For most of the early part of the offseason, the biggest question for the Indianapolis Colts to answer was who would be their starting quarterback. They had traded Carson Wentz to the Commanders at the beginning of March, leaving Sam Ehlinger as the only rostered quarterback remaining.
It didn’t take too long for that question to be answered, as the Colts were able to acquire former MVP Matt Ryan from the Falcons less than two weeks later. Now that the biggest roster need has been addressed though, where should the Colts go from here?
For a team that ended the 2021 season one win in Jacksonville away from making the playoffs, it’s a more complicated question than it may seem.
On one hand, they’ve got one of the best workhorse running backs in the NFL in Jonathan Taylor. They also have a quarterback who will likely be more consistent as a passer than Carson Wentz ended up being. On defense, the Colts still have three-time first-team All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard and they also just traded for Yannick Ngakoue, a defensive end coming off one of his best seasons.
Even so, there are still several glaring holes in Indianapolis’ roster. While the most important position, quarterback, has been filled, the question remains: who will Ryan throw the ball to?
While Wentz deserves a good chunk of the blame for the shortcomings of the Colts’ passing game, the lack of pass-catching production around him didn’t help. In 2021, only one Indianapolis receiver—Michael Pittman—had over 400 yards. While Pittman did more than double his rookie season production with his first 1,000-yard season, the fall-off in production after him was steep.
The Indianapolis player with the second-most receiving yards in 2021 wasn’t even a receiver. It was Taylor, that aforementioned workhorse running back and the NFL’s rushing leader. And it wasn’t like the second-year back had that big of a year catching passes, either. He put up 360 yards on 40 receptions.
Another problem with this lack in production from receivers is the fact that the pass-catching options in Indy are even thinner since the season ended. Wide receiver Zach Pascal left for the Eagles in free agency and fellow wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is a free agent who may be considering retirement. Meanwhile, tight end Jack Doyle did retire, leaving another roster hole in his wake.
While it’s expected the Colts will continue to be a run-heavy team anyway, they’re at risk of being completely one dimensional as an offense. Ryan should allow the passing game to be more of a factor for Indy but he can’t do it without more pass-catchers around him.
It doesn’t get much better when shifting attention to the offensive line, which was once one of the best units in the league led by left guard Quenton Nelson. Nelson struggled to stay healthy for all of 2021, though he was named to another Pro Bowl and earned a Second-Team All-Pro nomination. But elsewhere on the line, right guard Mark Glowinski signed with the Giants and left tackle Eric Fisher is also expected to depart in free agency.
That all leaves the Colts with big needs on the offensive line and at wide receiver. Filling those needs is going to be a bit of a challenge as well, since Indy doesn’t have a first-round pick and holds just six picks total in this year’s draft.
There are still some free agents that General Manager Chris Ballard and the Colts could pursue with their available cap space. Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Julio Jones and Cole Beasley are some big names still on the free agent market. On the offensive line, Riley Reiff and Nate Solder are some available left tackles, while guards Ereck Flowers and Billy Turner are also available.
Indianapolis doesn’t have a pick until 42 overall but there are some good options both on the line and at receiver that could be available there. Receivers Skyy Moore, Christian Watson, George Pickens, David Bell and John Metchie are all likely early second-rounders and any one of them would be a much-needed upgrade to the receiving corps the Colts have now. They could also have their fair share of tight ends to choose from in either the second or third round, if they prioritize replacing Doyle.
On the O-line, tackles Bernhard Raimann and Daniel Faalele and guards Tyler Smith, Jamaree Salyer and Sean Rhyan are all upgrades Indianapolis could secure at 42 if they choose to go that route instead.
Just because the Colts have their answer at quarterback doesn’t make their team complete quite yet. How Ballard decides to fill the multiple holes left on the roster—particularly on the offensive side of the ball—will determine how likely the Colts are to stay in playoff contention in 2022.
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