The Indianapolis Colts are coming off of a 2012 season that saw an emotional tidal wave, a rookie phenom and a 11-5, wild-card worthy record. Following a 2-14 2011 season, some would say Indianapolis and their fans should be more than happy with the record.
The Colts, however, know they are capable of more.
Here are a few things we saw in these last four exhibition games that could indicate that they are right.
A Diamond in the Rough
While the Colts didn't necessarily prove that they are now a defensive powerhouse, the did prove something—General Manager Ryan Grigson has made upgrades.
However, the biggest possible addition may not have been a name anyone was expecting.
Linebacker Caesar Rayford, an undrafted free agent in 2009, has bounced around from Canadian Football League teams to the Arena Football League. Signed this past offseason, Rayford impressed many throughout the preseason, with 11 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.
Rayford's sack-fumble against the Buffalo Bills in week 1, seen in the video, might be one of his most athletic plays so far.
The linebacker—who according to ESPN.com Colts writer Mike Wells had never been invited to a training camp—has made the cut and is fully expected to be this year's Jerrell Freeman.
Andrew Luck is Only Getting Better
The second-year quarterback was already heralded as one of the best prospects coming out of the draft since John Elway. But as good as Luck looked last year, this preseason he looked better. Given, it is the preseason, but sometimes a player just looks like he has "it."
Luck, with limited playing time, completed 65.9% of his passes, finishing with 322 yards, 4 touchdowns and only 1 interception.He looked more comfortable within the pocket, more physical and just spectacular while on the move.
Andrew Luck rolling out to pass might be one of the most beautiful things in football.
But it's not just Luck who's getting better—this entire offensive unit is improving.
Fellow sophomore T.Y. Hilton had a phenomenal preseason, hauling in 114 yards and thee touchdowns on seven catches. The offensive line, though still rough, seemed to be improved from last year, with new additions Gosder Cherilus, Donald Thomas, and rookie Hugh Thornton.
Finally, the addition of Ahmad Bradshaw, if healthy, could be that missing piece for the Colts.
He could provide a stellar forward end of a 1-2 punch with second year running back Vick Ballard. Paired with new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's west coast hybrid offense, these two could be due for a great year.
Questions of Depth
Though the Colts look improved, there is some cause for concern while looking at the depth chart.
Indianapolis is looking awfully thin at wide receiver, though Griff Whalen seems to possibly be a Blair White 2.0. Newly acquired David Reed could also see some time, though look for Whalen to get the fourth spot while receiver LaVon Brazill serves his four-game suspension.
The defensive line has a lot of decent players on paper, but unproven on the field. Josh Chapman, a second year defensive tackle out of Alabama, showed plenty of promise before last year's training camp IR designation.
And of course, the always questionable offensive line.
Though they have shown plenty signs of improvement, the line could still quite possibly be a disaster. If one or two linemen were to sustain substantial injuries, Indianapolis will be facing what they had last year—Andrew Luck on the ground.
The Colts must make a point of developing young linemen, such as rookies Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes, if they plan on keeping Luck standing.
Bottom line—the Indianapolis Colts have a very promising future, but plenty of questions. Whichever direction the Colts go this year, nobody would be surprised. But in Indy, it seems it might just be back to the old "Super Bowl or bust" expectations.