So what's next for the Indianapolis Colts going into 2024?

The Indianapolis Colts were a 4th and 1 away from making the playoffs, but the future is bright.
Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts
Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The Colts are in a peculiar place right now. They have a young quarterback who seems to have the right stuff and an all-pro running back who they signed to a long-term deal. However, their #1 receiver is testing free agency and the secondary is lacking any real talent to stop the pass. General Manager Chris Ballard has created a team that is strong in the trenches but weak at skilled positions such as cornerback, wide receiver, and to a lesser extent, linebacker.

The Colts had their first full year with rookie head coach Shane Steichen who was perfect for the job all along. The former offensive coordinator for the Eagles built Jalen Hurts into what he is now. The Colts defense largely didn't give up the big play throughout the season and focused on field position. Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's Tampa-2 defense from the Legion of Boom transferred well to the young secondary but struggled to close out games.

The Colts lost 3-4 games in which they led in the 4th quarter by more than one score and it was heartbreaking to watch. The young Colts team is poised to have great success in the future.

So what's the next step for the Colts?

The Colts glaring issue is their young secondary and the wide receiver depth. Outside of Michael Pittman Jr. the team is largely empty at receiver. Alec Pierce had a breakout year as compared to his rookie season and rookie Josh Downs can take the role of T.Y. Hilton as the speedy, shifty slot guy. This offense is more built on the dink-and-dunk and West Coast style of play made famous by Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. Steichen's offense is a lot of motions, crossing patterns, and play action to fool the defense at the second level.

This brings us to the secondary. The Colts have largely ignored the secondary outside of drafting young talent. But Chris Ballard let Stephon Gilmore go last season in free agency because the team wanted to get younger and with that, was the lack of experience. In his end of the season press release, Ballard admitted he understood the secondary was going to be an issue this season.

"“We went young in the secondary and, look, there were some rough moments at times in the secondary, and I don’t completely put that on them. I put that more on me. But how do you ever develop any continuity, especially with your own guys if you don’t just play them?”"

Chris Ballard, Colts General Manager

He also stated they would not move on from DC Gus Bradley and this was echoed by Shane Steichen just a few days before the January 12th press conference. The Colts also have a major issue with the pass rush. The Colts were a league-worst 15% on blitz-to-sack ratio which could be why the secondary struggled so much. Juju Brents had a tough season riddled with injuries and safety Julian Blackmon was placed on IR. This gave way to Jaylon Jones, a 7th-round rookie, getting into the starting lineup. The most steady member of the secondary was Kenny Moore II who is a free agent this season which is a big concern for Colts fans.

Biggest offseason concerns?

The Colts must fix two areas: edge rusher and wide receiver. The Colts must get better at getting off the field on third down and get to the quarterback as well as moving the ball. The Colts offense has been stagnant these past few years as Journeyman quarterbacks and one year fill-ins have come in and out, but the edge defender is a major concern.

Kwity Paye took what could be considered a step back from his rookie season and Deforest Buckner can only do so much at the defensive interior spot. Tyquan Lewis and Grover Stewart are also free agents this offseason which is another concern for the team. Some notable free agents this offseason are Chase Young, Marcus Davenport, and Leonard Williams who the Colts could target.

On the receiver side, the Colts must sign Michael Pittman Jr. without question. Pittman will be 25 when the season starts and is coming off a great season where he caught over 100 passes for over 1,000 yards. Pittman's leadership is invaluable and his commitment to this team has been understated. Pittman has played with as many quarterbacks as his years in the NFL and with 3 different coordinators and head coaches. The Colts could also target Mike Evans in free agency and maybe Tyler Boyd from Cincinnati.