The Indianapolis Colts are heading into the 2022 NFL season with a lot of hype and optimism. Many, myself included, are expecting them to win the AFC South for the first time since 2014. The same season as deflate-gate. Man, that was ages ago, but back to the present day.
The Colts have their best quarterback since Andrew Luck retired unexpectedly, in Matt Ryan. They also return a lot of the same critical players from last season too.
This offseason they took care of some of their biggest and most problematic needs. They traded Rock Ya-Sin for Yannick Ngakoue to harass opposing quarterbacks. Then to replace Ya-Sin they signed Stephon Gilmore.
Finally, in the 2022 NFL Draft, they drafted wide receiver Alec Pierce out of Cincinnati with their first pick, in the second round. Then with their third pick, their second pick in the third round, they drafted offensive tackle Bernhard Raimann out of Central Michigan. Raimann is expected to be the teams starting left tackle of the future and will be given the opportunity to compete for the starting spot in camp.
Right now, though, Matt Pryor is projected to be the team’s Week 1 starter at left tackle. However, we’re getting away from the main point of this article. With so much hype and enthusiasm around the Colts, let’s look at five players who could have breakouts years in 22.
First up is last year’s first pick, defensive end Kwity Paye. The 6-foot 2, 261 lbs defensive end out of Michigan had a respectable rookie season in Indianapolis. During his first year, he played, and started, 15 of the 17 games, racking up four sacks, one pass deflection, and forced fumble, recovering two fumbles, totaling 32 tackles (16 solos), with three tackles for loss, and 10 QB hits.
Again, a good rookie season. However, it’s not what the Colts were hoping for or wanting from him is the first year. This is part of the reason they traded for Ngakoue. Now, that Paye’s had his first dose of life in the NFL and now a more normal off-season there is the expectation that his game will take a jump. There’s also the fact that he will more than likely be the third guy opponents have to game plan for, with the aforementioned Ngakoue and Deforest Buckner.
This should lead to a fast start for Paye as he won’t see many if any, double teams. The Colts’ first eight games on the schedule offer up some very weak opposing offensive lines. Only their Week 3 opponent, Kansas City, offers up what is projected to be a top 10 offensive line.
I’m predicting that by the time we get to the halfway point of the season Paye will have six sacks. Six sacks in eight games aren’t bad. I’ll go even further to say that in his second matchup against division foes, Jacksonville and Tennessee, are the two games he doesn’t record a sack. Finally, when it’s all said and done, by year’s end Paye has 10 sacks and 20 QB hits.
Next up is Dayo Odeyingbo. Colts GM Chris Ballard and I have one thing in common. No, it’s not just awesome first names, it’s a love for Odeyingbo. After the Colts drafted him there were reports that other members of the scouting staff needed to talk Ballard out of wanting to take Dayo with their first pick. I watched his tape coming out of college and I totally get why Ballard coveted Odeyingbo so much. I texted my buddy and told him that I liked this pick better than the Paye pick.
Standing 6-foot 6 and weighing 276 lbs, he has the size to play both on the interior or on the edge. His rookie season was a success. I mean he was able to play in 10 games, racking up six tackles (5 solos), one first fumble and QB hit, and half a sack. So, yeah his stats aren’t great but last season was his first after tearing his Achilles.
It can be debated between him and Paye as to who I’m the second most bullish on having a great 2022 season. You’ll have to wait to hear who I’m the most bullish on. My prediction for Odeyingbo is six to seven sacks, with 10 QB hits, and 15 QB hurries. This is of course with him rotating on the edges and lining up more inside as a speed rusher on passing downs.
The former Texan teams up with the AFC South division front runner and can very easily be the Indianapolis’ starting slot receiver. I mean, right now Parris Campbell is projected to be the team’s starter in the slot. However, we all know he is not a model of health. Some Colts fans joke that if Campbell sees the field he gets hurt.
Back to Coutee, some Colts fans still remember the game he torched the Colts’ secondary. Seemingly getting open on every play. Two years ago he had his best season by far, catching 33 passes for an even 400 yards (averaging 12.1 yards per catch), and three touchdowns. This will be the best offensive ecosystem he’s been a part of in his career. In this upcoming season, I predict he catches 50 passes for 500 yards and five touchdowns.
Next up is the Colts’ future number one cornerback. Isaiah Rodgers provided Colts fans with a preview of his future last season. Intercepting three passes and deflecting another seven. He also just about cut his passer rating in half from his rookie year, 142.9, to his second 78.1. He will have his work cut out for him in terms of playing time this season. Kenny Moore, Brandon Facyson, and the previously mentioned Gilmore will all be competing outside corner reps.
Moore will man the slot when the team goes into their nickel or dime package. However, since he says he needs more money, it’ll behoove him to show he can play on the outside at the same level he can play on the inside. Gilmore will want to show that Father Time hasn’t beaten him yet. And Facyson will be wanting to show that he can do more than what he’s shown in his career.
All this is to say, that the competition will bring out the best in everyone one of these guys. Subsequently, it will mark the last time the Indianapolis Colts have a question about their number one corner. Rodgers will come away with six picks and another 10 passes defended while earning a Pro Bowl selection.
Parris Campbell is the Colts player I’m most bullish on having a breakout season. The 6-foot 208 lbs wide receiver, out of that school in Columbus, OH, is going to have his best season to date.
The pressure of having to be the team’s number two receiver is no longer there, thanks to the drafting of the aforementioned Pierce. Even if Campbell produces a season like Zach Pascal’s last one, with 38 catches for 384 yards, and three touchdowns, Colts fans will be ecstatic. It would come with 16 games played. Ok, so I’m not feeling good about Campbell playing that many games but I think he does hit double digits.
I think in the end Frank Reich and the offense put Campbell in a position to succeed. Which he repeatedly does with his big-play ability. Campbell goes for 50 catches, 600 yards, and six touchdowns receiving. He also chips in another three scores and 100 yards rushing. The Colts take advantage of his speed with some end around and jet sweeps.
Ashton Dulin and Dezmon Patmon are two receivers that will have an opportunity to shine this upcoming season. They’ll have to earn their playing time but at this point, there is no one you can unquestionably pencil in as the starter opposite Michael Pittman Jr. I like Patmon to show off his god-given abilities this season.