Look, I know it's only February. I know that coachspeak in the offseason means little.
That being said, Pep Hamilton's first press conference had a few hot button issues that left a sour taste in my mouth. Not everything was bad, quite to the contrary, but these were a couple things I wanted to look in-depth at.
The first, and most important topic, was the continuous mentions of Donnie Avery. Throughout the press conference, Hamilton described Avery as a weapon and referred to him as somebody who would feature in to the Colts' 2013 plans. It's no secret that Grigson like's Avery, specifically his speed and his deep threat ability.
After holding back the offense for much of the 2012 season, it seemed all but certain that Avery would be gone in 2013. Now, it's looking more and more likely like he'll be back in Indianapolis.
I feel like I shouldn't have to list the multiple reasons why Avery shouldn't be allowed back in the Colts' facilities next year, but I will anyway.
No matter which metric you choose to use, Avery doesn't come out looking good.
The easiest place to start is his hands. I mentioned this last offseason, but Avery has always struggled with drops. For the last four years, he's never had a drop rate less than 11% (Average this year was about 9%), and this past season he ranked 79th in the league with a drop rate of 16.67%. This wouldn't be as big of a deal if he made the most of his big play ability, but Avery never did.
Of 10 catchable balls Avery was thrown on deep passes, he dropped four of them, the second highest total in the league and the worst drop rate. When he did manage to catch the ball, deep or not, Avery rarely turned the play into something more, averaging just 3.5 yards after the catch per reception (74th in the league and worst among the Colts' top four receivers). On the flip side, you have a guy like Hilton, who caught 10 of his 11 catchable deep passes, and averaged 7.7 YAC, 5th best in the league.
Add it all up, and you get a wide receiver, in Avery, who was 80th in DVOA and 100th in PFF's grades, one of the worst wide receivers in football.
Like Nate Dunlevy has said multiple times this offseason, if the Colts improve on their #2 receiver, the efficiency of the offense should improve dramatically in 2013. If Avery is left there, he's going to continue to hold the offense back. It should still improve in 2013 either way, but the difference between Avery and even an average starter is far too great to ignore.
The other thing that warrants attention is Hamilton's mention of the Colts running sets such as the pistol, wildcat, and read-option in 2013 to keep opposing defenses off balance.
How much of this is real and how much is simply putting questions in the back of defensive coordinator's mind is a valid question, but if Hamilton is being at all serious, it is a concern.
When you have a quarterback like Andrew Luck, someone who you want to see develop into an elite quarterback, the Wildcat and read-option have no place in the playbook. Keep the ball in your best decision-maker's hands, don't expose him to more hits than he has to take, and let him work his magic. Luck's frame is big, which helps against taking hits, but that doesn't mean that we should be exposing him to more hits than he has to take. The offensive line is scary enough already, and Luck is the franchise's future.
Not that it can't be effective on a very limited basis, but the offense should take advantage of Luck's prowess as a passer, especially considering the sub-par talent in running backs and blocking the Colts' currently possess.
So, to be clear, nobody is calling for Hamilton's firing, or anything like that. And until any of this coachspeack turns into actions, it's not all that concerning.
But it's something to keep an eye out for.
While I have the same reservations as Kyle, I'll take this coach speak with a grain of salt for now. Remember when the new guard was hired and they said they wanted to "run the ball and stop the run"? I think we were all pleasantly surprised that wasn't really the case.
I thought Avery showed real progress----made some huge plays, and was pressuring d-backs. His speed showed- the Detroit game comes to mind.
@Blue@Heart Do you also remember all the huge drops? The drives stopped because of these plays? I'd much rather have someone on the field who can catch the ball and have Luck make the plays.
These comments put the pressure on him to improve. It's just not that troubling to me. Collie's out, Brazill is hungry, ... If Avery wins his job back, it will be because he's getting better. Remember the general freakout after Pagano got his job? "Run the ball and stop run?" How'd that work out?
Ok, why why why Donnie Avery? Or WTF is Colts' front office thinking.
All I can say is that last year I called into the Colts Endzone show several times and asked Barry Krauss about the receiving squad.
First time I asked about the obvious struggles of the rookie receivers to learn the system and get open, the impact of the loss of Collie and the over reliance on Wayne. I did not specifically ask about Avery. Krauss said Colts really liked that in cases where Luck had to escape the pass rush or simply try to extend plays, Avery consistently made second and third efforts to get open. Krauss said it was highly unlikely that Collie would be a Colt in 2013.
After the last game of the year I specifically asked about how much upside potential the Colts felt there was with their current receiving staff, especially the rookies. I asked if they thought another full off season working out with Luck would help improve(lessen) the team's drop rate. I never mentioned Avery!! Krauss and Pollard replied that they felt all the receivers greatly would benefit from off season workouts with Luck, something that was limited by Luck's graduation commitments last year. But they specifically praised Avery and felt that after basically being out of football for 2 seasons, he made a strong comeback. Pollard stressed he felt that Avery was the most likely to improve next year.
Other callers also asked about whether the Colts would pick up a big name free agent receiver, Krauss suggested the Colts would focus on developing the current receivers and work on filling other position needs.
So perhaps the Colts' paid media, gave out clues as to what the front office is thinking in regards to Avery and potential FA receivers.
“@ColtsAuth_Kyle: Donnie Avery, the Wildcat, and Pep Hamilton http://t.co/Jkn19mAf” never want to see Avery in Colts uniform again
It's still going to come down to the Benjamin's. IMO, someone else may think he's worth more than we'd be willing to pay. I agree, Pep shouldn't have been giving love to an UFA. That's only going to increase his asking price if his agent knows how valuable we think he is.
To play devil's advocate for a moment...
IF you're pretty sure Austin Collie is gone, and IF you have other pressing needs in the draft, and IF you still aren't sure about LaVon Brazill or Griff Whalen, and IF you think Reggie will throw rocks at Donnie for six months to improve his hands, and IF he works relatively cheap, THEN it makes some sense to stick with the guy you know and trust that he'll get better through the Law of Averages if nothing else.
That's a lot of IF's. I still don't like Donnie but... in Grigson we trust.
@squirrel They should not have to spend to much to resign Avery. Already it looks the selection of choice FA WRs is dwindling. The Colts, given their franchise history, are unlikely so spend big bucks for a FA WR. Still, Grigson might find an overlooked value FA. As usual Colts go BPA in the draft and could find a plum WR. Worse case scenario they attempt developing a late round pick or a UDFA. They have not had too bad luck recently with Hilton, Brazil and some guy named Garcon.
Keep Avery around for at least insurance. Perhaps give Griff Whalen a chance to develop on the practice squad with some other late picks or UDFAs.
Ideal scenario? No. Worst case? Not close.
@squirrelAgree with this. Avery may not be bridge they want to take, but can't burn it either.