The past three months have been about change for the Indianapolis Colts. Firing team president and longtime general manager Bill Polian was owner Jim Irsay’s first move. Chris Polian, Bill's son and most recently the team’s general manager, was also let go.
When the Colts began 2011 with a record of 0-13, it was no secret Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was the apple of their eye. Even though they still had Peyton Manning under contract, Irsay clearly felt the best way to move forward was with a clean slate, for everyone.
Ryan Grigson was hired from Philadelphia’s front office as the new GM. Grigson then fired head coach Jim Caldwell and went through an exhaustive interview process before hiring Chuck Pagano, most recently defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens.
Of course, the biggest move was how the team was going to handle Manning.
Needless to say, the Colts cut Manning in early March before an option bonus of $28 million was due.
The offseason has seen the Colts cut many other veterans as well. Tight end Dallas Clark, safety Melvin Bullitt and linebacker Gary Brackett were among those cuts. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Jacob Tamme left the team as unrestricted free agents.
Veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne and defensive Robert Mathis did return to the team with new long-term deals.
Under Pagano, it appears the Colts will go with more three-man fronts with bigger defensive linemen. Pagano will move Mathis and fellow defensive end Dwight Freeney to outside linebacker to take advantage of their excellent pass-rushing ability.
For so many years the Colts’ defense was based on letting the offense build a lead and then turning the defense loose to chase the passer. It worked well, but many of the Colts’ holdovers on the defensive side of the ball won’t fit Pagano’s new scheme.
This draft preview will feature the team’s top three needs. Quarterback will not be included, as it is a given the team will select Luck or Robert Griffin III.
Cornerback: The Colts return Jerraud Powers and not much else. Jacob Lacey, who started opposite Powers, departed as a free agent. The team allowed him to leave because they felt the need to upgrade.
Picking at the top of the draft will be beneficial for the Colts from the second round and after as they look to rebuild the roster. At the top of the second round, the Colts could look at talented but troubled Janoris Jenkins to fill this spot.
If the Colts decide Jenkins is too much trouble, they could opt for Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick if he falls to the second round. If the team decides to wait until round three, Virginia’s Chase Minnifield, Virginia Tech’s Jayron Hosley and Josh Norman of Coastal Carolina are possibilities.
Offensive line: Gone are the days of putting just anyone in front of Peyton Manning and allowing him to make the line look good. The Colts will have a rookie quarterback and need to invest heavily on the offensive line.
The Colts used their first two picks in 2011 on the offensive line. Tackle Anthony Castonzo struggled early but improved as the season wore on.
Ben Ijalana was drafted to play right tackle but was overmatched in his limited time there. He looks to be an ideal fit to play guard in the NFL.
The Colts lost longtime center Jeff Saturday and tackle Ryan Diem. They need a center, guard and an offensive tackle and could opt to go best player available at any of these spots beginning in round two.
Peter Konz, of Wisconsin, could be an ideal replacement for Saturday if he is available at the top of the second round. Mike Adams would be a nice selection to play opposite Castonzo, but the run on tackles could have him gone before the Colts pick again.
Wide receiver: Reggie Wayne has returned, but he is clearly not the same player Colts’ fans are accustomed to. Austin Collie is back, but he showed he wasn’t as effective without Manning throwing him the ball. His concussion history is a concern as well.
The loss of Pierre Garcon was a tough blow for the Colts. They wanted to keep him, but he was determined to test the free agent market. The Colts will need to replace Garcon with someone who can stretch the field.
This draft is a deep one for wide receivers. Look for the Colts to address this position in round three or later. Chris Givens of Wake Forest, Joe Adams of Arkansas and A.J. Jenkins of Illinois would be good selections for the Colts. All are explosive players and can play the slot.