Can the Colts Shoulder the Load Until Luck Returns?

Posted: September 5, 2017 by cschrump in Uncategorized

by Chad Schrump

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The start of the NFL season waits for no man, regardless if he’s an incumbent starter or even the face of an entire franchise. Obviously, we’re talking about Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback, Andrew Luck, and a repaired labrum that will definitely keep him out of Week One against L.A. and most likely out of the first few of weeks of NFL action.

Give credit to the Indy organization. If there was an award for refusing to divulge injury related news or rehabilitation progress, they’d finish runner-up to only the Patriots.  This tight lipped crew would even lead you to believe that their head coach has yet to see his quarterback throw the football!  Jim Irsay did come out this weekend and say that his star quarterback’s mental attitude is  “in a great place right now”… whatever that’s supposed to mean.  It’s just too bad that we haven’t the slightest idea what progress has been made with his ability to throw the football 5 feet, 5 yards, 15 yards or more.  We have no clue nor will we – until this franchise wants us to know.

Here’s the problem with you’re not given any real updates, we’re forced to make assumptions like this one: The Colts’ front office seemingly realized that backup quarterbacks Scott Tolzien and Stephen Morris weren’t fit for purpose and decided to remedy that situation for both the immediate and long term by trading for New England third-string QB, Jacoby Brissett and then cutting the people’s backup quarterback champion – Morris.  Somehow, Tolzien survived… for now.

Gone in the trade for Brissett is much maligned, former 1st round Ryan Grigson draft pick, Phillip Dorsett.

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I like the trade from Indianapolis GM, Chris Ballard. Here’s why:  First off, I don’t think Dorsett would have been able to get out of his own way in Indianapolis.  Between injury and underperformance, Dorsett failed badly in living up to lofty expectations.  The former 1st rounder wore the scarlet letter of a former Ryan Grigson much scrutinized pick.  Anyone, even Stevie Wonder, can see what Ballard thinks of Grigson’s drafting abilities.

If you exclude Grigson 2016’s draft, the Colts current roster is only filled with 7 players selected from 2012-2016. That’s a tiny amount, right?  That’s an insane amount of misses.  It’s hard to survive, much less thrive, in today’s NFL with that kind of drafting record.  Thirty selections from 2012 through 2016 and only 7 of those players are on the active roster.

It’s a different spin on the 2016 draft because no NFL GM is exiting rookie contracts, unless the player severely disappoints, either on or off the field (see David Parry) – so yes, 6 of Grigson’s 8 selections from this draft still hold roster spots.

Dorsett will probably go on to have a solid year in New England and that’s fine. With T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Kamar Aiken and Chester Rogers in the wide receiver mix – Phillip wasn’t going to play much, if at all.  Quite frankly, many predicted that he was on the verge of being let go when the team cut its way down to a 53-man active roster.  It seemed that when Dorsett got the chance to play, he struggled – up until the Colts’ last preseason game against Cincinnati’s 3rd and 4th stringers – where he looked really solid and actually impressed.

Most of the time, Dorsett seemed to be pressing because he knew he had limited chances. In New England, with Julian Edelman lost for the year with an ACL tear, Dorsett should have ample opportunity to show his blazing speed and ridiculous potential that Grigson fell in love with in ‘15.

Jacoby Brissett has a legitimate opportunity to become a real asset while Andrew Luck’s shoulder continues to heal and even after. So, short term – I think he gives Indianapolis a real chance to win a game or two in Luck’s absence.  I certainly don’t feel that way with Scott Tolzien, do you?  I can envision a scenario where Tolzien starts against the Rams on Sunday but given another week to digest Colts’ Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s offense, Brissett could get the opportunity Week Two at home against Arizona.

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You know how I felt about Morris. He stood tall in the pocket, made tough throws into tight windows – under pressure, kept his composure and above all else, moved the football team down the field.  I still think he should have been playing with the first string much of the preseason.  He needed that shot.  All he did was complete 68% of his throws for over 400 yards but according to Ballard, Morris was “horrible” in OTA’s and in training camp.  It’s so weird to me though because when it mattered, he made play after play.

Long term, Brissett could be that solid backup that every good team needs. Unless Andrew Luck radically changes the way he plays the game of football, Brissett will most likely be needed a game or two each season.  Andrew is a football player’s football player, if you know what I mean and with that, takes lots of hits – many unnecessarily, especially for a $140M face of the franchise QB.  I’d feel better with a legitimate 2nd string QB behind him that gives the Colts their best chance to hang tough and win in a pinch. That guy could be Brissett.

In New England’s last preseason game, Jacoby completed 28 of 39 of his throws for 341 yards and 4 touchdowns with only 1 pick, plus a rushing score. I’ll take that.  Won’t you?  Not to mention and more importantly, when Tom Brady was serving his “Deflategate” suspension last year, the then rookie QB Brissett started two games for the Pats, going 1-1.  That’s solid.

In my mind, this is a win for Indianapolis. When Jim Irsay told the media that the Colts went after an unnamed veteran QB in the offseason but his “price tag was too high” – then this is what you have to find:  A hungry, athletic, talented, young quarterback that fortunately, was Tom Brady’s understudy for one season and was coached for an entire year by a guy named Bill Belichick.  Not bad.  Hell, one year of working with Brady and Belichick is probably worth more than the experience of being the starting quarterback for 1 or 2 seasons in say, Cleveland or Jacksonville, right?  I’m dead serious when I say that, too.

I’m not sold that the Colts are going to be a bad team this season. I’m just not.  As much as I think Pagano needs to hit the road, it will be interesting to see him coach a football team without Ryan Grigson seemingly pulling his strings.  Make no mistake about it, Pagano is in full performance mode – the dress rehearsal is over. He knows that he’s auditioning for his future, right now.

I actually think this team is going to surprise a lot of people, provided that, you know, Andrew Luck can actually play and doesn’t miss more than 3 games or so. If the Colts can just keep their heads above water until #12 can make his debut, they’re going to be in great shape.

This football team has a ton of offensive talent. Once Luck is back – it will be nice seeing him throw the rock to T.Y. and a seemingly healthy Donte Moncrief.  We tend to forget how explosive a healthy Moncrief is.  He’s a monster – a freak athlete.  I’ll go on record as saying that a perfectly healthy Donte Moncrief puts comparable numbers to Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton – and I’m a T.Y. fan.  I think both still have enormous upside and that’s really saying something when you consider that Hilton lead the league in receiving yards in 2016.

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Frank Gore looked really good in preseason Week 3 against Pittsburgh. I mean, sure, he’s not going to take it 50 yards to the house for a TD at this stage of his career but he was good enough to run for 1000 yards last season and showed ageless ability to gash the Steelers for 5 and 10 yard carries in a limited workload.  He’s not really fast anymore but he still has that shake and cutting ability to slash his way down the field.

Gore will have help. This weekend, Ballard signed explosive former Redskins’ RB Matt Jones (yes, he’s a fumbler – that’ll need fixed) plus rookie runner Marlon Mack seems like he has some things figured out so when needed, could spell Gore some.  If the offensive line plays just average football, just average, this team will be difficult to beat.  That may prove to be more difficult than anything as 2nd year Center Ryan Kelly is on the shelf for at least another 6-8 weeks.

With all that said, I think the Colts are due to be good again. Really good.  This team is easily talented enough to win its division and to make some noise in the playoffs.  They just need to get healthy… especially Kelly, Vontae Davis, and some guy from Stanford that runs their offense.  This isn’t a “hot take.” If the Colts can get out to a 2-1 start against a pretty easy schedule, than this is a division ripe for the picking.

The defense? H’mm.  Why’d you have to go there?  We’ll see on that.  However, I’m not sure that it’s possible to field a unit worse than last year’s squad so sign me up as a believer that the defensive side of the ball plays much better than last year’s team.

Ballard certainly made the defensive line and linebackers a priority in free agency so we’ll see. One thing’s for sure:  If last year’s offensively inept L.A. Rams do a lot of damage to the Colts’ defense Sunday, it may be time to sound the alarms and rethink all of this.

There’s good news on the horizon. Every day, Andrew Luck is seemingly getting healthier and preparing to once again quarterback this football team.

It’s just too bad the season’s opening kickoff refuses to wait for him.

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