This article is part of our Team Previews series.
With a promising young defense and stout offensive line, the Colts entered last season with high hopes, but the team also was compensating for the sudden departure of Andrew Luck. Signing Philip Rivers should improve the team's quarterback production, especially with additional skill-position weapons added this offseason.
- QB Philip Rivers (from Chargers)
Indy turns to the 38-year-old to boost its QB play.
- DT DeForest Buckner (from 49ers)
Cost the team a first-round pick, but he's a star interior lineman.
- RB Jonathan Taylor (Rd. 2, No. 41 – Wisconsin)
The prolific college runner will split time in the backfield with Marlon Mack.
- WR Michael Pittman (Rd. 2, No. 34 – USC)
A big-bodied possession target to complement the team's speedy wideouts.
- TE Trey Burton (from Bears)
An injury bounce-back candidate who'll provide depth behind Jack Doyle.
- K Adam Vinatieri (FA)
A much younger name will look to replace the accomplished kicker.
- WR Devin Funchess (to Packers)
Departs Indy after just one season lost to injury.
- TE Eric Ebron (to Steelers)
The key red-zone target moves on to Pittsburgh.
A Look Under the Hood
Head Coach: Frank Reich (Year 3)
Offensive Coordinator: Nick Sirianni (Year 3) - West Coast Offense
Defensive Coordinator: Matt Eberflus (Year 3) - 4-3 scheme
2020 Vegas Projected Wins: 8.5 (T-14th)
2019 Record: 7-9
2019 Points Scored: 361 (T-16th)
2019 Points Allowed: 373 (18th)
2019 Point Differential: -12 (17th)
2019 Run-Play Rate: 46.4 percent (5th)
2019 Situation-Neutral Pace: 31.79 seconds per play (25th)
2019 Offensive Snaps: 1,016 (18th)
2019 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 3
Projected 2020 Depth Chart
Can Philip Rivers Revive the Passing Attack?
The Colts approached the 2019 campaign with one of the most envious signal-caller situations in the league, but Andrew Luck shockingly retired at age 28 just days before the season opener. The team turned to backup Jacoby Brissett, but the results were disappointing.
As a result, the team signed Philip Rivers, who departs the Chargers after starting all of the franchise's games for the past 14 seasons. While he's coming off what was arguably the poorest effort of his career, exemplified by a 23:20 TD:INT, Rivers still logged 7.8 YPA and a 66.0 completion percentage, with both marks easily topping Brissett's (6.6 and 60.9, respectively).
Now reunited with Frank Reich, who served as the Chargers offensive coordinator during some of the QB's peak years, Rivers has a plethora of weapons in the passing game. T.Y. Hilton – who missed six games last season with quad and calf injuries – is back as the team's top wideout. Hilton's return to health will be key, as his ability to stretch defenses opens up the Indy attack.
Meanwhile, third-year man Zach Pascal will face competition from a pair of promising second-round picks in Parris Campbell (2019) and Michael Pittman (2020). Additionally, Rivers will be throwing to reliable tight end Jack Doyle and newcomer Trey Burton, all while working behind one of the league's best offensive lines.
Running Back by Committee?
With Marlon Mack coming off his first 1,000-yard season, the Colts surprised many by selecting Jonathan Taylor in the second round of April's draft. Of course, he was the second player in FBS history to post consecutive 2,000-yard rushing seasons and the second to win consecutive Doak Walker awards.
Running a 4.39 40 at the combine at a rock-solid 226 pounds, Taylor profiles as a player who can bowl over defenders while also providing a home-run threat. He carries question marks as a receiver and ball security concerns, however. Taylor recorded just 42 catches in three college seasons with Wisconsin and racked up 18 fumbles on 968 touches, along with several high-profile drops in that span.
Mack began last season with a bang, piling up 174 rushing yards against the Chargers in Week 1, but that proved to be the high-water mark of his season as a potential breakout campaign turned into a merely good one. Mack used his elusiveness to post four games of 95 yards or more, and he had nine runs of over 20 yards. However, he wasn't used much in the passing game, with just 14 receptions.
Mack and Taylor would appear to have similar skill sets, but offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni called them a 1-1 punch in the spring and plans to split the workload. It's unclear how much either will be used in the passing game, however, with Nyheim Hines seemingly entrenched as the team's change-of-pace back. The usage pattern of the Indy backfield could be frustrating for fantasy owners as a result.
Early down work in Indy will be of interest as Marlon Mack looks to fend off Jonathan Taylor.
Can the Defense Be Elite?
The Colts defense took a slight step back last season as it ranked 18th in points allowed and 16th in yards surrendered. While the defense was stout against the run – seventh in yards allowed, 11th in net yards per attempt – it struggled against the pass (23rd in pass yards allowed, 22nd in net yards per attempt).
The Colts allowed the league's second-highest completion percentage (75.4), according to Pro Football Focus. This offseason, the team made a bold move, dealing a first-rounder for DeForest Buckner, one of the league's top interior lineman. Buckner's presence will make it a challenge for opposing offenses to contain both him and defensive end Justin Houston (11 sacks last season).
An improved pass rush will help a secondary that will have some turnover. Starting cornerback Pierre Desir left in free agency and backup Quincy Wilson was traded to the Jets. To boost the unit, the Colts signed Xavier Rhodes in free agency. Rhodes was once one of the top cover corners in the league, but his performance declined over the past two seasons.
Questions persist regarding the performance and health of Malik Hooker, as the team decided not to pick up his fifth-year option. The emergence of cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and safety Khari Willis as rookie starters could lift the unit in their respective second years. Moreover, Kenny Moore was a dominant defender by allowing just 5.9 yards per target and just one touchdown in pass coverage in 2019.
⬆️ Rising: WR Michael Pittman
At 6-4, 223, Pittman has fast-for-his-size speed (4.52 40-yard dash). He should be a nice complement to No. 1 wideout T.Y. Hilton and speedy second-year player Parris Campbell and could quickly emerge as a starter.
⬇️ Falling: RB Marlon Mack
😴 Sleeper: WR Parris Campbell
He's coming off an injury-plagued rookie season, but Campbell has the speed (4.31-second 40) and athleticism to thrive in the slot and emerge as a key target for QB Philip Rivers.
🌟 Pivotal Player: Philip Rivers
The Indianapolis offense has an abundance of weapons and a premier line, but the team needs improved quarterback play to make the playoffs. Can a 17-year veteran coming off one of his worst seasons be the answer? Rivers' record of durability and consistently strong YPA numbers provide hope.