Indianapolis Colts: 5 Baby Steps Team Must Take for 2012 to Be a Success
The Colts have a new crew and hopefully a new and improved team.
And the team can cautiously enter Lucas Oil Stadium for their first game in the preseason against the St Louis Rams with one thought: it can only go up from here. (We hope.)
Colts owner Jim Irsay wasted no time in getting to some spring cleaning. The franchise made big steps by firing President Bill Polian, GM Chris Polian and head coach Jim Caldwell.
So as the season approaches, it’s finally time to get things going a little at a time. It’s time for Colts fans to dust off their jerseys and foam fingers. And it’s time for the players to pick their heads back up.
As the Colts move forward in 2012, there are five key baby steps they need to take to rebuild the team as a viable contender in the AFC.
Getting Some Luck
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Just a "baby" himself, rookie quarterback Andrew Luck is the focus of the first (and most critical) baby step that the Colts will need to take in the upcoming season.
The absence of star quarterback Peyton Manning was a major reason for the Colts' abysmal 2-14 record in 2011.
Because Manning had been the Colts' quarterback for the entirety of his career thus far, the team put less attention on building up their back ups.
Now with Luck in the picture, the Colts have a fresh pair of legs (and a cannon of an arm) to work with. The Colts are putting a lot of faith and credibility into Luck and it will be crucial that the players and coaches teach him every bit of the offense so that he doesn't get cold feet once the season starts.
Luck has raw abilities. He's a consistent and accurate passer with an eye for leading his receivers both over and away from the defense.
Undoubtedly, the Colts have been running plays with Luck and the offense non-stop so that they can all get used to each other. The main thing for the Colts to remember will be to stay patient with Luck but expect a lot from him too.
As the No. 1 draft pick, he should produce what everyone knows he is capable of.
Regaining Confidence in the WRs
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Pierre Garcon saw improvement while playing for the Colts. Even with the season the Colts had in 2011, Garcon put up fairly good numbers.
He finished last season with 947 receiving yards and led the team in touchdowns with six total. But now that he's a new Washington Redskin, the Colts have lost one of their stronger wide receivers.
So baby step No. 2?
Work with Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie. Having Andrew Luck as their new quarterback could add a new dynamic for the two wide receivers.
Wayne led the team in receiving yards last season and Collie has performed well for the Colts in the past (before Manning was injured).
Wayne and Collie will need to regain their confidence on the field and put some trust in Luck to lead them down the field.
Revamping the Defense
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The Colts' defense really suffered in 2011 averaging about 26.9 points per game and allowing 5.6 yards per play. The team's defense was ranked towards the bottom of the list among all the others in the NFL.
Now that the Colts have gotten an almost entirely new coaching staff, it seems like the defense is going to shake up a bit.
Head coach Chuck Pagano is coming to Indianapolis from Baltimore where he ran a 3-4 defense with the Ravens. It seems likely that he'll want to bring that to the Colts' defense and it might not be a bad idea. Since nothing seemed to be working in 2011, why not start off fresh at every corner? New quarterback, new coaches, new staff, and a new defense to add into the mix.
The Colts will also have a new defensive coordinator in Greg Manusky who will get the chance to show if he has any coaching abilities left in him. (Manusky was fired from his position with the San Francisco 49ers after last season.)
Luckily for the Colts, they still have powerhouse Robert Mathis to lead the team's defense.
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This might be the riskiest baby step the Colts can take in 2012, but it could also be the most worthwhile.
Former Stanford teammates Andrew Luck and Coby Fleener were reunited after the Indianapolis Colts drafted Fleener in the second round. And this setup could prove very beneficial for the Colts in 2012 if they decide to give Fleener a chance at tight end (which they should).
Fleener and Luck have already played together and they know how the other operates. This matchup provides a nice stepping stone for Luck who is inexperienced at the professional level and could use some familiarity as he goes into the 2012 season with an entire franchise resting on his powerful arm.
The Colts should take that small, baby step by putting Fleener in on some plays, and they might be rewarded with a giant leap.
Chuck at Command
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The last baby step that the Colts need to take is going to come from head coach Chuck Pagano. This will be Pagano's first head coaching position.
Now that the Colts have cleaned out most of their coaching staff and upper management, the team is looking at a crew of fresh faces. But they're all joining the Colts' franchise with plenty of credentials.
Pagano's biggest challenge will be bringing everyone and every thing together. He's got a new quarterback to develop, new coaches to help conduct and a drowning team to bring back to life.
Not the ideal conditions Pagano would want for his first head coach gig. But once Pagano takes charge of the franchise and his team by bringing in a new defensive strategy and focusing on his rookie players, he should do just fine in Indy.