The Indianapolis Colts have a top ten roster in the NFL heading into the 2020 season. You don’t believe me? They have a quality starter at every single position group on their roster and depth behind those starters that most teams would envy.
Most importantly they have an excellent head coach in Frank Reich and a talented group of guys that know how to play together. These reasons are exactly why the Colts are going to win the AFC South and why they might have the best chance to Represent the AFC in the Super Bowl (outside of Kansas City and Baltimore).
Adding Philip Rivers this offseason was an excellent move. Rivers has a chance to compete for a Super Bowl one final time in his career while playing behind the best offensive line he’s had in years. If the Colts decided not to make that move, however, they still likely would have been very good as Jacoby Brisset has shown the ability to be a starter in the NFL. Add Jacob Eason, a talented rookie from the University of Washington and you make up one of the best QB rooms in the NFL.
T.Y. Hilton is arguably the most underrated receiver in the entire NFL. He had an injury riddled 2019 season but is closing in on over 10,000 receiving yards for his career, and could potentially reach that mark this season. All reports out of training camp show that he has developed a fast relationship with new QB Philip Rivers. Hilton has a chance to be a veteran leader with a young receiving core and help lead this team to the playoffs.
Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell, and Michael Pittman Jr. make up the rest of the receiving corps and each of them bring their own individual skill set to the table. Pascal had a very good second NFL season totaling over 600 yards and 5 touchdowns. Parris Campbell and Michael Pittman Jr. are both second round picks who are looking to make an immediate impact. Campbell, a rookie in 2019, did not have the year he wanted only grabbing 18 catches for 127.
Coming into his sophomore season the shifty receiver looks to vastly improve on those numbers. Michael Pittman Jr. heads into his rookie season with an abbreviated training camp, however, he stands out when talking about this group of pass catchers.
And by stands out I mean he stands out as the 6’4 receiver plays a different brand of football than the rest of the receivers you’ll find in Indianapolis. Pittman Jr. uses his height to go up and pluck the ball out of the air, perfect for someone like Philip Rivers who loves throwing 50/50 balls to his pass catchers.
The Colts averaged 29.4 carries per game last season which ranked them as the 4th most run-heavy team in the league. Their leading running back Marlon Mack rushed for a career-high 1,091 yards over 14 games to the tune of 4.4 yards per carry. Back up running back Nyheim Hines caught 44 passes for 320 yards last season.
The Colts then proceeded to draft Jonathan Taylor in the second round out of Wisconsin. All Taylor did in college was rush for 6,174 yards over 3 collegiate seasons. In case you haven’t gotten the message yet, the Colts want to run the ball and they want to use their running backs as much as any team in the league. With Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, and Nyheim Hines leading the way in 2020, they will be able to do just that.
Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, and Mo Alie-Cox sound like the start of a potentially dynamic tight end group. Each player has shown flashes of brilliance, the issue is that none of them have sustained that brilliance. Doyle has been labeled as an up and coming player for years now, yet he has never fully been able to establish himself as a top-tier tight end.
Whether it be injuries, inconsistent QB play, or Doyle himself not playing well he has not taken that next step. Heading into the 2020 season Doyle has the capability of being a consistent producer for this Colts team. Trey Burton and Mo Alie-Cox have had different career paths, however. Burton flourished as a back-up tight end on a Philadelphia Eagles team that won the Super Bowl.
Burton became part of a play that will go down in history when he threw Nick Foles a touchdown pass right before the half helping lead the Eagles to defeat the New England Patriots in the 2017 Super Bowl. After that game Burton tested free agency and signed with the Chicago Bears, quickly becoming one of the most hyped moves that offseason. Burton had a good season with the Bears in 2018 but disappointed in 2019.
Heading into the 2020 season Burton can be a very solid backup tight end for the Colts but he has to get healthy first as he is currently projected to miss the first two weeks of the regular season. The Colts tight end group may not be the most talented in the league but if they can stay healthy they will certainly contribute to the Colts winning some games this season.
The Colts offensive line is the best part of their entire offense. They return all five starters from 2019 which further proves the point that these guys know how to play together. Three of their five starters are former first round picks and two of them made the Pro-bowl last season.
Ryan Kelly just became the NFL’s highest paid center this offseason and his running mate to the left may be the best overall offensive lineman in the NFL. Quenton Nelson has been in the NFL for two seasons. In that span he is a two-time pro-bowler and two-time first-team all-pro. If you mention the name Quenton Nelson to a common everyday NFL fan they might know his name.
That is how good he is that an average NFL fan might know the name of an NFL offensive lineman. The Colts have two things on their offensive line that most NFL teams cannot say. High end talent and continuity. Heading into the 2020 season very few NFL teams can say they are more comfortable with their offensive line than the Colts.
The offseason trade for DeForest Buckner showed that the Colts are dedicated to becoming not just an okay defensive team but rather an elite one. Buckner was part of a historically good defensive front in San Francisco last season and he looks to make a similar impact now in Indianapolis.
Buckner’s impact does not always show up on the stat sheet but between taking on double teams, freeing up tackling lanes for linebackers and taking attention away from his teammates Buckner is an elite defender in the NFL. Buckner’s partner in crime for the 2020 season will be Justin Houston.
Houston showed the NFL he still has some very good football left after signing a two year contract with the Colts in the 2019 offseason. Houston racked up 11 sacks and 13 tackles for loss last season proving he still has a lot of gas left in the tank. These two should terrorize quarterbacks in the 2020 season as the Colts build their way towards an elite defense.
Darius Leonard leads a very talented young linebacking core for the Colts with three players who are 25 and under. Darius Leonard is a first-team all-pro and has 1 pro-bowl invitation in his two year career. Bobby Okereke had a very good rookie year playing in all 16 games and starting 8. Heading into the 2020 season he has a very good chance to be even better this year and improve on his impressive rookie season.
Anthony Walker rounds out the impressive linebacking core heading into his fourth NFL season starting all 16 games for the Colts last season. With a limited offseason due to the Coronavirus pandemic that has swept the nation by storm it helps that the Colts will have three young linebackers who already know how to play together heading into the 2020 season.
The Colts secondary is likely the weakest part of their talented defense. Big name players such as Malik Hooker and new addition Xavier Rhodes may help when it comes to looking good on paper, but it is players such as Rock Ya-Sin and Khari Willis that may be the most important when it comes to winning games this season.
Malik Hooker was a big name coming out of Ohio State drafted in the first round for the Colts. In three NFL seasons he is yet to play all 16 games but still has accumulated 7 interceptions in three years. Hooker was best known for his ball hawking ability coming into the NFL and it seems he still has that part of his game performing well.
His tackling and tackling angles however, has drawn questions from scouts and analysts across the league. Xavier Rhodes coming over from the Vikings this offseason was a big name move as the Vikings decided it was time to move on from the former first-team all-pro. Rhodes is no longer the same player he was with the Vikings but adding him to this Colts secondary is a good depth signing and gives them a veteran leader in their secondary.
Rock Ya-Sin and Khari Willis may be the most important players in this Colts secondary heading into the 2020 season. In 2019 both players were rookies, putting together solid seasons with both players starting over 9 games. After this crazy offseason having continuity with two talented young rookies paired with a ball hawking safety and adding some veteran talent like Rhodes and T.J. Carrie the Colts have a very good chance to be one of the best defenses in the league in the 2020 season.
The Colts were hurt last year by special teams early and often. As great a career as Adam Vinateri has had, in 2019 he was a liability for the Colts. Heading into 2020 the only kicker currently on the active roster for the Colts is undrafted rookie Rodrigo Blankenship.
Blankenship is actually one of the most well known college kickers in recent memory having an excellent career at Georgia. Blankenship needs to be good for the Colts in the 2020 season to help them win some big games. Now I know special teams are not only kickers but they certainly play an important part. Heading into 2020 the Colts special teams unit may be the reason they either make or miss the playoffs.