Indianapolis Colts: Stock Report for Every Positional Unit This Preseason
The Indianapolis Colts have been one of the biggest surprises this preseason. No one really gave them a shot with so many rookies and newcomers to the team. Most people thought they would be a two to four-win team at best with coming off of a two-win season last year.
No one could have scripted it to be like it is, with a rookie quarterback playing so well learning from a whole new coaching staff and front office. The Colts are 1-1 right now in the preseason, but arguably could be 2-0 and have shown they can play with the best of them.
After last week's 38-3 drubbing of the St. Louis Rams, everyone wanted to see how the Colts would fare against title contenders Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday Night Football. Indy got off to a somewhat slow start, but I'd say they passed the test with flying colors.
I've graded every unit on whether their stock is up or down. Find out the results in this slideshow.
Quarterbacks: Stock Up
After getting rid of arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game, most people would have graded the quarterbacks stocks down this season. After all, there's not one quarterback on this roster that was here last year and two of them were still in college.
I'd give the quarterbacks a rising stock though and an A for their performances at the midway point of the preseason.
Andrew Luck has shown us he's definitely the real deal as he looks like a veteran already. Luck threw a touchdown pass on his first ever NFL snap against St. Louis when he hit Donald Brown on a 63-yard screen pass. Luck went 10-for-16 with 188 yards and two touchdowns in his first professional game.
His first true test came on the road in Pittsburgh and after starting off slow, he caught fire and led Indianapolis to 17 straight points and a halftime lead. Once Luck got into his groove he was hard to stop.
Over the preseason he has thrown 26-for-41 for 363 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, and has only been sacked once. Luck brings a sense of mobility at the quarterback position as he's not afraid to scramble and evade tacklers. He even rushed for a touchdown Sunday against Pittsburgh on the goal line.
However it's not just Luck that's a bright side—it's the backups as well.
The Colts never really had a viable backup to Peyton Manning and it showed last year with Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. Drew Stanton and Chandler Harnish have been pretty solid in their two games. Both are completing 50 percent of their passes with Stanton going 12-for-24 with 152 yards and one touchdown. He's yet to be picked off and has only been sacked once.
Harnish on the other hand is 6-for-12 with 97 yards, and one touchdown and interception apiece. Both are pretty accurate and show they can make throws into coverage and hit harder reads.
I think the quarterbacking position is one that's in good shape for Indianapolis.
Running Backs: Stock Up
Indy has struggled in the running game for the past few seasons. They once had a good ground game with Marshall Faulk and then Edgerrin James. Once Joseph Addai took over it really went downhill from there. He was solid early, but the Colts moved to more of a one-dimensional passing scheme. That's going to change in the new era.
Bruce Arians wants to build a running attack and keep the offense balanced. With not having much to go off of for a running game, not much was expected this season on the ground. But the rushing attack has been pleasantly surprising and I can see it moving in an upward trend.
The starter Donald Brown has broken a few big runs and shown he can be explosive once he breaks away. He's rushed eight times for 32 yards and has one touchdown. Brown also gives the Colts a threat for a good receiving back as he broke that big 63-yard touchdown against St. Louis in the first game.
Brown's backup spot will be a good battle. Delone Carter was drafted last year to eventually take over as the No. 1. He struggled with putting the ball on the ground too much and was sort of a disappointment. He started fresh this season and look decent in the first game against St. Louis, carrying the ball five times for 17 yards and a touchdown. He was a little banged up and didn't play against Pittsburgh though.
Rookie Vick Ballard is showing he not only deserves to be Brown's backup, but he could be the future back for the Colts. Ballard is leading Indy in rushing this preseason, carrying the ball 16 times for 62 yards. He's a speedy back to get solid gains, but big enough to break tackles and make sure the ball is always moving forward. I like Ballard and think he only helps this position at depth and gives the Colts three solid young running backs.
The fourth back Mewelde Moore was brought in for short yardage situations and a veteran presence, but they may not need him. Moore, like Carter, has been banged up and only rushed for two yards on two attempts in his one appearance this preseason. I expect Brown, Ballard, and a healthy Carter to get the bulk of the carries, so Moore once again only makes the backfield stronger and adds depth.
I give the backfield a stock up grade.
Wide Receivers: Stock Up
No one knew what to expect out of the wide receivers with all of them having down years last season. Reggie Wayne had his worst season since his rookie year, Austin Collie didn't look the same after suffering two concussions the season before, and the leading receiver, Pierre Garcon, departed for Washington in the offseason.
The Colts are now leaning on Wayne, Collie, and rookies LaVon Brazill and T.Y. Hilton. They will get help from Donnie Avery once he gets healthy, but if I were to grade their performance right now I'd give them a stock up.
Wayne, has been great in his new role of getting put in motion and getting open. He leads the team with six catches for 74 yards, which all came against Pittsburgh.
Collie was great in the first game in making three catches for 45 yards, and a touchdown, but he suffered what looks like a concussion against Pittsburgh and his career looks to be in jeopardy. If he can return, he will surely help this season and could be back to what he was prior to the concussions.
If Collie can't return or has lingering effects, Brazill and Hilton are both very viable No. 2 and No. 3 receiver options. Both have five catches this preseason with Brazill leading the way between the two by one yard 63-62. Both are very fast and have great hands. Brazill is more built for an outside receiver while Hilton is built for the slot. I think these two could be great options for Luck for many years.
Donnie Avery has yet to play a game this preseason, but once his injuries are healed he will be a very solid receiver if he can stay on the field.
The receiver position is definitely heading in the right direction and I give them a stock up grade.
Tight Ends: Stock Up
The Colts are going to utilize their tight ends more this season and have them running routes like New England, Green Bay, and New Orleans do. Look for more dual tight end sets like the Colts used in Manning's first season with Marcus Pollard and Ken Dilger. I think rookies Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener could be just as good if not better than Dilger and Pollard and give Luck even more weapons.
Allen and Fleener haven't messed up once by my count and have been good blockers and receiving weapons. Fleener has four catches for 38 yards, and Allen has two receptions for 18 yards.
Their numbers aren't huge right now, but I expect them to grow each week as they learn more and more and can stretch the middle of the field. I'd give them a stock up grade as it's definitely heading in the right direction.
Offensive Line: Stock Up
This is a newly built offensive line and many thought this would be the biggest question mark of the season. The line has struggled over the past several season and last year showed that Manning hid a lot of their weaknesses.
I think the line has done a solid job so far in that they've committed very few penalties and only allowed two sacks in two games. That's remarkable when two of the quarterbacks are rookies and the other has never been a starter.
The line is giving the quarterbacks enough time to get rid of the ball and doing a better job of opening holes for a running game. I'm not saying the line is fixed and good to go for many years to come, but it's definitely looking a lot better than we've had and going in the right direction.
Defensive Line: Stock Down
This is the only position I gave the Colts a stock down. The new line is makeshift right now as they're trying to put guys in places they're not ready for and need another offseason to strengthen the line.
Now, don't get me wrong they've played very solid and look better, but last year Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were on the line. This year Drake Nevis and Fili Moala who were drafted as defensive tackles are now lining up on the outside of the line and showing it's going to be a work in progress. Josh Chapman could be a good option at tackle, but they need more depth on the line.
Cory Redding was brought in to anchor the line and be the biggest help, but he went down with a knee injury against Pittsburgh and it could surely hurt the front.
I think the line could do a good enough job to get by this season and I like the new schemes, but I'm not sure we have the players yet for it to be a top unit.
Linebackers: Stock Up
The linebacking corps is young and inexperienced at the position, but I think they're going to be very good. Pat Angerer was looking to be a bigger factor this season before his injury, and he still could be once he returns. Kavell Conner will become a household name as he already has nine tackles in very limited time this preseason.
Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis both moved to outside linebacker and have shown promise that they may actually fit well there. Even Jerry Hughes looks great as he has sacks in both games and leads the team with three sacks and 11 tackles.
The backups look very good and are helping the Colts get a better pass rush and force the opposing quarterbacks into quick, off-target throws. I like our linebackers and think they're only going to get better.
Secondary: Stock Up
Last year the Colts ranked 15th in the league against the pass, but in my mind had the worst secondary in the NFL. The old Cover 2 was a horrible way to play defense and the corners were left on an island in a zone that they couldn't defend. Jacob Lacey showed us all he was the worst corner in the league as he got beat on slant routes all game every week and injuries had guys playing that normally wouldn't.
This year the secondary looks fantastic as they've already intercepted the quarterbacks twice and have only given up one touchdown. I like how there's more movement and receivers are actually covered. With the new look, guys are in more man coverage and can actually stop slant routes from happening.
It's definitely moving in an upward direction for the secondary.
Special Teams: Stock Up
Punter Pat McAfee is going to be all-everything in a few years with taking over kicking duties for Adam Vinatieri. He's showing us this preseason he's more than ready as he's booting the ball all over the field and perfect from field goals.
Adam Vinatieri isn't showing he's ready to slow down yet, as he's highly accurate in practice and even hit a go-ahead 53-yard field goal as time expired in the first half of Sunday's game against Pittsburgh.
The kicking game is very solid and showing we won't have to worry about those two positions at all. The coverage units and receiving units have been improved too, as not many big gains have been given to opposing teams on punts or kick-offs this season, and we've been explosive in our return game.
I expect our speedy guys like Hilton or Brazill will break a touchdown on a return, and for once I don't expect our coverage team to give up a touchdown. We have more depth than in the past and better guys are playing special teams.
The stock is definitely up.
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