2013 Team Needs: Indianapolis Colts
Going all the way from the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to the playoffs in a single season, especially given the roster turnaround, has given Indianapolis Colts fans reason to be hopeful for the future.
After having one of the best quarterbacks of all time marshal the position for over a decade, they landed the most highly praised college quarterback in recent times in Andrew Luck. While Luck’s performance on the field wasn’t as good as fellow rookies Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, he still showed enough for many to believe he can lead the Colts for the next decade himself.
However, despite making the playoffs, the Colts are a team with enough holes on their roster to ensure they need to be aggressive in free agency and, thankfully, they have the salary cap space to do just that.
You can find a list of their own free agents here, but here’s a look at the Colts’ biggest needs this offseason.
Given the success head coach Chuck Pagano had in Baltimore, fans were excited to see him bring that style of defense to Indianapolis. The change meant perennial pass rush demons Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis spent more time at outside linebacker in 2012. Neither excelled, with both struggling in particular against the run.
In one of his earliest press conferences as the head coach, Pagano put forward that he believed Mathis could fit the role that Jarret Johnson played in his defense in Baltimore — that strong edge setter who would give fits to opposing running games. That simply didn’t happen and, with Jerry Hughes (-6.6) not getting it done either, it’s time for the Colts to look outside the current roster.
Free Agent Fix: Anthony Spencer
If you’re looking for an outside linebacker who excels against the run, this is your lucky year, with Dallas’ Anthony Spencer likely to hit the open market. Our highest graded player at the position, Spencer was good enough as a pass rusher, finishing the year with a Pass Rushing Productivity rating of 11.0, and registering 40 total pressures.
Where he really excelled however, was against the run. With 41 of his 44 solo tackles resulting in a defensive stop, no outside linebacker could match Spencer’s 11.7 Run Stop Percentage mark. Just turned 29, Spencer would be an excellent addition to a Colts defense that needs to improve if they are to progress deeper in the playoffs.
The biggest move, in terms of Jim Irsay’s offseason tweets at least, that the Colts made defensively heading into last season was the acquisition of cornerback Vontae Davis from the Miami Dolphins. Despite missing time through injury, Davis was solid in coverage, picking off or breaking up seven of the 58 passes thrown into his coverage.
The problem for the Colts was the spot opposite him which was manned, poorly, by Cassius Vaughn in the second half of the season. Our lowest graded cornerback in 2012, Vaughn allowed a reception once every 7.2 snaps in coverage. Making matters worse, Darius Butler, who looked solid in a reserve role, is a free agent himself. However, even if they bring him back, the position is still in need of an upgrade.
Free Agent Fix: Adam Jones
His name wasn’t mentioned much during the season, mainly because he wasn’t involved in any high profile off-the-field incidents, but Adam Jones quietly had a very good year in Cincinnati. Coming onto the field in nickel situations, he allowed just 400 yards from the 66 passes thrown into his coverage in the regular season. Allowing just two touchdowns through the air, he broke up seven passes while allowing a reception just once every 11.5 snaps in coverage.
Making Jones all the more attractive as a free agent is his ability to impact the game on special teams, with the former sixth overall draft pick our third-highest graded punt returner last season. While that might not be needed in Indianapolis, with T.Y. Hilton one of the two players graded higher than Jones, his 11.6 yard punt return average certainly wouldn’t do any harm should he need to be called upon.
With former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians now the head coach in Arizona, there’s a good chance the Colts won’t be throwing downfield at the same frequency as they did in 2012. No quarterback had more passing attempts of 20 yards or further than Luck did in his rookie year, and with that comes hits from opposing defenses — Luck was knocked down or sacked 83 times.
While that’s partly to do with the nature of the offense, the Colts need to improve the offensive line in general as well, with the unit combining for a league worst Pass Blocking Efficiency rating of 72.9. The worst offenders on the line were guards Jeff Linkenbach and Mike McGlynn, who were downright awful for much of the year, with the exception of a couple of solid performances. In a division with the league’s premier 3-4 defensive end in J.J. Watt, the Colts need to improve that interior.
Free Agent Fix: Andy Levitre
Due to both his age, he’ll be just 27 when the 2013 season begins, and his solid play the past two seasons, Andy Levitre is the top offensive guard available on the open market this season. A second-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 2009 draft, he was superb as a pass blocker in 2012, allowing just 12 total pressures.
His play as a run blocker the past two seasons hasn’t been anything to get excited about, but it hasn’t been a concern either. You can live with the fact that he’s an average run blocker however, when you add up his total pressures allowed from the past two seasons and see that the 11 sacks or hits he has allowed are less than the 14 allowed by McGlynn in 2012 alone.
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