Re-Building Blocks: Are These Indianapolis Colts Near Completion?
The Indianapolis Colts have made significant strides in a short time. What have been the keys to the team’s resurgence?
By Julie Voigt
Special to Pro Football Guru
Coming off the 2017 season in which the club finished with a 4-12 record – due in large part to being UN-Luck-Y, the Indianapolis Colts were in need of a change. In fact, change would be the key word and it began with the release of head coach Chuck Pagano. And after a year on the job, general manager Chris Ballard had a plan: Find the right person to lead the team, get the star quarterback back on the field and address the defense.
How did he go about this? It’s as simple as...
A: The Staff
It began with Frank Reich, the offensive coordinator of the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. Reich was not the first choice for the head-coaching job in Indy. But he was the second choice. And the best decision Ballard made. During his rookie season as an NFL head coach, he simply made the job look easy. Of course, having a lot to learn his first season, he is now able to apply with what he learned. And having a healthy quarterback in Andrew Luck and being able to work with him a lot more in the preseason, it’s no joke that Reich is a possible NFL Coach of the Year contender – if he and the team play their cards right.
B: QB Andrew Luck
At this time last year, there was a lot of focus on whether quarterback Andrew Luck would even participate in preseason practices. Would he be the same Andrew Luck that we saw before his injury? Would he ever play again? Although he had a bit of a set back at minicamp with a nagging calf strain, Luck is expected to be a full participant for preseason per Reich.
We now also know that he has a lot of help up front thanks to a highly-ranked offensive line that features guards Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski. In 2018, the Colts allowed the fewest sacks in the league – quite the turnaround from 2017. And as Luck gets more familiar with this group up front, who knows what this offensive unit is capable of?
C: The Defense
Enter Matt Eberflus. Last season, he took over as the Colts’ defensive coordinator and he also had a plan. Eberflus changed the defense from a 3-4 scheme to what he was running the Dallas Cowboys on a 4-3 defense. And the outcome? It allowed the defensive line to rush the passer a little bit more. And this defense was much better that the team’s units in recent years. Those defenses struggled for too many seasons. This group was spearheaded by the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in linebacker Darius Leonard. And this defense can only get better with additions such as pass-rusher Justin Houston.
Rough Start to Playoffs
Last season’s strong finish bears repeating. The Colts got off to a rough 1-5 start and ended the season winning the last nine out of their last 10 regular-season games. They defeated the Texans at Houston in the wild card round before their Super Bowl chances ended at Kansas City.
Perhaps the rusty and rocky start for Luck was due to the previous season’s injuries. Fans will never know why backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw a “Hail Mary” pass in Week 3 at Philadelphia. In any case, Luck would go on to throw 39 TD passes and was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year – quite fitting when it comes to the theme of rebuilding.
As for 2019, the Colts have a tricky schedule and start off on the road with the Chargers and Titans before heading home to face Atlanta and Oakland. Then comes the postseason rematch with the Chiefs. In any case, it’s year number two for head coach Frank Reich and these situation are much better the second time around.
Have any doubts? Just ask Chris Ballard.