The Indianapolis Colts open training camp on July 25 in Westfield, Indiana. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
Will Andrew Luck go from NFL Comeback Player of the Year to league MVP?
The opportunity will be there for Luck, who threw for 4,593 yards and 39 touchdowns last season. This is the first time in his eight-year NFL career that he enters the season with the same starting offensive line under contract from the previous season. Luck also has the deepest group of skill-position players in his career and is in the same offensive system in consecutive seasons for just the second time. The Colts might find themselves in some shootout-style games this fall against the likes of the Steelers, Chiefs, Saints and Chargers. All of those factors make Luck, who missed OTAs with a calf strain, a legitimate MVP candidate.
Will being frugal during free agency hurt the Colts’ chances of taking another step forward in the AFC?
It shouldn’t be any surprise that Colts general manager Chris Ballard took the conservative route in attacking free agency. That’s what he did in 2018, and the Colts rebounded from a 1-5 start to reach the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. Defensive end Justin Houston, receiver Devin Funchess and running back Spencer Ware were the significant free agents the Colts signed this past offseason. Ballard’s desire to build through the draft while retaining key free agents has been a successful approach so far. There’s no need to alter things unless he eventually fails at it.
Can the Colts be a top-five rushing offense?
Yes. All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson wasn’t wearing a hat that said “Run the damn ball” during the offseason for no reason. But let’s get this out of the way: Finishing in the top five in rushing wouldn't mean the Colts are taking the ball out of Luck’s hands. It would mean the threat to pass the ball should open up running lanes for the likes of Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and the rest of the running backs. Seven of the league's top-10 rushing teams made the playoffs last season. The two Super Bowl teams -- the Patriots and Rams -- were in the top five rushing and passing last season. “In 2017, when I was with the Eagles ... the Eagles were [No. 3] rushing that year when they won the Super Bowl, and we still threw it a lot,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “So yes, it can be done.”
Is the Justin Houston addition enough to improve the Colts' pass rush?
Houston, who has 78.5 sacks in his career, wasn’t brought to Indianapolis to be the pass-rusher. He was brought to be one of the many pass-rushers. Houston is another piece of the puzzle that Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus plans to use to attack opposing offenses. With Houston and Jabaal Sheard leading the way, the Colts, who were tied for 19th in the league in sacks last season, will rotate their defensive ends throughout games to try to wear down opposing offenses and have fresher legs in the fourth quarter in their fast, aggressive scheme. At age 30, Houston won't be as productive as he was in 2014, when he had 22 sacks, but he’s still the Colts' best pass-rusher since Robert Mathis (19.5 sacks) in 2014, and he'll force quarterbacks to see where he’s lined up before the snap.
Which of the 10 draft picks has the best chance to get early playing time?
The Colts didn't have a first-round pick, and the three players who could end up having the earliest contributions are cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (second round), receiver Parris Campbell (second round) and linebacker Bobby Okereke (third round). Ya-Sin is going to push Quincy Wilson to be the second starting cornerback alongside Pierre Desir. The speedy Campbell has a chance to be the primary slot when the Colts go with three receivers, along with returning punts. Okereke could challenge Anthony Walker to be the starting middle linebacker.