The AFC South is all set to be one of the more interesting divisions in the NFL this season. It was not that long ago that the division was the biggest joke, at least in the AFC. However, now it is loaded with talent. You have three really good quarterbacks and one of the best defenses in the entire NFL. So how is this division likely to turn out in 2018? Let’s start our review by looking at the Indianapolis Colts.
I wrote a few weeks ago about how important Andrew Luck might be for this team but his importance is so huge it is worth reiterating. Jacoby Brissett did an adequate job last season and still the Colts struggled to do anything of note. Luck has the ability to be far more than adequate when playing at his best. The trouble is that his surrounding cast lacks the talent that he has had in the past, and he has hardly had a wealth of option since being drafted by the Colts.
Marlon Mack is an exciting back, Last season he had some really exciting plays, with 12 rushes going for over 10 yards and averaging 13.6 yards per reception. However, the issue came that he could not consistently gain solid yards, averaging just 3.8 yards per rushing attempt. In addition, he already has a hamstring injury nd is questionable to start the first game of the season.
That leaves an interesting group of Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Christine Michael and Robert Turbin, who will serve a four game suspension. Hines and Wilkins are both rookies so it is unfair to judge them but we have seen both Michael and Turbin and neither offer that much excitement.
When Deon Cain when down injured people were talking about how bad that was for the Colts. With all due respect to Cain, when a team loses its sixth round and people worry about a teams receiving core you know you are in trouble. We know how good TY Hilton is but he relies a lot on the deep ball which means he can only effect the ball occasionally.
Behind Hilton there is Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers. If you are questioning who they are then it probably is not worth me listing the rest of the receivers. It is safe to say that Luck is going to have to work some magic to get much out of this group.
This is where the pass catching talent comes in. Jack Doyle has never had a catch percentage below 71.4% and now he gets to play with Andrew Luck once again. I expect Doyle to be a key part of Luck and this offense moving the chains. Eric Ebron has the body and the talent to be a good tight end. If he can finally put it all together and be a reliable option for Luck then this team could be fine on offense.
The offensive line has been a constant headache since Luck was drafted by the Colts. The addition of Quenton Nelson will make a huge difference but the line could still be an issue. If they cannot keep Luck upright they risk both struggling and losing Luck again to injury. This line has to get things right to even give Luck a chance to get his offense working.
In general this is not a great defense. They lack any really high quality players and what they do have does not really make much of a dent on the landscape of NFL defensive players.
The best player on this line is Jabaal Sheard who ranked 87th among defensive lineman according to roster resource in 2017. They do not have another player who ranked in the top-100 last season. Their hope will be that rookie Tyquan Lewis can earn a starting spot once he returns from injury. If he can they may have enough of a pass rush in the second half of the season to cause opponents trouble.
Of the returning linebackers none of them ranked among the top-200 linebackers in 2018, with their highest ranked linebacker from 2017, Jon Bostic, leaving as a free agent. They did add Darius Leonard in the second round of the draft and he should start as the middle linebacker. Hopefully he can add some strength to this defensive and give them a presence in the middle of the field.
Another position that has no one of note to talk about. With a limited pass rush this group could be in for a long season. They will need to try and take the ball away if they are to prevent offenses running wild on them in 2018.
The Final Word
The problem for the Colts this season is they have a defense that will struggle to stop offenses and an offense that could struggle to put up a lot of points. Generally those two things do not lend themselves to success in the NFL. Andrew Luck will help close that gap somewhat but with limited weapons he is going to struggle to take this team to a winning record.
Projected Finish: 4th (6-10)
Image credit: Brian Spurlock – USA TODAY sports