2011 Recap: The Colts have been amongst the league's best franchises the last decade, but Peyton Manning neck injury crushed any hope of competing in 2011. Indianapolis was left with Kerry Collins (remember when he signed?) and Curtis Painter at QB. Both failed mightily and Indy began a quick descent into the NFL's basement. This version of the Colts proved to be too old in many areas and too inexperienced in others. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment for the organization was that HC Jim Caldwell didn't change his facial expression the whole year.
Offseason Review: Indy's front office was blown up and given a complete overhaul this offseason. Gone was the constantly cranky GM Bill Polian, and the search for new blood began. Eventually the Colts settled on Eagles player personnel director Ryan Grigson. That was the first domino to fall, as Jim Caldwell was then fired shortly afterwards. Chuck Pagano, the Ravens defensive coordinator for one year, was brought on board to right the ship. It certainly won't be an easy task. The Colts decided to be quiet in free agency, with no major additions to the squad.
Draft Review: With most of Grigson's experience in scouting, it's no surprise that the team chose to remake their roster through the draft. Andrew Luck has the opportunity/curse of trying to follow in Manning's footsteps, and the team attempted to surround him with a lot of offensive talent, drafting two tight ends and a receiver with the following three picks. I'm not a huge fan of the Colts draft. They didn't draft bad players. The picks just don't seem to address enough of the roster for me to support the draft class. Andrew Luck was an easy pick, and a good one. Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen and T.Y. Hilton all have potential to succeed as well. But can the Colts justify ignoring their terrible defense for most of the draft, particularly when Pagano intends to switch them to a 3-4 defense? It's known that new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians loves to use two tight end sets, and that's why the team used two high picks on that position. Still, to ignore many important defensive needs is careless. Indy has too many holes to use three rounds on receiving positions.
Most Dangerous Player to the Titans: I'm going with a mini-upset here and giving the nod to DE Dwight Freeney. There were sexier options- Luck and Wayne being the most obvious- but the thinking on this one is that the best way to shut down the Titans is to stop the pass game. Freeney (as well as Robert Mathis) have tormented Titans QBs for years. If they can't get pressure on Hasselbeck or Locker, the Titans are easily the better team. Stop or even just slow down the passing game, and suddenly this matchup becomes a lot more interesting.
Underrated Player: Donald Brown doesn't get much love from fans, but he's underutilized in the Colts offense. Part of that is because Brown has been unable to stay healthy long enough to become a mainstay in the offense. This year however he posted career numbers, with 645 yards and a respectable 4.8 YPC. With a rookie QB under center, I expect the Colts to lean more heavily on Brown and be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Overrated Player: There aren't a lot of candidates for this section. In order to be overrated, you have to be highly ranked. That's why this title is going to Andrew Luck. Hey, I really like Luck. I loved watching him in college and think he has the potential to be a great QB in this league for years. He won't be in this category next year. Expectations are out of whack unfortunately for Luck. He should demonstrate why he was worth the first overall pick, but I can't see him putting up numbers that some analysts have predicted.
2012 Outlook: The decision to abstain from making changes to the defense should hurt them. Usually when you see a team make a formation change, their draft is full of players that fit that system. The Colts are apparently extremely confident that their current personnel can make that switch. Considering their struggles in the 4-3, I can't see them being much better in the 3-4. There are two things that will help the Colts in 2012: A softer, last-place schedule and having a competent QB. Exchanging Painter for Luck will be good enough to notch a few more wins, but I think the Colts are headed for another rough season.
Predicted Record: 6-10