The Indianapolis Colts are a dynasty in the making in the NFL and will place amongst the top teams in the league for years to come. This all starts at quarterback for the Colts, with second-year player Andrew Luck running the offense. Make no mistake: Luck is a franchise quarterback and one of the top prospects to come out of the draft in the last decade.
Think about how incredibly lucky the Colts franchise has been in finding itself at the top of the draft board with “once-in-a-decade” quarterbacks at the top of the list in Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. While Indianapolis may have sacrificed the opportunity to win a Super Bowl now by allowing Manning to leave town, the Colts have set themselves up for the potential to win Super Bowls years after Manning retires with Luck at the helm.
Luck has the accuracy and arm strength to stretch the field and keep defenders honest. However, one of the things that really separates Luck from prototypical quarterbacks is his athleticism. If you’ve ever seen Luck play, you know he has some wheels and can shake off a defender down the field or in the pocket. He’s a big guy and combines the best of a mobile and prototypical pocket quarterback, holding the top qualities a coach would look for in each respective player type.
Aside from Luck, however, the Colts possess one of the top front offices in the NFL, with Head Coach Chuck Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson, who pulled the trigger by pulling off one of the most surprising trades in recent NFL memory. The Colts turned a first-round pick, likely somewhere in the late teens to early 20s, into running back Trent Richardson, the former No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft. Richardson may not be living up to expectations thus far in his career, but he is still one of the most dangerous young backs in the league, finishing last season with 1,317 total yards and 12 total touchdowns, an impressive total for a first-year running back.
With the combination of Luck and Richardson in the Colts’ backfield, Indianapolis possesses two premiere, young offensive weapons, and the Colts have the opportunity to allow Richardson and Luck to pick apart defenses and establish one of the most balanced attacks in the game.
Complementing Luck and Richardson is a trio of pass catchers that help to stretch the field. Receiver Reggie Wayne has had the opportunity of playing with both Manning and Luck and is still a dangerous and productive wideout despite his age. Wayne is one of the most underrated and consistent receivers in the NFL in the last 10 years.
Wayne may be near the twilight of his career, but fellow receiver T.Y. Hilton is just getting started. The second-year pro finished his rookie campaign with over 800 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. Through five games this season, Hilton is on track to register a 1,000-yard season and is establishing himself as a dangerous down the field option.
Finishing out this trio is second-year tight end Coby Fleener, Luck’s former teammate while at Stanford. Fleener may not be as established as Hilton, and seems to disappear at times, but the rapport with Luck is there and he is still projected to finish with six touchdowns and nearly 600 receiving yards this season. Fleener gives Luck a viable option over the middle of the field and is a talented receiver in goal line situations.
If you notice many second-year players amongst the Colts’ offense, that’s because this is an extremely young squad. All of these players will have a chance to grow together as a unit and become one of the top units in the league.
Defensively, the Colts are paced by the ageless Robert Mathis, who leads the NFL with 9.5 sacks entering Monday night’s game against the Chargers.
The Colts aren’t a flashy team, but they find ways to win, and against tough competition, too. Already this season, Indianapolis had impressive wins over San Francisco and Seattle, two teams many projected as the top squads in the league entering the season. Indianapolis is showing it has the team to compete now, as they made the playoffs last season as a wild-card team.
Perhaps the most telling game of the season for the Colts will be a Week Seven matchup when they host Manning and the undefeated Denver Broncos, thought to be the best team in the NFL this season. The results from this game will give the NFL a better idea of just how close the Colts are towards taking that next step from playoff team to Super Bowl contender.
If the Colts are winning these games now with such a young roster, imagine what they can do three years down the road when all their personnel reaches the early prime of their careers. The Colts are already a scary team; I can’t imagine how much scarier they will become if all their players develop as expected. Indianapolis is once again a force to be reckoned with in the NFL.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of October 15th’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Art by Emily Zhang of the Daily Nexus.