Every football fan in Indianapolis will tell you that this season was a huge underachievement for the Colts. A team with Super Bowl aspirations ended up finishing second in the worst division in pro football. This article will highlight the three main points of emphasis that will catapult the Indianapolis Colts back to their usual position atop the AFC South.
Indianapolis Colts 2016 Off-Season: Top 3 Needs
The 2015 season showed why the Colts should have invested into their offensive line long before now. It is imperative to the success of this team that Andrew Luck stays healthy. Therefore it will be the top priority of all involved with personnel in Indianapolis that the offensive line improves drastically and quickly.
Anthony Castonzo is still a quality starting left tackle, and the Colts have found a solution to interior problems by moving Jack Mewhort across to left guard. With the amount of premier pass rushers who now attack from the left hand side of the defensive front such as JJ Watt, Justin Houston and Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, there is an instant need for all teams to ensure that the right hand side of the line is better protected. The Colts are no different. It makes sense for a team with aging offensive stars such as Frank Gore to try and put this roster in a ‘win now’ situation going into next season. That’s why it would make much more sense for the Colts to address this particular need during Free Agency.
The immediate threat of elite defenders make players such as Mitchell Schwartz much more valuable. The Cleveland Browns tackle had a career year and can boast that he was the only lineman in the league this season who was able to effectively stop Von Miller. Although his base $1,6oo,ooo salary is set to rise with any new contract, Schwartz certainly plays as though he is worthy of being paid like an elite NFL lineman. Schwartz would be seen as an upgrade in talent by all involved with the Colts. At only 26 years old, he would also provide a stable building block for an offensive line that needs to start getting younger.
The Indianapolis Colts need to get younger at outside linebacker. Their joint leading rusher in 2015? A 35 year old Robert Mathis, who recorded only seven sacks. It would come as a shock to most analysts if the Colts don’t address this need early in the 2016 Draft. Other than Bruce Irvin of the Seahawks, there are limited numbers of free agents in the position who would be able to hit persistent pressure on the outside. It is therefore likely that the Indianapolis Colts will use their 18th overall pick on an edge rusher who will be able to make an instant impact as a starter.
For this reason, I would argue that the Colts’ first round pick is most likely to bring Michigan State linebacker Shilique Calhoun to Indianapolis. If it wasn’t for the desperate need for their first round pick to have an instant impact then Jaylon Smith would be an interesting acquisition here. But with scouts unsure how long it will take for Smith to take to field again – following his multiple ligament tears during the Fiesta Bowl this post-season, it is unknown how far the former top ten athlete’s stock will fall by April 28th.
Another college prospect who looks as though he has the potential to dominate from the outside is Leonard Floyd (Georgia). The former Bulldog certainly lives up to his name. His impressive showing at the Scouting Combine would have done nothing but improve his draft stock. Although many NFL scouts view him as a 4-3 defensive end, Floyd stands at 6″6 and 244 pounds. He certainly has the physical tools needed to succeed at the next level. Floyd showed off his elite physical attributes by ranking in the top five amongst all linebackers in the 40-yard dash, the broad jump and the vertical jump at the Combine. That should put him at the centre of attention of all scouting departments who are searching for a dominant outside linebacker.
The Colts’ depth at the cornerback position was truly tested in 2015, as they had been decimated by injury throughout the season. With a lackluster pass rush and a misshapen secondary, opposing quarterbacks had all day to throw the ball to receivers who found themselves wide open more often than not.
Indianapolis needs to overhaul this position as quickly as possible, and should therefore plan for a double fronted attack on such a weak position this off-season. Whether it be through a trade or by exploring the free agency market, the Colts’ need to add a competent veteran who is able to defend effectively. That’s especially true in a division where there are two true franchise quarterbacks who will be facing off against Indianapolis twice a year (perhaps three, if Houston can sort out their headaches).
If Indianapolis are able to sign an effective corner from the free agency market then they solve half the problem, but they will inevitably look to sign difference makers in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft. It is likely that they will seek a cornerback on day two. But with such a deep pool of prospects, there is the potential that they will be able to sign somebody who could have been picked in the earlier rounds in a different class. Harlem Miller (Southeastern Louisiana) and Diondre Hall (Northern Iowa) have both been projected as potential second round picks, but both find themselves ranked outside of many scouts top ten cornerbacks going into the 2016 Draft, so look to see them go in either the third or fourth rounds.
If the Colts’ address each of these needs effectively in the off-season then they would undoubtedly be more competitive in the 2016 season. By addressing these key needs Indianapolis would be able to reassert themselves as a dominant force in both their division and the AFC. A team with Super Bowl intentions in 2015 may well be able to realize their dreams next season with the correct additions this off-season.