The 2022 preseason for the Indianapolis Colts is now over and rosters have been cut down to 53 players. Now it’s time really let out and express some excitement for certain players for the upcoming season. As the title suggests these are going to be players that are going to blow away people’s expectations.
Julian Blackmon will pick up where he left off last year
Julian Blackmon had a wonderful rookie season. Really making an impact. Unfortunately, his sophomore season was cut short due to torn Achilles. Blackmon is no stranger to overcoming a terrible leg injury. All reports are that he’s back and just as good as he was in his rookie season.
Even Blackmon himself has said he feels back to 100% and all systems go. He is set to join Nick Cross and Rodney McLeod to form one of the best safety trios in the league. The expectation is 38 combined tackles, 3 tackles for loss (TFL), 0 QB hits and sacks, 1 forced fumble (FF) and interception (INT), and 4 pass deflections (PD). But the upside projection is 43 combined tackles, 4 TFL, 1 QB hit and sack, 2 FF, and 5 INT.
Bobby Okereke will rise to the occasion when the Colts need it most
Bobby Okereke has been a really good linebacker. Unfortunately, his play has been largely overshadowed by Shaquille Leonard. This is not a shot at Leonard as his play has been absolutely amazing. Subsequently, Leonard is going to start the Indianapolis Colts season playing at less than 100% and possibly missing some early games.
Okereke is going to be asked to step up his game and not let the play of the linebackers suffer without Leonard. If Leonard is out for the first couple of games, expect Okereke to lead the team in tackles for those weeks. The expectation is 90 combined tackles, 3 TFL, 1 QB hit, sack and FF, 4 PD, and 1 INT. The upside projection is 100 combined tackles, 7 TFL, 4 QB hits, 2 sacks, 2 FF, 6 PD, and 2 INT.
Alec Pierce will blow past expectations
Alec Pierce is going to be very good this season. My expectation has been that he’ll follow a Michael Pittman, Jr. type of production for his rookie year. Start the year off slow, flash here and there, and then boom (John Madden voice), finish strong and get all the fans salivating at what he’ll do for year two.
For context, MPJ played in 13 games, saw 61 targets (TGTS), and caught 40 of them for 503-yards and 1 touchdown. Had MPJ not missed those three games his productivity might have been even better. For Pierce in his rookie season, the expectation is 82 TGTS, 52 catches, 599 yards, and 4 touchdowns. But the upside projection is 85 TGTS, 57 catches, 700 yards, and 5 touchdowns.
The newest star on the team
Ever since the Colts traded for Matt Ryan they’ve said they’re going to get Nyheim Hines more involved and actually backed that statement up. I’ve been all in on Hines having the best season of his career. Many Colts fans likened him to Darren Sproles. The little running back who can run the ball well and is a great pass catcher. And a GIANT pain in the booty on third down.
Unfortunately, to date, Hines hasn’t been anywhere close to that comparison. Well fans, the wait is finally over. Hines has been doing well in training camp and preseason. Teammate MPJ has even said that he thinks Hines is a wide receiver now, “he’s one of us.” Since the team finally has a legit NFL QB, who isn’t on his last leg (no disrespect to Philip Rivers), expect the offense to be a little bit more open and fun.
The team has no legit number two receiver as of now. There are a lot of expectations on the group of wide receivers and tight ends. However, it may actually be Hines who is the best bet to be the number two receiver. Of the players that were on the team last season and are still with the team, per Pro Football reference it’s Hines who finished second in targets (57), tied for second in receptions (40), and fourth in yards (310).
Obviously, MPJ finished first in all of those categories. The other guys who either tied him or finished ahead of him were Jonathan Taylor and Mo Alie-Cox. The expectation for Hines is 58 rushes (RSHS) 265 yards, 1 TD, 73 TGTS, 58 catches, 446 yards, 3 TDS, and 1 return TD. The upside projection is 80 RSHS, 400 YDS, 3 TDS, 93 TGTS, 70 CTCHS, 700 YDS, and 7 TDS.