-sign Chris Reed, who likely would have been the fill-in guy at that spot. I do, however, think it is possible that fans in general overvalue Nelson, great as he is.
What position will have the biggest impact on Ryan’s success?
Two positions took the clear lead when we asked who would most impact Matt Ryan’s success or failure in 2022, and they weren’t particularly surprising. The left tackle position locked in as the 2nd most impactful position to Colts fans, with no clear starting caliber replacement on the roster.
It is undeniable that the loss of Anthony Castonzo to retirement (combined with various injuries) played a major part in the offensive line taking a step back in 2021. If Ryan is constantly getting blind-sided, it’ll be a tough season for him. The Colts will have to figure out ways to keep him from getting crushed off the left side, and if that means tasking a rookie with the job, it will certainly have an impact.
The top spot goes to an easy pick, with wide receiver netting 50% of all votes as the most impactful position. The Colts receiver room leaves a lot to be desired, and it actually got worse in the offseason. Michael Pittman Jr. is a very good receiver who needs a good quarterback to help him show it. Behind him is a wasteland.
Parris Campbell could be incredible. Unfortunately, it would be foolish to count on him for more than a game or two, given his history. Mike Strachan was a revelation… in training camp. Could he take a step forward? Sure. But again, wins aren’t built on wishes.
Realistically, this team will have to call on one or more rookie receivers to play a role in the offense, which is a lot to ask of them.
For my part, I think tight end is an underrated and highly impactful part of this roster. The loss of Jack Doyle is going to be felt, and that is not a position you can just hope a rookie can cover.
Pro Bowl Players
Finally, Colts fans don’t anticipate sending 7 players to the Pro Bowl in 2022. That isn’t surprising, because its pretty tough to do. Even tougher to do it on a non-playoff team. If they can trade a couple playoff bids for a deep playoff run, I doubt any players or fans will be complaining much about it.