Indianapolis is in a period of huge transition. Aside from the obvious of Peyton Manning being gone in favor of Andrew Luck, the defense is also switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme, with players Mathis and Freeney converting to outside linebackers. The team also has a brand new head coach in Chuck Pagano, a no nonsense character previously with the Ravens as their defensive coordinator. The Colts look to be establishing a model of success, but it’s going to take some time before it can all come together.
2011 Record: 2-14
Key Additions: Andrew Luck, Samson Satele, Winston Justice, Coby Fleener, Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski
Key Losses: Peyton Manning, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai, Pierre Garcon, Dallas Clark, Philip Wheeler, Jacob Lacey
Offense: The offense is in a state of flux. They are youthful and inexperienced, with Reggie Wayne being the chief exception. The talent at QB and TE are without question, but the offensive line needs to improve greatly. Satele needs to play better than he has previously, and Costanzo needs to prove his first-round status. With a year of play behind them and a solid draft next season, the Colts could see a dramatic improvement, but expect this to be a year of growing pains. RB Donald Brown is also a question mark.
Defense: Few know what to expect this year, as switching to a 3-4 can be a difficult process for many teams. Credit the organization for bringing in the right guy to orchestrate it (Pagano), as well as bringing in pieces like Cory Redding and Tom Zbikowski; two veterans of the 3-4 defense and good players in their own right. It won’t happen overnight, but the potential is there.
Coaching: Chuck Pagano’s first order of business is to establish a culture of toughness, resilience, and aggressiveness, which by all accounts he is well on his way to achieving. With such youth on offense, he needs to be patient in introducing his offense, but not be afraid to ramp up the speed of development if Luck shows he can absorb it. The defense may even have a more difficult time with the adjustment, but as long as they play tough, the coach should be willing to take it in stride.
Breakout Player: Andrew Luck. It happened before the season even started.
2012 Prediction: 3-13. They play a number of marquee teams and have their own issues to deal with. Expect another difficult road this year.
Overview: This team will show the beginning seeds of development, and no doubt has a qualified head coach in Chuck Pagano, but a difficult schedule in a period of transition is tough for any team to go through. Look for a much stronger 2013 from this franchise.