As we continue our look at the Green Bay Packers’ opponents on the 2016 schedule, we move along to preview the Packers’ week nine foe, the Indianapolis Colts.
Fresh off signing Andrew Luck to the richest contract in NFL history, the Colts are surely hoping to protect him better in 2016 than they have over the past few years. Luck’s injuries last season were a major factor in Indy’s precipitous drop in record, as they fell from 11-5 in 2014 (which featured a division title and appearance in the AFC Championship Game) to 8-8 and out of the playoffs last year.
There will be one familiar face on the sideline for Indy when the Colts come to Lambeau Field, however; quarterback Scott Tolzien signed a free agent contract to join the Colts as Luck’s backup, and that game will be his first time back in Green Bay after having spent the last three years with the Packers.
Here’s a breakdown of the Colts’ offseason from the fine folks at Stampede Blue.
Notable free agent additions
Patrick Robinson (CB), Scott Tolzien (QB), Robert Turbin (RB), Jordan Todman (RB)
Notable free agent departures
Jerrell Freeman (LB), Coby Fleener (TE), Dwight Lowery (S), Greg Toler (CB)
Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies
Ryan Kelly, center (first round pick) - He’s the starter from day one, without a doubt.
T.J. Green, safety (second round) - He’ll make the roster as a backup safety and special teams contributor.
Le’Raven Clark, tackle (third round) - He’s expected to provide depth.
Hassan Ridgeway, defensive line (fourth round) - He could factor into the defensive line rotation as a pass rush threat.
Antonio Morrison, inside linebacker (fourth round) - He will compete for playing time at the open inside linebacker spot.
Joe Haeg, offensive lineman (fifth round) - He’ll provide depth along the line, whether at guard or tackle.
Trevor Bates, outside linebacker (seventh round) - He will try to show something (anything) that suggests he can be a developmental pass rusher for the Colts, which they’re desperately looking for.
Austin Blythe, center (seventh round) - He’s expected to back up Ryan Kelly at center.
Biggest offseason addition
Ryan Kelly, center
Biggest storyline heading into training camp
The offensive line competition. A lot has been made about the Colts’ offensive line this offseason, and that was their biggest area of emphasis. They brought in Joe Philbin to coach the unit and then spent four of eight draft picks on their line. The left side - with Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard, and Ryan Kelly at center - looks good, but the right side is still a question mark. Joe Reitz is the current favorite at right tackle, though he’s still not guaranteed the job, while the right guard position is even more wide open. The offensive line competition has been a focal point all offseason and likely will continue to be in training camp.
Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp
The injuries to the defensive line. While the inside linebacker competition is worth noting as well, I think the health of the defensive line is one of the biggest storylines for the Colts this year. The unit has the potential to be one of the deepest and best positions on the team, but a lot of that depends on when players get healthy and whether they can stay that way. Henry Anderson was tremendous as a rookie last year and already emerged as one of the team’s best defensive players, but he tore his ACL midway through the season. It’s uncertain whether he’ll be back for week one, while Arthur Jones is also recovering from an injury that caused him to miss the entire 2015 season. If Anderson comes back healthy, the defensive line should be a good group when considering guys like Kendall Langford, David Parry, Zach Kerr, T.Y. McGill, and Hassan Ridgeway, and Jones coming back healthy would be even more of a boost. The key, again, is health.
Notable injuries heading into training camp
defensive lineman Henry Anderson (knee), defensive lineman Arthur Jones (ankle), wide receiver Donte Moncrief (foot), guard Hugh Thornton (undisclosed), cornerback D’Joun Smith (knee)