Now with a couple weeks to digest this rollercoaster of a season, and to try and leave the bad taste the loss against Houston brought behind, I think a more objective analysis can be made of what has been a season full of surprises, both positive and negative. It all started with Richardson’s ability to start, and perform, right away. A guy with just 14 college starts to his name was not supposed to be that good so fast. Then a negative surprise when it all came crushing down because of that shoulder injury, and if you remember the initial diagnosis at first was 4 weeks, not the rest of the season. I had lost all hope then, thinking we were doomed to yet another wasted year, losing way more games than we won, and starting looking at the draft as the only consolation.
That was nowhere close to what ended up happening, as head-coach Shane Steichen rallied the troops through a ton of adversity, finished with a winning record, and just a catch away from even hosting a playoff game. In conclusion, this season leaves me wanting more. More from Steichen, more from Richardson and Taylor in the backfield, more from players like Dayo Odeyingbo and Juju Brents, more Colts’ football.
MVP of the Season: Michael Pittman Jr. / DeForest Buckner / Quenton Nelson
It was hard to pick between either of these three players who had great seasons for the Colts, so I am going with all of them for the award. MPJ was by far the most important player on offense, and the most consistent Colt of the season, finishing the year with 109 receptions for 1152 yards and four touchdowns. His 28.5% target share was among the highest in the NFL. He most certainly earnt whatever money he ends up getting this offseason, hopefully with the Colts.
Buckner was somehow snubbed from the Pro Bowl even though he was in the top 5 most productive interior defensive linemen rushing the passer and in the top 10 in run defense, even despite missing his sidekick Grover Stewart for 6 games. His presence alone was the biggest reason the Colts surpassed their franchise record in sacks, and he makes the rest of the defensive line look much better than what they actually are.
Quenton Nelson was on the best shape I have seen from him in a while, clearly leaving behind the injuries that were bothering him last year, and had one of his best seasons as a pro which is saying much. Big Q finished 2nd in the NFL in pressures allowed and was in the top 10 graded guards in run blocking.
Disappointment of the Season: Shaq Leonard / Kwity Paye
I had really high hopes for Leonard entering the season, as he was back to full health and the defense desperately needed a playmaker like him, it was just the perfect reinforcement and a great energy to have around. The first few games were rough, but those were attributed to rust and getting back to 100%. After ten games it was evident that it was not because of rust but because Leonard’s athleticism was just not the same anymore, and that was even more evident during his time with the Eagles. Leonard’s prime was a joy to watch, but as a player he relied a lot on his top end speed and ability to change directions in a hurry, two things that he has not showed at all this season.
This was supposed to be Kwity Paye’s breakout season, with Buckner and Stewart commanding the pressure on the inside and Samson Ebukam on the opposite side, Paye had the greenlight to consolidate what he showed in his first two years. Instead, Paye ranked dead last in total pressures for edge rushers with over 400 pass rushing snaps, and was a total non-factor at times.
Rookie of the Year: Josh Downs
Juju Brents and Jaylon Jones could have been here, but it is unquestionably Josh Downs, who surpassed all expectations and finished the year with 68 receptions, 771 receiving yards, and two scores.
Final Grade: B
This was a good season for the Colts, but it gets only a B because we did not get to see much of franchise quarterback Anthony Richardson and because we ended up missing the playoffs. Still, plenty of playing time for young players, and the optimism of having a more than capable head-coach makes this an approved season in my books. Of course it would have been really nice to make it to the wild card round and even host a playoff game at LOS for the first time in ages, but overall we reasonable Colts’ fans cannot be too mad about the way the season unfolded, and cautiously optimistic about what the future holds.