Indianapolis Colts Who've Turned Heads in Offseason Workouts
So far this offseason, we've looked at a number of Indianapolis Colts whose offseasons will be crucial for the 2014 season. We've looked at Andrew Luck's potential improvements, the offense's changes under Pep Hamilton and how the team will replace Robert Mathis.
A lot has occurred this offseason, and it's all been out there for discussion. Whether it was rookie minicamps or organized team activities (OTAs), the Colts have been busy.
With all that activity, who has stuck out the most for Indianapolis? That's the question we tackle today as we project a few players who could surprise early in the 2014 season.
One of the most polarizing players on the Colts roster, running back Trent Richardson was a colossal disappointment during his first season in Indianapolis. Due to the high price paid to acquire Richardson—a first-round pick—and the running back’s high profile coming out of college, many Colts fans and analysts wished to give Richardson as many excuses as possible.
Whether it was missing the offseason with the team, a porous offensive line or being placed in unfair situations, the excuses for Richardson ran wild throughout most of the 2013 season. But by the end of the season, most had come to accept the fact that Richardson simply wasn’t very good. A review of his rookie season in Cleveland revealed that the mental aspect of the game was lacking there as well.
Richardson simply wasn’t the NFL-ready back that many thought he was coming out of college.
But 2014 is a new season, and after two years in the league, this is Richardson’s make-or-break time. He’s gotten a head start in the battle for the starting running back position (although Ahmad Bradshaw returned last week), he’s looked comfortable in OTAs and there’s a reasonable comparison for a late bloomer in Marshawn Lynch.
While it’s early, and practicing without contact in OTAs means little, any positive signs from Richardson are a blessing. Whether those signs develop into positive, efficient production in the regular season remains to be seen.
One of the 2013 Colts' biggest weaknesses was the lack of reliable targets for Andrew Luck and the passing game. By the end of the season, Griff Whalen was Luck's No. 2 target after T.Y. Hilton.
No matter your feelings on Whalen, we can all agree that that is not a favorable situation for a quarterback. The only healthy veteran receiving option by the end of the year was Darrius Heyward-Bey, who saw the field for a total of two snaps in the postseason.
To address that lack of reliability, the Colts signed former New York Giants star Hakeem Nicks in the offseason. Nicks had struggled over the last two seasons in New York, but the Colts hoped a change of scenery (and quarterback) would do the sixth-year veteran some good.
So far in team workouts, things have been good for Nicks. According to Kevin Bowen of Colts.com, Nicks showed off an early chemistry with Luck several times during the first week of OTAs. Nicks even managed to get behind the defense for a deep touchdown during one drill.
Nicks spoke about the championship atmosphere during the week, and seems to have settled in comfortably in Indianapolis. If he can be a consistent contributor during the regular season, the Colts' offensive effectiveness should rise exponentially.
The Colts' biggest acquisition this offseason was former Baltimore Raven defensive lineman Arthur Jones. Jones, a young player under Chuck Pagano a few years ago, was the most highly touted 3-4 defensive end of this year's free-agent class. Jones is an impeccable run-stopper with solid pass-rushing skills thrown in, and should be a major addition to the Colts front seven.
With limited contact available in OTAs, Jones hasn't made an impact with his performance as much as he has with the way the team has lined him up early on. According to Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star, Jones has lined up as the 3-technique defensive end (or defensive tackle) in the base defense and nose tackle in nickel during OTAs, both with the first team.
It seems that Jones will have no shortage of playing time come the regular season, and will even push Ricky Jean Francois back into a rotational role. Considering Jean Francois' inconsistent season in 2013, that should put each of the Colts' defensive linemen in their proper roles, and make for a more effective 2014.
It's a bit underappreciated, all that T.Y. Hilton has been able to accomplish at a young age.
Last season, Hilton became the first Colt to have a 1,000-yard season in his second year in the league, catching 82 passes for 1,083 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. During his rookie season in 2012, Hilton had the second-most rookie receiving yards in Colts history with 861. Currently, Hilton has more receiving yards than any other Colt receiver has had through their first two seasons.
Yes, that's more than Reggie Wayne and more than Marvin Harrison.
So, was it any surprise that Hilton was making big plays once back on the field last week for the second week of OTAs? According to Kevin Bowen of Colts.com, Hilton was on the receiving end of several "chunk" plays last week and hasn't missed a beat since last season.
With the influx of talent at wide receiver, Hilton may not get the bulk of targets he did at the end of last season, but he still is a primary weapon for the offense. With his success in the postseason, Hamilton knows exactly what he has in Hilton, and should be able to use him more efficiently in 2014. Considering the fact that Hilton just put together arguably the best receiving postseason in franchise history, that's a scary prospect.
While the Colts needed veteran talent in the receiving corp, as discussed earlier, they also needed a potential long-term starter to be added to the mix. When Donte Moncrief dropped to the team's third-round selection, the Colts wasted no time in making their pick.
Unfortunately, Moncrief was unable to participate in the first week of OTAs as he attended the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles. But upon returning to Indianapolis last week, he made an early impression, catching a few long passes and impressing veteran cornerback Greg Toler. Toler even approached the rookie and communicated how difficult he was to cover, according to Kevin Bowen of Colts.com.
He’s great showing his hands at the last minute. He’s great with his body position like these long passes he caught these last two days. He shows his hands to the DBs late because we are taught to play hands and eyes. He shields them off and just does a great job with his body.
If he keeps working, I think he’ll be great.
Moncrief may not get a plethora of snaps in 2014 due to the depth of the position, but if he can learn and grow this season, he'll be in prime position to compete for a long-term starting spot.