Do you feel Lucky Colts?
This relies entirely on Andrew Luck playing the whole season, so good luck with that. The Colts started 2018 going 1-5 out of the gate. (For the fans of New England, FYI, that's what a losing record looks like.) But before the season could drift off into the draft’s top pick, something happened. Winning! The Colts, after their terrible start, ripped off nine wins in their final ten, capped by a season-ending trashing of Tennessee to clinch a wild card spot (Some teams just get tired of losing, others don't... that's why they pick first). Some like to downplay the Colts’ achievement by pointing out they had one of the weaker schedules (true), but their wins do include two wins over Tennessee, two wins over Houston (the AFC South Champs), and a shutout of the Dallas Cowboys (29-0). Let's take a look at some of the efforts that helped turn things around, as this turn around actually came down to more than Andrew luckily playing the entire season.
In 2018, as Luck would have it, he set career highs in pass attempts (639), completions (430), passing yards (4374), and passer rating (98.7). The Colts offensive line did one of their better jobs at keeping Luck off the ground, by allowing only eighteen sacks on the season. As far as the passing game goes, the Colts were able to strike gold, at the expense of the Lions, in the signing of tight end Eric Ebron. Ebron's time with Detroit was underwhelming at best, especially for the 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft. Yet, Ebron caught thirteen touchdowns from Luck in 2018; a total in one season that's two more than his four-year total in Detroit (an effort that just might be more disappointing to Lions fans than the efforts of their politicians).
T.Y. Hilton put in another solid year for the Colts (1270 yards and 6 TD's), but he still remains THE primary receiving target for Luck. There is an insane drop off in wide receiver production after Hilton, with Chester Rogers finishing second on the teams with 53 receptions, for 485 yards, and two scores (running back Nyheim Hines was third on the team with 63 receptions, and fourth on the team with 425 receiving yards). If the Colts want better luck moving the ball down the field, then they will HAVE to get better production out of receivers NOT named Hilton.
Luck actually had his worst year rushing, and a lot of that has to do with not needing to (besides having a better line). The Colts’ second year player Marlon Mack had a promising sophomore campaign, with 908 yards and 9 scores. Secondly, rookie Nyheim Hines finished with a modest 314 yards and two scores. Yet, Hines' 425 yards receiving gave him 739 yards from scrimmage for four scores. Rookie Jordan Wilkins, who finished with 336 yards and a score, rounds out the Colts back field. All in all, the Colts trio rushed for 1558 yards and 13 scores (Ebron accounted for the only other rushing TD).
Darius Leonard is the heart of the Colts defense. I repeat, Darius Lenard is the heart of the Colts defense. Leonard had 111 tackles, seven sacks, and four fumbles, an effort that would lead to earning 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Such a performance should have earned Leonard a ticket to the Pro Bowl; instead, he was handed a ticket from Snubhub (Anthony Walker was a distant second on the team with 69 tackles). Second year cornerback Kenny Moore, Jr. was the anchor of the secondary, leading all defensive backs with 63 tackles and three interceptions. The defensive line came through with 38 sacks in 2018, spearheaded by Denico Autry's team leading nine, while the defense as a whole had 30 takeaways in 2018.
The Colts have drafted well as of late (Miami take notes here), they have built up both their starting five and front seven by bringing in QUALITY players (you hear that Dolphins? Let's spell it together Q...). Darius Leonard feels like a Pro Bowler out of the gate (not that voters took notice). Quenton Nelson looks like the next big thing on the o-line, serving up more pancakes than IHOP. Though not as quick, Marlon Mack's running style, his elusiveness, and his ability to navigate holes, reminds me a lot of Adrian Peterson. As I stated, the Colts need to find a receiver not named Hilton to produce if they want to have a real chance to move the ball come postseason. The defense has the ability to take the ball away, but the offense needs to work some on not going out and not giving it back via FedEx (turnover ratio just + 2 on the season). The secondary needs to build some more consistency. The Colts are hoping that drafting Rock Ya-Sin can help with that, assuming the rookie CB doesn't bring Temple's “winning” tradition with him. A lot of these players are young, and the Colts are lucky to have many of them on their first contract, giving them a good window. So the question is, do you feel lucky Colts? Do you?! And fade to black.
By John Behrens