The Colts need to add more defensive playmakers around All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard
The Indianapolis Colts finished the 2018 regular season as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Despite a rocky 1-5 start, Indianapolis went on to win nine of its last 10 regular-season games en route to a wild-card berth in the playoffs.
It was a fantastic start to the postseason as well. The Colts handed AFC South rival Houston at 21-7 loss on the Texans' home turf. But a run-in with the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday resulted in a 31-13 loss and an end to an otherwise impressive season.
The good news for Colts fans is the future looks bright. The roster is littered with young, ascending talent while the coaching staff has shaped up to be one of the most promising collections in the league led by Frank Reich. As if that wasn’t enough, Indianapolis will have plenty of draft picks (eight total, three in the top 60) and cap space (projected $124 million – tops in the NFL) at its disposal.
As much as the Colts have going for them, there are still a few questions they need to address during the offseason.
3 Biggest Offseason Questions Facing the Colts
1. Determine the long-term weapons around Andrew Luck
Heading into the season, there was a lot of speculation about Luck’s health. He was coming off a shoulder injury that prevented him from playing in 2017, but the former No. 1 overall pick was fantastic in his return.
Luck finished the regular season with 4,593 passing yards (fifth in the NFL) and 39 touchdowns (second), while completing a career-high 67.3 percent of his passes. Even more importantly, the 29-year-old managed to stay healthy. A major reason for that good fortune was a significantly improved offensive line that surrendered the fewest sacks in the NFL (18).
That’s great news moving forward, but now it’s time for Indianapolis to find some more weapons for the Stanford product.
T.Y. Hilton is coming off his fifth (in seven) season of 1,000 receiving yards. On top of that, Luck does have an excellent duo at tight end, which includes Eric Ebron (750 yards, 13 TDs) and Jack Doyle, who played in just six games because of injury. Still, it doesn’t seem like enough.
Is Marlon Mack the future at the running back position? Can Deon Cain return from a season-ending ACL injury to become the team’s No. 2 receiver? These are questions that need to be addressed in the offseason.
2. Find a dominant pass rusher
Indianapolis had a surprisingly effective pass rush in 2018. Granted, 38 sacks in the regular season only tied them for 19th. But considering the preseason expectations for this Colts defense, that wasn’t a terrible outcome either.
With that said, a lot of that success was due to the emergence of Darius Leonard as an off-ball blitzer. The rookie second-round pick led the team in sacks (7.0) while also racking up a league-high 163 tackles, including 16.5 tackles for a loss, along with two interceptions and four forced fumbles.
Denico Autry, Jabaal Sheard and Tyquan Lewis are all excellent complementary pieces, but they’re not feared in the same way that a guy like Khalil Mack or Von Miller is. Could that be fellow second-round pick Kemoko Turay (4.0 sacks)? It’s possible, but the Colts cannot afford to bank on that.
With all that cap space available, the front office is in the perfect position to go out and add an elite pass rusher this offseason.
There’s good news, too. Of all the positions in free agency, edge rusher seems to be the deepest with guys like DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford and Trey Flowers potentially available. If any of them hit the open market, general manager Chris Ballard and company should do everything they can to get one of them to Indianapolis.
3. Address the back end of the defense
Finding an impact pass rusher isn’t the only thing the Colts’ defense is missing. There are some question marks surrounding the secondary as well.
Safeties Clayton Geathers and Matthias Farley are both free agents. In addition, mid-season signee Mike Mitchell, who ended up being an adequate addition, is set to hit the market as well. He’s expressed interest in wanting to return to Indianapolis, but he will not be doing it at the veteran minimum ($915,000).
At cornerback, Kenny Moore II (77 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 INTs) emerged as an excellent starter opposite Pierre Desir, but Desir (1,055 snaps) will be an unrestricted free agent.
Quincy Wilson looks like a decent replacement option if the team can’t retain him, and former Atlanta Falcons second-round pick Jalen Collins was signed to a reserve/future contract. But will that be enough? It’s hard to say.
The core of the secondary, which includes Moore, Wilson and Malik Hooker, appears to be in fine shape. But the team should look at bringing back Desir and at least one of the free-agent safeties, unless the Colts want to make a bigger splash in free agency or via a trade.
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.