For the Colts, 2013 saw a season a further improvement as Andrew Luck solidified his position as one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL. In matching their 2012 mark of 11-5, this campaign saw them go undefeated in their division and claim the AFC South crown. A big win over Denver in week 7 showed the potential of the team, although too often they had to make comebacks from poor first half showings and also imploded in matches against the Rams, Bengals and Cardinals in which they suffered heavy defeats. The postseason summed up their regular season nicely. A sensational come from behind win against the Chiefs saw Luck inspire his side to recover from a 38-10 deficit and notch up a 45-44 win; only for this to be followed up by a heavy defeat at New England. Consistency is needed in 2014 and with the other three teams in the division picking early in the draft, the Colts will face a much sterner test from within their own division this time around.
Luck’s numbers may have dropped slightly in terms of yardage from his rookie year, but his general poise in the pocket and reading of game situations improved enormously. Completion percentage rose from 54.1% to 60.2% and he halved the number of picks thrown from 18 to 9. With 23 scores and 3822 yards, this was good enough to up his passer rating from 76.5 to 87. Similar improvement in 2014 would place him amongst the elite performers in the league. These numbers were despite an injury to Reggie Wayne seriously affecting his targets in the passing game. T.Y.Hilton rose to the challenge, with 82 catches for 1083 yards and 5 scores but aside from tight end Coby Fleener’s 52 grabs (for 608 yards and four touchdowns) no other receiver managed more than 38 catches (the aforementioned Wayne). Luck needs more weapons to improve in 2014. He was not helped by the lack of running game. The Colts traded their first round pick in 2014 for Trent Richardson, but his campaign was a disaster in racking up just 458 yards at just 2.9 yards per carry. In allowing Donald Brown (who achieved 537 yards on just 102 carries) to leave the Colts have placed their faith in Richardson and a returning Ahmad Bradshaw. Richardson will need to deliver or his career could be over before it has really begun.
The Colts struggled at times defensively and allowed 24 points or more on 8 separate occasions in the regular season 9 and twice more in two postseason games). Yet on average they allowed just 21 points per game (ninth in the league) which backs up the lack of consistency that has hurt the team. Ranking 20th in terms of yards allowed shows that the team allowed opposition teams to move the ball into scoring positions too easily and this needs to be addressed for 2014. Robert Mathis had a sensational year in achieving 19.5 quarterback sacks and forcing eight fumbles. Jerrell Freeman (126) and Antoine Bethea (110) lead the team in tackles and in the secondary Darius Butler recorded four picks and defended a further 15 passes.
David Reed averaged 24.6 yards on kick off returns and T.Y.Hilton fielded the majority of punts adequately. Adam Vinatieri hit 87.5% of 40 Field Goals, including 19 of 23 from over 40 yards. Pat McAfee has been retained as punter, but the team will need to improve on a NET average of just 38.5 yards.
Chuck Pagano made a welcome to return to the sidelines in 2013 after his battle with leukaemia in 2012. He will know full well of the improvements that need to be made to the team to push forward in 2014. Andrew Luck is a huge weapon and the Colts need to provide him with the weapons he needs to make a run at winning it all.
DRAFT/FREE AGENCY NEEDS
The Colts are badly affected in the draft by the lack of a pick in round 1, courtesy of the trade for Richardson with Cleveland. Free Agency saw the arrival of Hakeem Nicks to bolster Luck’s options in the passing game and the arrival of Arthur Jones from Baltimore shores up the centre of the defensive line. Bethea has left for the 49ers with Colt Anderson coming in from the Eagles to help shore up the secondary.
With fewer picks in the draft, the Colts need to get value lower down. Despite the arrival of Nicks, extra weapons in the passing game will be looked for. The remainder of the focus will be on defence, with linebacking and safety options the most likely areas of interest. There may well be some trading down later in the draft to try to secure an extra pick or two to help compensate for the loss of that first round selection.