Al Bello/Getty Images
Al Bello/Getty Images

Don’t Sleep on Indy

While the Pats and Broncos steal the headlines, the Colts added a potential impact player in Hakeem Nicks to a lineup that should be getting healthier and better in Year 3 of Andrew Luck

By
Greg A. Bedard
· More from Greg·

Much of the attention in the AFC during the offseason has, rightfully, been focused on the Broncos and Patriots. The two conference finalists each made major free-agent additions: DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward in Denver, and Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in New England.

One team that seems to have been overlooked, especially when it comes to the weapons being assembled for quarterback Andrew Luck, is the Colts.

On paper—and that’s all we have to go on, knowing much can change—Indianapolis has put together a formidable array of weapons.

At receiver, the Colts have the potential to line up with Reggie Wayne and free agent Hakeem Nicks on either side of the field, with the explosive and emerging T.Y. Hilton on the inside. At tight end, the Colts have the multi-talented Dwayne Allen returning from injury, and Coby Fleener entering his third season after a promising sophomore campaign (52 catches). Indianapolis has a few options at running back, including former third overall pick Trent Richardson, entering his first full season in the Colts’ system, Vick Ballard and veteran Ahmad Bradshaw.

That’s a lot of weaponry, if it all lands on the field. The smile that came over coach Chuck Pagano’s face while discussing his lineup at the league meetings spoke volumes.

Reggie Wayne should be up and running by training camp. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Reggie Wayne should be up and running by training camp. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“It’s a good problem to have,” Pagano said. “I say problem—there’s only one football. When you have great competitors, they all want the rock at the same time. It’s a great situation that we have getting those guys back, getting Dwayne back, Ahmad, Vick, Reggie and then adding Hakeem and those types of things. It’s a great situation.

“You have to kind of pick your poison and say okay, who do we want to stop? You lose a bunch of guys to injuries and you go into a game with only one or two guys who are game wreckers. It’s the same thing for us we say, ‘We have to take care of this guy and that guy. They have to beat us left handed.’ ”

Two of Luck’s potential targets, Wayne and Allen, are returning from serious injuries. Wayne had ACL surgery in October, and the start of training camp would be at around the nine-month mark of his rehab. Allen, who quickly rose as a rookie to be a valuable and versatile cog in the offense, said recently he was 100 percent recovered from hip surgery. General manager Ryan Grigson has said he expects both players to be ready for training camp.

Hilton caught 82 passes for 1,083 yards in just his second season. He further cemented his star-in-waiting status with 13 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns in a wild-card victory over the Chiefs, and then 103 yards in the loss to the Patriots, without Wayne to draw attention.

“We all know he’s an explosive guy and a vertical guy, and he can make the big plays,” Pagano said. “Did he have to do some of the other stuff because of the absence of Reggie? We had to be creative, couldn’t sit him in one spot. We knew they were going to roll the coverage to him. They were going to double him. Disrupt him at the line of scrimmage, have a guy over the top. We had to do a bunch of different things to try to get him loose.”

The big X-factor is Nicks. He posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2010 and ’11 and is only 26, but because of injuries and down production the past two seasons with the Giants, he to accept a one-year, $3.5 million offer.

“Maybe this is something that had to take place for Hakeem,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin told reporters at the league meetings. “Maybe he will deal with exactly where he is and once again return to the quality of player that he is.”

The Colts are obviously hoping Nicks will play with a chip on his shoulder with a show-me deal and can regain the form Coughlin was alluding to.

“What is there not to like about the guy?” Pagano said. “He’s a big guy. Very, very athletic. Experienced guy. Played at a high level. Won championships. He brings that with him. Big, big hands. Can make huge plays. Physical guy. Everybody is going to get up in your face and play bump and run and make it hard for you to get off the line of scrimmage. He gives you a big, physical presence. He’ll do a great job against press coverage and teams we’ll have to face. All of them are built to stop the big wideouts. He brings a lot to the table.”

The Colts are counting on a lot to go right—Wayne’s and Allen’s return from injury, and Nicks’ and Richardson’s career revivals. The offensive line struggled last year, and the defense added Arthur Jones and D’Qwell Jackson to a leaky unit that still needs help at cornerback and safety.

No one’s saying this plan is going to work. But for a team that has taken small steps with Pagano and Luck (playoffs in ’12, playoff victory in ’13), the Colts certainly bear monitoring in an AFC in which most of the attention is being focused elsewhere.

NICKEL PACKAGE

The addition of Jared Allen (69) allows the Bears to better use fellow newcomer Lamarr Houston. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The addition of Jared Allen (69) allows the Bears to better use fellow newcomer Lamarr Houston. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

1. Wasn’t enamored with the Bears’ signing of end Lamarr Houston if they were expecting him to be a dominating pass rusher, because he’s stronger around the run. But after Chicago added ends Willie Young (Lions) and now Jared Allen (Vikings), the Houston move looks a lot better because it allows the Bears to play to Houston’s strengths. Allen can play every down, and Houston can move from end to tackle in sub packages to make way for Young. That’s a very good rotation that holds a lot of potential.

2. Ravens coach John Harbaugh had the best reaction to the offseason moves made by the Patriots and Broncos. “I was disappointed with the moves that the Broncos and Patriots made in the offseason. What more can I say?” he said. “I thought they did a great job and that disturbed me. We’ll find out. The proof is in the pudding. But obviously they’ve added some pieces. You’ve got to applaud what they’ve done. But we’ll play games in the fall and see how it plays out.”

3. NFL coaches who voted against the Patriots’ proposal to open up all plays to replay review (without adding challenges) shouldn’t be allowed to complain about any calls against their team. They had a chance to take more control, and they decided not to because, basically, it give them too many things to think about and could leave them open to more second-guessing. Here’s a suggestion: Hire a former official to monitor the game from the coaches’ box and handle challenges. It doesn’t seem like rocket science.

Schaub isn’t the long-term answer in Oakland, but he can help if he gets his confidence back. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Schaub isn’t the long-term answer in Oakland, but he can help if he gets his confidence back. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

4. Don’t see the harm in the Raiders acquiring former Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, especially after his contract restructure left him with no guaranteed money beyond 2014—as long as Oakland targets its passer of the future. But general manager Reggie McKenzie is being a little naïve if he believes, as he told San Francisco Chronicle beat man Vic Tafur, that Schaub can quickly get his confidence back. “A veteran can chalk it up as bad year, and shake it off. He’s ready to bounce back,” McKenzie said. Schaub’s biggest problem the last two seasons was precisely that he couldn’t quickly overcome mistakes. As soon as he made an error—whether it was in the two losses to the Patriots in ’12, or any of the losses last season—the mistakes compounded and spiraled out of control.

5. Saints coach Sean Payton gave some interesting insight into how to approach looking for a quarterback of the future when you have a 35-year-old franchise player in Drew Brees. “I don’t know you go into a draft and say, ‘All right put on your gloves. Here we go. This is it.’ But you are paying attention to that specific position market each year. It’s a little bit like that high-end delicatessen item that doesn’t come in every day, and so you’re always waiting to make sure that something’s not on the shelf. We’re fortunate to have a player like Drew. . . . But you’re not afraid each year to secure someone who fits what you want. That’s not just anyone—it’s someone you have a vision for. I don’t think there’s a specific year.”

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36 comments
Rexal Parshapswich
Rexal Parshapswich

Seriously? The Colts add one subpar receiver and the rest of the AFC is supposed to be scared?  Not likely. 

help4mac1
help4mac1

Nicks went south in NY. Not sure why, but it is a fact. In order for him to be productive again he is going to have to get back up to the higher level.

gary41
gary41

Matt Schaub is a secondary fix, no longer on a team that can help him.  GM's don't talk about regaining confidence.  The Raiders will draft a QB 1st thing--Carr or Bridgewater.  

BobPerry
BobPerry

I hardly think that offense was the Colts problem. After watching that disaster against Kansas City I would think that Indy would look to greatly improve their defense. This move was a horizontal move. It doesn't really make a difference if their defense gives up 40 points in back to back playoff games.  They better hope their division will suck again if they want to win it.

Mulva
Mulva

Two quick observations.


1. Will people please stop using the phrase "Don't sleep on..." It was cool when Tupac said it 25 years ago. Now it sounds lame.


2. Who would "sleep" on a team that is coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons and a playoff win this year?

BrownTrout
BrownTrout

They still need a running back after trading for Ron Dayne last year. Plus, no defense! Luck can't do it all.

FerdBerfel
FerdBerfel

I'm not sure anyone is "sleeping" on the Colts.  Look at where they've come in the past two seasons.  The Pats are not getting better as fast as they're getting older and the Broncos defense was exposed in the Super Bowl.  In its mediocrity, the AFC should be wide open next season and Indy will be right in there.

ga77white
ga77white

Sort of ironic that this article appears on the 30th anniversary of the move of the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis.


Go Blue!

Joebuckster
Joebuckster

The Colts had a good year BECAUSE everybody slept on them, and they seem to get up for big teams and play above their level. I don't see the same amount of miracles this season. Pats or Broncos go to the Super Bowl, pretty much no matter what happens.

Thaddeus Bell
Thaddeus Bell

the colts is a team to watch...everybody talking about a weak division... fine...but tell you what...Denver...Seattle...49ers...and the Chiefs (2x's) are not in their division and they beat them all last year...not a colts fan but they are definitely a team to watch...young and hungry 

JohnnyNacho
JohnnyNacho

AFC South:

Titans

Jags

Texans

Colts


Worst division in football a decade long and running.....  Texans had a good year, sprinkle maybe a couple years w/ Fisher that they were in actual contention and the Jags?   Peyton's greatness had something to do w/ that no doubt but come on....Andrew is picking up right where he left off on dominating this truly weak division. 

EdwardKirby
EdwardKirby

The Colts went 11-5 last year by sweeping their division -- not a great achievement considering that two of the teams are picking first and third in next month's draft; the other team (Titans) struggled to claim the mantle of mediocrity -- but also by playing teams from the two relatively strong West divisions pretty tough.

This year, the rest of their division looks like it will remain in the creampuff zone, while their inter/infra-conference opponents are the (mostly average) AFC North and the (near-awful) NFC East. That's at least 11 wins there, if not more. And that is not counting two more games against Denver (whom they beat last year) and New England (who they are probably itching to play after getting bounced from the playoffs by them last year).

Given the nature of the competition that the AFC West and AFC East winners are up against, the Colts could wind up with the best record in the AFC in '14.

But don't bet on them making it too far in the playoffs. They are looking like they have all the signs of the now-standard 13 win team that feasts on weak opponents during the season, gets home field throughout, and then is one-and-done in January.

dbum
dbum

the article completely fails to mention that the colts most glaring need that still has not been addressed: they need players on the O-line.


its not sexy to add offensive lineman but that's the foundation of every offense. if the colts want richardson or any one of their other running backs to succeed they need some serious help at guard and center.

AnthonyAveyard
AnthonyAveyard

Payton's remarks remind me of the Packers recognizing Aaron Rodgers potential and using a late first on him.

( Favre's noncommittal was also a factor - but expending a 1 for a player that they likely knew wouldn't be seeing the field anytime soon showed admirable foresight )

Sounds like Payton might just have a sleeper QB in mind in the upcoming Draft .

foothillsco
foothillsco

@gary41 I don't know Schaub was pretty good two years ago.  What happened?  Good qb's have had poor years and rebounded.


About Lamar Houston, the guy is pretty damn good.  He would make any team better.

guykingii1
guykingii1

@Mulva , "no problem" Long as people quit saying "my bad", "you know", "y'know what I'm sayin'". "ya feel me", "meh", "no problem"and a couple hundred other expressions that say more about the speaker than what they may be trying to say. 

therick5000
therick5000

Broncos defense was not exposed in Super Bowl. Their offense was..couldn't handle physicality and speed of Seattle.

wetmouse
wetmouse

@FerdBerfel When you get "exposed" in the Super Bowl, you've had a pretty damn good season. I'm sure that's not lost on you, nor how much better they'll be with 6 defensive starters returning from injured reserve and three All-Pros signed in the offseason. Indy is not on the same level. 

Not even close.

Jay P
Jay P

@FerdBerfel  The Pats are basically middle of the pack when it comes to age and the defense is the 7th youngest in the NFL. I don't know where you are getting the idea that they're getting older. Some of the offense is but not that defense.

Thaddeus Bell
Thaddeus Bell

@Joebuckster you a hater....ik for a fact that everybody slept on them in Luck's rookie year which is why they went 11-5 and to the playoffs...but this pass season? naw ! 

WCoastPro
WCoastPro

@Joebuckster  They had a good year because everybody slept on them!  Nice analysis. You really know your Xs and Os!

COLTSnHEELS
COLTSnHEELS

@JohnnyNacho  only 6 of 16 games are divisional and sweeping any division is hard and not oft...you don't have to show respect but when you get beat by our weak team from the weak AFCS...feel free to post why you beat yourself, etc, etc bla Bla BLA

Sportsfan18
Sportsfan18

@JohnnyNacho    Johnny... Not sure what you're watching... 


Here are the TOTAL number of wins by division for the past 10 seasons...


1st  AFC EAST     248 wins


2nd  NFC EAST     243 wins


3rd  AFC SOUTH  242 wins


3rd  AFC NORTH  242 wins


5th  NFC SOUTH  238 wins


6th  NFC NORTH  223 wins


7th  AFC  WEST   219 wins


8th  NFC WEST   199 wins (they had 42 wins as a division this past season, far and away the most)



So how do you say the AFC South division is the worst for a decade or more?  Yes, it was almost all the Colts...


But you did NOT specify the worst two or three teams in a division.  The AFC South happens to include the Colts so you have to include them when you say division.


That so called worst division in football is for the past 10 seasons is one win shy of having the 2nd most wins by a division in the NFL for the past 10 seasons...




Jeff West
Jeff West

@JohnnyNacho  who gives a sh**  The AFC East is the worst in football outside of Foxborough but no one says boo about it.  

KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

@JohnnyNacho Absolute ignorance.  The AFC West and NFC West were the worst divisions in football for a pretty good stretch of the past decade.  That stuff is cyclical but stupidity is forever.

TomHogan
TomHogan

Decade running? It was only a couple years ago they were one of the strongest if not THE strongest division. You don't know what you're talking about. NFC south and NFC west have both been pathetically weak divisions for years and years n look where they are now, division power is cyclical. The only reason the division has dropped off is bc of the teams reaching in the draft for QBs and missing on them 3 years ago.

FDowney
FDowney

@AnthonyAveyard Yeah, and one of the reasons GB did that is because Rodgers dropped. People were talking about him much higher than, what did he go, 24th? I'm wondering if Payton thinks one of this year's QBs is going to drop.

pirate
pirate

@AnthonyAveyard I sure hope he hjas someone in miond. Drew is great, but he can't play forever.

Thaddeus Bell
Thaddeus Bell

@el80ne....they made it to the divisional round...i call that a serious run...and up til the IND-DEN game they had.. their D wasn't even all that bad...in that game one of their starting corners got hurt and that's when their secondary went downhill for the rest of the season.... but they don't mention it cause its overshadowed by the reggie wayne injury....and their run D up and til the pats game wasn't bad at all this season....they only gave up like 3  100 yard rushers all season that i can think of...they are one good corner or safety away from having a good D...not dominant though....

DarrinConroy
DarrinConroy

@Jeff West @JohnnyNacho  The mediocrity of 3/4 of the AFC East is mentioned constantly.  It's the main argument made against the Patriots' recent run of playoff failures.

foothillsco
foothillsco

@COLTSnHEELS @wetmouse@FerdBerfelCome'on, you don't think this helps?


You don't think the starters on IR had anything to do with the SB?  


Re the SB, I think Seattle played a perfect game.  That was their best game of the season.  The Broncos played their worst game of the season. 

bc11pnc
bc11pnc

@Jeff West @JohnnyNacho  AFC East's record outside their division was third last year among the eight divisions (55%) and only Buffalo was below .500. 

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