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Indianapolis Colts: 2017 preview

After a disappointing season in 2016, can the Colts find their way back to the playoffs? Find out in our team preview!


2016 marked the second year in a row the Colts would miss the playoffs and the second year in a row with an 8-8 record. Andrew Luck delivered on expectations early in his career, leading the Colts to the playoffs in each of his first three seasons. However, since getting smacked by the Patriots in the 2014 AFC championship game, the Colts haven’t found their way back to the postseason.

Many people have said Luck had his best season in 2016. In 15 games, he did record a career-high in completion percentage but ultimately may have cost his team going forward. Luck underwent surgery on his torn labrum during the offseason, and he’s yet to participate in training camp. His status for the upcoming season is in question, which ultimately puts the fate of the 2017 Colts in question.

Offseason moves

InOut
Jabaal Sheard, OLB/DEPat McAfee, P
Barkevious Mingo, OLBD'Qwell Jackson, LB
John Simon, OLBDwayne Allen, TE
Brian Schwenke, C
Mike Adams, S
Al Woods, DTJosh McNary, LB
Kamar Aiken, WRErik Walden, LB
Johnathan Hankins, DTKendall Langford, DE
Jon Bostic, LB

2016 marked the end for general manager Ryan Grigson, as he was fired at the end of the season. Grigson was often criticized for his utter disregard for the offensive line. Andrew Luck was one of the most unprotected quarterbacks in the league under Grigson's rule. With new general manager Chris Ballard at the helm, you'd think the offensive line would be a big focus in the offseason. However, they only added one major offensive lineman in the offseason, and calling him major is generous. Brian Schwenke is a veteran center, but he only started eight games in the last two years. On top of this, Ballard only drafted one offensive lineman in this year's draft.

There is definitely a refocus on the defense, which ranked 30th last year in yards allowed. There's no doubt some good pieces were brought in, but somehow, it still doesn't feel like enough. Despite being a high draft pick in 2013, Mingo has only started three games in the last two years and has made minimal impact. Jabaal Sheard was a big part of the Patriots defense for the last two years, but we've seen plenty of examples of players who fall off after leaving the almighty Pats. Johnathan Hankins was the biggest pickup of the offseason, and while he'll make an immediate impact, you have to wonder how the rest of the defense will perform. Granted, they can't go much lower than last year.

2017 schedule

WeekOpponent
1@ Los Angeles Rams
2vs Arizona Cardinals
3vs Cleveland Browns
4@ Seattle Seahawks
5vs San Francisco 49ers
6@ Tennessee Titans
7vs Jacksonville Jaguars
8@ Cincinnati Bengals
9@ Houston Texans
10vs Pittsburgh Steelers
11BYE
12vs Tennessee Titans
13@ Jacksonville Jaguars
14@ Buffalo Bills
15vs Denver Broncos
16@ Baltimore Ravens
17vs Houston Texans

If Andrew Luck is to miss any significant time to start the year, the Colts have the fortune of facing three straight opponents who missed the playoffs last year. However, don't count on backup quarterback Scott Tolzien, as he's never won a game as a starter in the NFL. The Colts did draw the NFC West as their counterpart opponents this year, which is good considering many claim them as the worst division in the NFL.

The Colts are scheduled for three primetime games this season, including a Sunday night, Monday night, and a Thursday night game.

Three players to watch: Donte Moncrief, wide receiver

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Moncrief is hard to figure out. After modest success in 2014, the Colts drafted Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the 2015 draft, and many spelled the end for Moncrief as a relevant option. Moncrief stayed relevant in 2015 and amassed over 100 targets in 10 starts. 

Many picked 2016 to be the breakout year for Moncrief, and it would have been if it hadn't been for a shoulder injury. In his limited playing time, Moncrief became more of a touchdown machine than a target monster. This broke the perception of the wide receiver, and now we just don't know what to expect from him. The one thing we can conclude is that he's a favorite option of Andrew Luck, and he should continue to see a good volume of targets as long as he stays healthy.

Frank Gore, running back

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Yes, he's still in the league. 2017 marks Gore's 13th year in the NFL, and he's still a starting running back. After getting under 1,000 yards in 2015 for the first time since 2010 (when he only played 11 games), Gore was determined to get back to the 1,000 yard mark in 2016. He did just that by gaining 1,025 yards on the ground at age 33. Gore has had 11 consecutive seasons of over 1,000 yards from scrimmage, and he'll still be a major piece of the offense even in his old age.

I'll be interested to see if the Colts start to limit his touches this year. Good word has come out of camp about both of Gore's understudies, as Robert Turbin and Marlon Mack are getting great reviews. The one thing you can count on for Gore is that he'll be playing all season. Gore hasn't missed a game since 2010, which is remarkable for a running back his age. It's hard to say what his impact will be this year, but he'll likely exceed expectations as he's done for so many years.

Malik Hooker, safety

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With their first round pick in this year's draft the Colts selected Malik Hooker. The sky is the limit for Hooker, and his college tape is about as impressive as any. We have yet to see him in NFL action, as he's been held out with a shoulder injury. Because of this, we may not see much of him at the beginning of the year, but as he becomes more acclimated to the defense, I expect to see a quick rise for this kid. His vision is incredible; it almost looks effortless when he goes ball hawking. Hooker had four pick-sixes by himself just last season. The highlights speak for themselves.

Prediction

When I see this Colts roster, I just don't get excited. This team feels very bland; it feels like the oatmeal of the NFL this year. It's not necessarily bad, but it's not really good either. It does fill you up and provide some nutrition, but you're not really satisfied after eating it. That's what I see when I look at the 2017 Colts.

I may have been a little hard as a result of my interpretation. I have the Colts finished 5-11 and last place in the AFC South. I think they could be as high as 7-9 or 8-8, but I don't see much beyond that. I think the rest of the division has gotten better, and I think the Colts are in a bit of a rebuilding mode that is masked by Andrew Luck and a solid offense. This team has a long way to go, and I think this season marks the beginning of the decline.

How do you think the Colts will do this season? Let us know in the comments below!

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Alex Freeman

Graduate of Ferris State University in Michigan. Bachelor's degrees in Psychology & Sports Communication.

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Indianapolis Colts: 2017 preview

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