As teams head to training camp and the NFL season approaches, The 33rd Team asks its experts to preview every team’s outlook for the 2023 season. In this installment, Chuck Pagano takes a deep dive into the Indianapolis Colts.
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Indianapolis Colts Team Preview
What to Know: Offense
With Anthony Richardson being named QB1 for the upcoming season, the storyline now becomes what the offense is going to look like with Richardson at the helm. Will his unbelievable athleticism and arm talent be enough to overcome his lack of experience?
Will Jonathan Taylor be lined up next to him in the backfield? If not, who replaces Taylor? How will that affect the rookie quarterback? Additionally, eyes will be on the offensive line to see if they will rebound from a subpar performance in 2022 after allowing 60 sacks on the season. All these moving parts make the early weeks of the season a must-watch for all Colts fans.
What to Know: Defense
This season, the Colts' biggest defensive concern isn't their front.
They have DT DeForest Buckner back, they have Grover Stewart, who played out of his mind in 2022, and they have DE Kwity Paye on one side. They have Samson Ebukam, who comes over from San Francisco to rush the passer. The Colts also have linebacker Shaquille Leonard supposedly getting healthy and having a good training camp. They have Zaire Franklin, who made 166 total tackles and forced three fumbles in 2022.
But there are issues on the back end.
The Colts traded perennial Pro Bowler and former Defensive Player of the Year CB Stephon Gilmore to the Dallas Cowboys. Isaiah Rodgers was suspended for the season. Indianapolis drafted talented cornerback Julius Brents in the second round, but he just got on the practice field at training camp.
Kenny Moore is entering his seventh season with the Colts. He's mostly a nickel back right now and plays that well, but if he has to play outside and then move inside when they go sub, that's a tall order.
So the biggest concern is the health of that secondary and, mostly, the experience of that group.
Biggest Off-Field Storyline
I don't know how the Colts got here, but they have a situation with Jonathan Taylor, their phenomenal All-Pro running back. Now, he didn't have a great 2022. But in 2021, he was the runner-up for the Offensive Player of the Year award and had more than 1,800 yards rushing.
Now, Taylor's not even at practice anymore.
We all know that he had a sit-down chat with Irsay on his bus early in training camp and that he walked off that bus and told everybody that he wanted a trade.
You watch the videos and see Taylor at practice but not practicing. He's got his hoodie up, the body language is terrible. But this guy is a bell cow. This guy is a great player.
I know how Irsay and Chris Ballard, that locker room and that team feel about this kid. They've got to figure this out. The Colts are bringing in running backs and working those guys out right now. Zach Moss was a backup to Taylor, but Moss broke his arm and is out for four to six weeks.
So Indianapolis' biggest off-field storyline is this Taylor situation and whether they can rectify it.
Breakout Player Prediction
There are a lot of young players on this roster who could be a possible breakout player.
But I'm going with the Colts' 2022 second-round pick out of Cincinnati, Alec Pierce. He caught 41 passes last season and had almost 600 yards. This guy is 6-foot-3, 200-plus pounds and runs a 4.41-second 40-yard dash. He's got great length and a great catch radius. All you have to do is put the ball somewhere in the same area code as him; he will go up and get it.
This guy can take the top off the secondary again. He's long, athletic, fast and has good hands. He's a top competitor, and the Colts will try to get the ball down the field to Pierce.
I expect him to have a really good year.
Move Colts Should Make
With the Taylor situation, looking at running backs makes a lot of sense right now. Indianapolis has brought in running backs for workouts and already signed Kenyan Drake. The Colts could also look to improve their secondary, especially at cornerback.
2023 Season Expectations
A lot of people are saying the Colts have no chance this season and have the team ranked No. 32 out of 32 teams on their power rankings. I'm not going to say that they have no chance. Those predictions mean the Colts can play free. There are no expectations.
The Colts have a roster with a ton of talent on it. So if Quenton Nelson and that offensive line get straight and with Richardson at quarterback, these playmakers outside and a Gus Bradley-led defense — who knows?
The expectations are at zero right now, so they could make some noise in the AFC South and maybe shock the world.
Chuck Pagano is a former NFL head coach and assistant. He is best known for his tenure with the Indianapolis Colts where he won two straight AFC South titles.