4 Things the Colts Must Do to Make the Playoffs in 2012
Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images
Indianapolis upgraded their offense tremendously, drafting quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Chandler Harnish, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receivers LaVon Brazill and T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard.
Last year, the offense struggled. This year, they're going to be a lot better.
While the Colts have a better offense, there are still questions that need to be answered. Indy does have some holes on defense, and their young players may need some time to adjust to the NFL before getting thrown into a playoff race.
Here are four things that must happen for Indianapolis to make the playoffs.
Indianapolis' Secondary Must Step Up
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
Last year, the Colts struggled defending the pass.
Indianapolis' secondary was plagued by injuries and lack of depth, and elite quarterbacks picked its defense apart. While the Colts held Jacksonville, Tennessee and Houston to less than 20 points each in their last three games, Indianapolis will need to improve on defense.
Vaughn is a fast corner who can stay with the fastest receivers, and he is a smart corner. He can return kicks as well, which will help the Colts. While there are concerns about Vaughn not being an every-down corner, Powers could step up.
Powers was injured for the last month of the 2011 season, and there are worries about his injuries. However, he did play well when he got the chance, and he anchored Indianapolis' secondary.
Zbikowski played for the Ravens, arguably the NFL's best defense, in 2011. He didn't get much of an opportunity with the team, as he made just 23 tackles and didn't intercept any passes. However, in Indianapolis he will get a chance.
Overall, Indianapolis has some talent in the secondary. They can and will improve on their 2011 numbers, but their secondary must step up.
The Rookies Must Make an Immediate Impact
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
As you may know, the Colts have a lot of capable rookies.
Indianapolis drafted a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck, two athletic wide receivers in LaVon Brazill and T.Y. Hilton, two great tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener and an athletic running back in Vick Ballard.
To make it short, Indianapolis' offense is basically built around rookies.
Luck and Fleener were teammates in college, and they had great chemistry while ripping apart opposing defenses at Stanford. Fleener is athletic and has surprising speed for a tight end, and he has great hands. Luck is very accurate and stands his ground in the pocket.
Luck can throw on the run, and he can throw a great deep ball. He will be throwing a lot of deep balls, as LaVon Brazill and T.Y. Hilton have tons of speed. Both have great hands and can punish any defense for sleeping on a play.
If Luck doesn't throw to Reggie Wayne or one of his young speedy receivers, he can hit a tight end. Dwayne Allen is a good player, but he won't be getting as much time as Coby Fleener. Fleener gets off the line of scrimmage quickly, and he can get open quickly if Luck needs to get off a fast throw.
Overall, Indianapolis has lots of talent on offense. If it all comes together well, the Colts will be a scary team to play.
Reggie Wayne Must Break out
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
It's not fair to blame Reggie Wayne for the drop in his stats. So, I won't.
But what is fair to do is to say that Wayne's numbers must go up.
Last year, Wayne caught 36 fewer passes for 395 fewer yards and two fewer touchdowns than in 2010. When Peyton Manning was his quarterback in 2010, he caught more than 100 passes for more than 1,000 yards. However, with uncertainty at quarterback in 2011, Wayne's numbers went down.
Andrew Luck will have a lot of targets in 2012, but his main target will be Wayne. Wayne has great hands and is the only receiver/tight end who has proven to be a great, reliable pass-catcher.
If Luck struggles early, Wayne will have to help him by getting open and making tough catches. Luck will settle into the NFL, and he will play well. To help his young quarterback, though, Wayne must break out. He will need to get in the end zone, something he has struggled to do recently.
Overall, Wayne is a great receiver. Once he develops good chemistry with Luck, he will enjoy a few great seasons with the next great quarterback to play in Indianapolis. However, for the Colts to make the playoffs, Wayne will have to help his young QB and break out.
Andrew Luck Must Take the First Step to Becoming an Elite Quarterback
Al Bello/Getty Images
I think this one will happen, but if it doesn't, the Colts are doomed.
Andrew Luck is overflowing with star potential, and if he plays like he did in college, he will be the next great quarterback to don a Colts jersey. However, that other star quarterback went 3-13 in his rookie year.
Colts fans probably are not expecting a playoff berth this year, but if Luck develops faster than Peyton Manning did, it's certainly possible. As long as Luck's receivers show off their talent early on and make an immediate impact, the Colts will contend for a playoff spot.
I have described Luck a lot, but I'll just give you another description of how he plays. He is very accurate and isn't afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit. If he has to scramble, he can, and he can deliver a great throw on the run or run the ball very well.
Luck definitely can and will be a star at the next level, but the big question is when he will become a star. Indianapolis plays Chicago, Jacksonville, Minnesota and Green Bay to start the season, and all of those teams except for Jacksonville had terrible pass defenses in 2012.
Playing weaker teams (on defense) will help Luck settle in, and if he does get the hang of the NFL early on, NFL defenses will hate playing the Colts for a long time.
Oh, and the Colts will be making the playoffs in 2012-13 and for years to come. That is, if Luck takes the first step to becoming elite in the coming season.