Since the Indianapolis Colts lost future Hall of Fame wide receiver Reggie Wayne to a torn ACL, nothing has come easy. The offense has struggled to find a stride and a new identity. The defense has had to shoulder a much greater level of pressure as offenses have become more aggressive, unafraid of a limping Colts offense. Comebacks have become harder to come by as first half deficits have continued to mount.
Still, Indianapolis has won the AFC South and has a guaranteed spot in the playoffs with home-field advantage -- likely in the wild card round. While this is an accomplishment the team and fans can be proud of, it has been difficult from a fan perspective to get too excited when the likelihood that the team can mount any kind of playoff push under its current state is minimal at best.
So what then can be a silver lining in a 42-28 trouncing against the Cincinnati Bengals? Well, frankly, there are a lot of things that should give Colts fans something to root for in 2013 and as many of the team's fans begin accepting reality and glancing into the future.
With Reggie Wayne already in the final years of his illustrious career, the team has always had a ticking clock on finding the receivers of the future. Wayne's injury doomed the 2013 campaign but provided all the reason Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano needed to begin giving some of the team's younger options a shot. In Cincinnati Da'Rick Rogers and Lavonn Brazill both stepped up to give quarterback Andrew Luck new targets.
With their production, the offense has an opportunity to establish a passing game and find contributions from players other than T.Y. Hilton. Coby Fleener, and Donald Brown. These new "weapons" will help the offense find more balance, will force defenses to focus more on other players, and should help open things up for Luck.
The beautiful thing is that having an opportunity to rediscover an offensive identity late this year will pay off huge next year as the team gets healthy and gets key offensive components back onto the field. Imagine if Rogers, Brazill, or both can continue increasing their level of production, their timing with Luck, and their reliability as NFL receivers. How big would that be when the team also gets players like Dwayne Allen, Reggie Wayne, and Vick Ballard back into the fold? How big would that be for running backs like Donald Brown and Trent Richardson who are both capable receivers out of the back field and who can serve as check downs for Luck.?
While Rogers and Brazill have a long way to go to prove their NFL relevance and usefulness on a weekly basis, the very threat of them and the experience they can gain may provide depth the Colts sorely need at offensive skill positions and take pressure off of the front office in the draft and free agency this coming off-season to find expensive play-makers and focus more on the trenches.
This is no sure thing yet,but it gives a fan base in the dumps a reason to watch football games.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has struggled to be consistent but some welcome changes and new faces are getting worked into the fold that should give fans a reason to tune in. What will the freakish athleticism of Daniel Adongo bring to the table and when? Will Josh McNary be able to become another unlikely find for GM Ryan Grigson? Will NT Josh Chapman continue developing late in his first healthy NFL season?
The funny thing about this Indianapolis Colts team is that it is scary close to being one of the league's most talented groups. It will be one of the wealthiest teams in the off-season, with approximately $40 million in cap room. It will not have a lot of draft picks to use but it will be chalk full of very young and cheap, developing players.
Don't expect the Colts to turn things around in a big way in 2013. A win in the playoffs would be a huge accomplishment and a major point of pride, but if young players in Indianapolis continue to get opportunities and show promise the future should be very bright.
I heartily agree. Until last game, it was getting hard to find the silver lining late in this season, but with the dynamic play of Da'Rick and LaVon in this past outing against a strong Bengals D, there is some hope for the future. I am still very much frustrated by our current outmoded offensive philosophy, but it was nice to see our receivers actually helping Luck out rather than dropping the ball (both figuratively and literally).
I was about to argue the point about this team being close to being one of the most talented teams out there. But then I thought:
1. If Luck takes a step forward and...
2. If Manning decides to retire and...
3. Our coach abandons his outdated system about running and stopping the run
then yes, we would be.
Brett, oh you silly boy. Do you really think you can convince the local FIRE Pep!, No Fire Munasky!!, No No Fire Pagano!!!, No, No, No, Fire Grigson!!!!, Oh Hell Fire them ALL!!! , crowd, otherwise known as that other Colts blog, to quiet down????
Sad fact is Grigson decided to draft OLB Bjoern Werner at pick 24. Since Werner has yet to impress as a pass rusher this is a charge of gross incompetence against the 2012's GM of the Year.
Second, Grigson passed at the chance to pick up Keenan Allen, who is appearing to be clear best of last year's crop of WRs. San Diego got Allen at pick 76. Remember the Colts did not have a 2nd round pick. How did Grigson not know that the previously injured Allen, who did not work out at the combine, would be more than alright. Could he have not seen that Reggie was predetermined to blow his ACL??? Where were those HUGE set of balls required to take Allen at #24 when no other team had him on their boards in the second round???
Truth is Hugh Thornton G at pick 86 is been slightly below expectations at guard, C/G Khalid Holmes at #121, DT Montori Hughes at #139 have struggled to even make the active roster and get playing time. The rehabbing promising yet very long shot Safety John Boyett at #192 had a personal meltdown post training camp and was immediately cut. RB Kerwynn Williams #230 and TE Justice Cunningham aka Mr Irrelevant failed stick with the 53 man roster and then had the nerve to fail to clear waivers back to the Colts PS.
Ok Grigson may have found some decent rookie FAs Rodgers, McNary..., but hell any GM can do that.
Brett, what the hell is wrong with you??? Don't you want to see somebody get canned?
Brett, Thanks for the sunny side of things. Luck and all those WRs should progress (given the right O system, etc) but they will need time for him to make throws. The OL must protect better. Our OTs seem pretty set, and one guard is, in theory good (albeit recovering from injury) so that leaves the C and LG position to address. And either Dl or OLB because we sure as hell need to bring more pressure. It's like the opposite of what Pagano has preached--we need to protect the passer and rush the passer, as opposed to run and stop the run.....
By the way rookie Safety John Boyett, most likely after clearing a NFL substance abuse evaluation program, was signed to Denver's PS. Best of luck, although it sucks that it cost the Colts their 6th round pick.