The Indianapolis Colts’ 2022 season has not gone according to plan. The team is coming off its most humiliating loss. And a second week in which they made history, for the wrong reasons. However, there are 3 reasons there is optimism for the future of the Colts.
Indianapolis Colts’ defense is built for the modern NFL
The Colts have the 27th-ranked defense, which isn’t good. They’re allowing 24 points per game. However, if you’ve been watching their games you’ll see that this unit is constantly on the field more often the offense. Unfortunately, this makes them fatigued in the fourth quarter and unable to hold any leads. Granted, there haven’t been many leads to be held.
You’ll also see that upon closer view, the Colts’ pass defense is one of the better groups in the NFL. Prior to the game against Minnesota, the Colts’ pass defense was ranked third in the NFL. After the game, their ranking fell to 16th. However, after the rest of the games on Sunday, it’s possible that they go back into the top 10.
The play of Stephon Gilmore, Isaiah Rodgers, and Rodney McLeod have been great additions to the secondary. Kenny Moore’s play hasn’t been as good as last season, but he’s still been solid. And of course, Julian Blackmon’s return from injury has been welcomed, even if his play hasn’t been as good as it was prior to the injury.
Finally, seventh-round pick Rodney Thomas has been a huge surprise. With some more experience and playing time together, this secondary should only continue to improve. If everyone makes progress in the offseason this unit could be one of the best in 2023.
The skill player group is better than many thought
One of the areas that fans have been clamoring to get addressed was the wide receiver group. The 2022 NFL Draft finally answered that need with the drafting of rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce. His production has been inconsistent this season, and there are multiple reasons why this has been the case. However, when he’s produced, Pierce has shown that he can play at the NFL level and be a weapon.
Then of course, there are rookie tight end selections Jelani Woods and Andrew Ogletree. Ogletree was having a great camp, unfortunately, his rookie year was cut short due to a season-ending injury. Meanwhile, Woods has also flashed his potential this season. These rookies could prove to be very good draft selections for the Colts and help to make this offense better.
There is also Kylen Granson and Parris Campbell, who are having their best seasons. Granson has shown to be an adequate pass-catching tight end. And Campbell has been healthy all season and therefore having his most productive season. Campbell’s been so good that he’s worth a contract extension offer from the Colts.
Then there is Michael Pittman Jr. and Jonathan Taylor, the two most vital pieces to this offense. Taylor is not having anything close to the season he had in 2021. This does bring up the question, was 2021 an aberration, or is the 2020 season a bit closer to what he is?
In the case of Pittman, he’s on track to have another 1,000-yard receiving season and set a new career high in catches. However, this season can still be viewed as a disappointment as there have been many games where he’s underperformed and looked more like a number two wide receiver. Regardless, this group of skill players is much better than what many thought at the beginning of the season. It could still use some help, but it’s not as bad as many anticipated.
The offensive line might have its answer at left tackle
There has been much said about the fact that the Colts’ offensive line is the highest-paid group in the NFL. Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, and Braden Smith are the three top earners. Smith has been the best of the group all season long. Nelson has regressed but, as of late, has started to show some signs of coming around.
Whereas Kelly’s play has been awful all season and left some fans calling for him to be replaced in the starting unit. His contract is up after the 2024 season, and if the Colts cut him he’d only have a dead cap hit of $6.75 million. That is a decision for the GM to make, whomever it may be.
Most importantly, rookie third-round selection Bernhard Raimann is looking more like he could be the team’s starting left tackle of the future. Over his four games, his play has been progressing positively. There is still much work to be done, but the first-year pro is making positive strides and providing belief that he can be an NFL-caliber left tackle.
If this is the case then it is one less position the Colts need to worry about in the draft and in free agency. If the team feels that he may not be an NFL-quality left tackle they could move him to right tackle and draft a left tackle. This would most likely move Smith to right guard and current starting right guard Will Fries into a depth role. Depth along the offensive line is an important thing to have.
Again, this season hasn’t gone at all like anyone thought or expected. But this team isn’t as bad as they’ve shown either. If the organization gets some better coaching and draft selections, they could be back in playoff consideration.
This team might only be a quarterback away from being the best team in the AFC South. As crazy as that may be. There is still more evaluation that needs to be done on this roster.