Andrew Luck had WR Reggie Wayne to throw the ball to the entire year but did not have all of his other offensive weapons.Donnie Avery also played the entire year but had the worst drop rate among wide receivers with 16.67%, tied with T.Y. Hilton.T.Y. Hilton may have had a high drop rate, but finished the season strong out-performing Reggie Wayne over the final games of the season.T.Y. Hilton has made a commitment in training camp if he drops a pass he must run more laps than required.T.Y. Hilton was also kept out of the first game of the season with an injury.Avery has since left via free agency so the Colts brought in Darrius Heyward-Bey, who is also a fast, deep threat. Avery’s 40 time was 4.34 seconds while Heyward-Bey’s was 4.25 seconds.Heyward Bey’s drop rate was also improved since his rookie season, when it was at 35.7%.Since then, it went down to 8.6% in 2011 and 12.8% in 2012, better than Avery’s drop rate for 2012.Luck also has the league’s rising tight end tandem with Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.Fleener did not play much last year due to injury but him and Griff Whalen, who was also hurt last year, will breakout this year with their Stanford Head Coach Pep Hamilton as Offensive Coordinator (See #2).With LaVon Brazill’s four game suspension, look for Griff Whalen to make an impact.Dwayne Allen was been doing yoga over the offseason and is looking to improve even more.Allen was underrated speed for his size and can be unstoppable in the open field. Ahmad Bradshaw and Stanley Havili are also good options coming out of the backfield and you might as well throw in Vick Ballard for having #1 play of the year.
2 .Pep Hamilton as Offensive Coordinator
Andrew Luck may have benefited more with the departure of Bruce Arians, who helped this team in the absence of Chuck Pagano.With Arians leaving to Arizona, Luck gets his Head Coach from Stanford, Pep Hamilton, as an Offensive Coordinator.All three Colts, Luck, Whalen, and Fleener, know Hamilton’s offensive scheme and should transfer their success with that offense in college to the NFL.Pep Hamilton’s offense is a version of the West Coast offense, which is different from last year’s deep passing offense.It depends on how the offensive line can protect in order for the offense to work due to the need of a good running game (See #3).Luck says that Hamilton is doing a great job with the offense during Training Camp and Luck is even correcting Hamilton on a few things.So I am pretty sure Luck understands this offense well and can have great success with it in 2013.
3.Improved Running Game
Russell Wilson and RGIII had something in the offensive that Luck didn’t have, a running game.Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris combined for a total of 3, 203 yards, 4.9 Yards per Carry Average, and 24 Rushing Touchdowns. The entire Colts team had 1,671 rushing yards, 3.8 Yards per Carry Average, and 11 Rushing Touchdowns.If Alfred Morris got 59 more yards in 2013, he would beat the Colts in every rushing category by himself, and that is without RGIII running for over 800 yards.What did the Colts do to help that?Vick Ballard ended the 2012 season on a high note with 94 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card Round.They went out and got veteran Ahmad Bradshaw who will most likely be available for Week 1.Bradshaw even had a decent 2012 season.He missed two games in 2012 but still had over 1,000 yards and a 4.6 Yards per Carry Average.But the most important addition is Stanley Havili.When was the last time the Colts had a real fullback.With the addition of the fullback and the additions to the offensive line, Gosder Cherilus, Donald Thomas, Hugh Thornton, Khaled Holmes, the Colts should have a decent running game.
4. Improved Defense
The Colts switched to a 3-4 defense last year.They still place in the bottom of the league in total defense.Both Jerrell Freeman and Antoine Bethea had a 100+ tackles season, but the next highest tackler was Cassius Vaughn.Colts fans are not excited whatsoever when they hear the name “Cassius Vaughn”.The Colts’ line backing core is better than it ever has.They have starting season by four middle linebackers on the team: Pat Angerer, Jerrell Freeman, Kavell Conner, and Kelvin Sheppard. They got competition at outside linebacker opposite Robert Mathis: Bjorn Werner, Erik Walden, and even Lawrence Sidbury.The defensive line has some good additions: Montori Hughes, Ricky Jean Francois, Aubrayo Franklin, and the return of Josh Chapman, Drake Nevis, and Fili Moala.
The secondary is better than it has ever been with the additions of LaRon Landry, Greg Toler, and defensive backs fighting for a spot like Daxton Swanson and John Boyett.On paper, the Colts have at least a Top 15 Defense.
5. The Schedule
According to the 2012 records of teams the Seahawks face this year they have the 11th hardest schedule and the Redskins have the 18th hardest schedule while the Colts have the 30th hardest schedule.The Colts play at home to Oakland, Miami, Seattle, Denver, Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, and St. Louis.The Colts play on the road to San Francisco, Jacksonville, Houston, Tennessee, San Diego, Arizona, Cincinnati, and Kansas City.The toughest games the Colts face are: at 49ers, vs. Seahawks, vs. Broncos, at Bengals, at Houston, vs. Houston.Half of those games are home, where the Colts were 7-1 in 2012 except one fluke play than cost them the game against the Jaguars.The Seahawks and 49ers both lost keys players.The Seahawks lost Percy Harvin for most of the year and the 49ers lost Michael Crabtree for the year and CB Chris Culliver for the year.They also lost TE Delanie Walker via free agency who was their “Swiss army knife”.
WR Mario Manningham and WR Kyle Williams are also still on the PUP list and may not be ready for the game against the Colts.So the Colts have a good chance against the tougher games on the schedule.I do not expect them to win every game but they should be able to manage between 11 to 13 wins.
Note: For Colts fans that do not live near Indianapolis, the Colts will be on national television for MNF against the Chargers, SNF against the Broncos and Texans, and TNF for the Titans. They will be on television also for the preseason game against the Bills.