Fact or Fiction on Indianapolis Colts' Biggest Offseason Question Marks
The 2-14 season back in 2011 for the Indianapolis Colts feels like a distant memory now, as fans have plenty to be excited about heading into the 2014 season. However, there are still a few questions marks for the team as training camp approaches.
On the bright side, the Colts have had another busy offseason, signing a number of free agents and adding a few intriguing rookies through the NFL draft. For a team that went 11-5 and lost in the divisional round last year, the expectations are somehow higher, almost reaching the levels of the teams Peyton Manning used to lead.
At the same time, the Colts aren't perfect, at least not yet. With that being said, here are a few questions marks fans are wondering about as well as a breakdown of whether they're fact or fiction.
Will Mike Adams Start at Safety Opposite LaRon Landry?
It was a bit of a surprise when the Colts didn't take a safety in the draft, as there was a big hole opposite of LaRon Landry previously held by Antoine Bethea, who is now on the San Francisco 49ers. Recently, the Colts finally realized they needed a veteran presence at the position, signing 33-year-old Mike Adams, who played with the Denver Broncos the past two seasons.
Before the Colts signed Adams, Delano Howell was the expected front-runner to start opposite Landry. However, according to ESPN's Mike Wells, Adams plans to compete for the starting job, saying:
Bottom line is I want to compete for a job. I want to earn these guys' respect. I’m going in (Year 11). Its’ a different locker room, new system I have to learn. I want to earn that. I don’t want it given to me. I told coach and I told the (general manager Ryan Grigson), 'I appreciate you telling me I don’t have the job. I appreciate that.' I was the underdog my whole career. I love competing and proving people wrong.
While he's nearing the end of his career, Adams has been a solid safety over the years. He only had one interception in two seasons with Denver, but he had 17 pass deflections and 144 tackles. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he gave up just two touchdowns with opposing quarterbacks completing just 57.8 percent of passes thrown his way last season.
Even if Howell is still the go-to option to start, I fully expect Adams to take the starting job before the regular season.
Will Trent Richardson Lose the Starting Job Before the Regular Season?
The player that received the most criticism this past season in Indianapolis had to be running back Trent Richardson. After being traded to the Colts, he averaged just 2.9 yards per carry while costing the team a first-round draft pick.
It's safe to say that there's some pressure on Richardson to perform.
With Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard returning, there's some legitimate competition behind Richardson trying to take the starting job that won't go down without a fight, and fans wouldn't complain if it happened. So far, however, Richardson claims he's feeling more comfortable, according to Craig Kelley from Colts.com, saying:
I feel way more fluid, even with the timing. I didn’t know the snap count last year until the fourth week. When I had to step in and start when Ahmad (Bradshaw) went down, it was hard. I didn’t have the chance to learn ‘Why are we doing this? What am I looking at this linebacker, or that linebacker on the backside?’ I just had to know where I was running. I didn’t know the full reasons. With the timing, it’s way easier now.
The starting job will be Richardson's to lose, but I don't think he'll be able to lose it until the season begins. The team will want to make sure they give him another chance to try to prove that the trade was worth it, but if he can't step up once the season begins, Bradshaw will likely be the new go-to back.
Will Pat McAfee Start Kicking Field Goals?
The Boomstick came into the NFL as a kicker from West Virginia that the team converted into a punter, but is there a chance that he actually starts to take on the duties of a kicker in the near future?
With what he's been doing so far this offseason, no one should be surprised if it eventually happens.
Mike Chappell from the Indianapolis Star reported that during last week's minicamp, Colts punter Pat McAfee drained field goals as far as 72 yards out, and that the 27-year-old admitted he'd like to become the team's kicker after Adam Vinatieri retires.
McAfee told Chappell:
I've told (the Colts) as soon as Vinny is ready to head to the Hall of Fame, I'm ready to do it. If I keep making 66-yard field goals in practice every day that'll help out a lot. I think it's going to get to the point it's going to be very hard for them to say 'No,' whenever that time comes, whenever Vinny leaves.
McAfee was seen throughout last year's training camp hitting long-range field goals, and with Vinatieri approaching his 42nd birthday in December, his career is nearly over. Vinatieri has still been a solid kicker in Indianapolis, but if the team needs something from 55 yards out or farther, no one should be surprised if the Colts call out McAfee to try to hit it.
Will Reggie Wayne Be the Same Player After ACL Surgery?
October 20, 2013 was one of the most heartbreaking moments for Colts fans in a long time, watching Reggie Wayne in obvious pain on the field during a game where everyone should have been thrilled that they were able to take down the Denver Broncos.
Now, just over eight months later, everyone wants to know if Wayne can return to form and continue to be the productive receiver he's been throughout his career.
As Bob Kravitz points out in an article for USA Today, Wayne's return is no sure thing, but the 35-year-old sounds motivated, saying:
Now, I'm 35. I don't think I have any redshirt eligibility left. Now I'm married, have kids, it's different all across the board ... But for some strange reason, I seem to be hungrier than I was back then. I know I don't have that time now. I know what my age is. So I'm geeked to show everybody what I can do at age 35.
Wayne was already cleared for football activities back in April, and he's made it clear that he'll be ready to go for training camp. The good news is that he won't be pressured to be the workhorse at wide receiver he's been in previous seasons, with the position stacked with talent, including names like T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks and Da'Rick Rogers.
Adrian Peterson was one of the few exceptions to the rule that players can instantly return to form after an ACL tear, but Wayne seems determined to do so himself. Time will tell, but he knows that he has the entire Colts fanbase rooting for him.
Still, he's 35 years old, and it will be understandable if he loses a step. We might not see the same Wayne in 2014, but that doesn't mean he won't be a productive player in Pep Hamilton's offense.
Is Dallas Clark the Next Player to Be Added to the Ring of Honor?
I decided that we should finish this with a question involving one of the all-time greats in Colts history. After a very emotional retirement ceremony with the Colts, should Dallas Clark be the next member to join the Ring of Honor?
If you ask me, the answer is a resounding yes.
The Colts signed Clark to a one-day deal, much like they did with Jeff Saturday, so that he could retire with the team that drafted him back in 2003. During his speech, it was clear that Clark was overcome with emotion.
Per Craig Kelley, Clark said:
It’s an honor I can’t even explain. It’s amazing just the love and support I have for the Colts and fans, but to see it come back toward me (is humbling). For the Irsay family and Colts family to do this is an honor, something I can’t thank anyone for enough. It’s so special I can’t even express how awesome it is.
During his nine seasons with the Colts, Clark caught 427 passes for 4,887 yards and 46 touchdowns. Before players like Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, Clark was the tight end playing in the slot that constantly made huge plays.
As one of the biggest players during the Manning era, Clark deserves one of the next spots on the Ring of Honor, hopefully joining the Ring with Saturday.