Skip to content

Preseason Power Rankings No. 8: Indianapolis Colts

AP

The Colts are realizing the true benefit bottoming out.

With quarterback Andrew Luck at the helm of their offense, there’s a floor that they’re simply not going to fall through.

Playing in a division that is unsettled at best and ridiculous at worst (it occupied three of the bottom eight spots in our Preseason Power Rankings), the Colts should easily own the top spot in the AFC South barring a calamitous injury.

This year’s additions weren’t as dramatic as last year’s spending, but they added depth to an already good team, the kind of thing you’re able to do when your quarterback is both excellent and on a cheap rookie contract.

Winning 11 games each of the last two years has raised expectations, so this year will be about the Colts taking that next step.

Strengths.

The Colts have quietly developed a deep stable of targets for Luck to throw to.

If Reggie Wayne returns to anything resembling his old form, he’ll join with T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks (who came on a one-year prove-it deal) as a very good receiving corps.

They also have problem-child Da’Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen in reserve, giving them developmental players for the future.

But perhaps the biggest boost will be getting tight end Dwayne Allen back from injury to pair with Coby Fleener, giving the Colts plenty of options in the passing game.

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton would love to call a traditional grind-it-out game, but given the weapons at his disposal, spreading the field and using multiple formations is the right thing to do.

Weaknesses.

It sure would help if the Colts could find some balance in their offense with the running game.

And it sure would help if Trent Richardson ever proved to be worthy of the first-round pick they gave up to acquire him.

Richardson averaged 2.9 yards per carry after coming over from the Browns last year, hardly what they were hoping for or needed. He admitted it was hard learning a new offense, so it’s reasonable to give him this year as a fresh start.

Then again, some help up front would also help.

The Colts offensive line has underperformed despite some big investments the last few offseasons, and finding a center and some stability in that group would pay big dividends.

Second-round pick Jack Mewhort has seen work at center, guard and tackle during the offseason, and he could add an element of toughness that they need.

There’s also the small matter of how they’ll rush the passer in the first four games, with Robert Mathis out following a PED suspension. That could cost them significantly as they open with the Broncos and Eagles, before they start division play with the Jaguars and Titans.

Changes.

The Colts didn’t make wholesale moves this offseason, but they made three significant ones which should help their defense.

Keeping cornerback Vontae Davis with a four-year, $39 million extension was the first big step, as they could ill afford to lose one of the top cover men in the AFC.

But adding linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and defensive end Arthur Jones will add some heft and legitimacy to a defense that was too often pushed around last year.

After losing safety Anotine Bethea to San Francisco, they need LaRon Landry to be a more consistent producer.

Camp Battles.

The Colts have some decisions to make at guard, as Donald Thomas is coming off two muscle tears, making it hard to know how much he can be counted on.

Mewhort worked at left guard during OTAs, but they also have Hugh Thornton as a possibility. The Colts think Lance Louis can add something as well, and seeing how that position shakes out will be huge as they try to run the ball more consistently.

They also have running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard coming off injuries, and they would love to have one of them ready to go if Richardson isn’t able to carry the load as expected.

Finding a safety to station next to Landry will also be a toss-up, as the Colts have a host of candidates for that job including Mike Adams, Colt Anderson along with holdovers such as Sergio Brown.

Prospects.

It’s easy to have high expectations for the Colts, as they practically have six wins in the bank by function of playing in the AFC South.

The Texans are good on defense, and the Jaguars are improving, but there’s no reason for the Colts to not roll through this group.

But a division title isn’t the goal for this bunch, as Manning found out more than a decade ago.

The Colts have something of a narrow window with this group because of Luck’s pending contract situation.

They have the ability to add parts now while he’s on a cheap rookie-scale deal, and they have bought aggressively in free agency. Of course, not all those deals look like bargains.

When they have to start paying Luck real money, it will be harder to make wholesale changes, so they have to hope they have a solid base in place.

Last year’s comeback win over the Chiefs in the playoffs was a solid first step, but the Colts are still punching over their weight (or at least their age) when they come up against the big guns of the AFC.

Permalink 49 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, Indianapolis Colts, Top Stories
yo

Source: “Completely false” to say Kaepernick has asked for $9-10 million per year

Getty Images

To claim that quarterback Colin Kaepernick wants a chance to compete for a starting job and a salary of $9 million or $10 million per year would be to assume that conversations with one or more teams have progressed to that point. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, they haven’t.

The source said it’s “completely false” to suggest that Kaepernick has requested $9 million to $10 million per year.

Which makes the report that Kaepernick wants a chance to start and compensation in that range rooted in supposition or speculation or assumption that has morphed, perhaps via repetition, into perceived fact. And it’s in the interests of the teams that have ignored him individually and the league collectively to embrace that narrative, in order to push back against the perception that Kaepernick has been shunned for non-football reasons.

Whether he has or hasn’t been shunned for non-football reasons, embracing the idea that he has made demands that would price him out of potential spots presumes that teams would be interested in him at a lower price. Absent evidence that teams that already have signed quarterbacks actually explored what Kaepernick wants, the report seems to be nothing more than an effort to get people to quit suggesting that Kaepernick has been blackballed.

Permalink 8 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Tony Romo “distancing himself” from Cowboys teammates

Getty Images

Tony Romo gave an emotional statement to the media when he returned to the active roster last season and said that he realized it was Dak Prescott’s time in Dallas.

He reportedly has some other feelings about the way things have gone down in Big D. Jane Slater of NFL Media reports that Romo has “distanced himself” from teammates and coaches who he feels were pro-Prescott and has taken the team’s turn away from him as the quarterback of the present and future “very personally.” Per Slater, Romo feels “his team was taken from him.”

It’s understandable that Romo wouldn’t feel as rosy about the change in quarterbacks in Dallas as he suggested last season, especially if he feels he can still play well and should have had a chance to compete to get the job back this offseason. The notion that the Cowboys are “his team” is a tougher one to wrap your head around as Romo’s been around the NFL long enough to know that the team belongs to the guys writing the checks and that their decisions aren’t always going to be in line with the wishes of the guys in the uniforms.

That said, the report provides more reason to think that it would be better for everyone involved in Dallas to finally complete the drawn out breakup with Romo. Outside of Prescott suffering a catastrophic injury in the offseason, there’s no upside to the Cowboys waiting to let Romo pursue other opportunities outside of Dallas because they’ve made it clear they’ve moved on at quarterback.

Permalink 23 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Nevada businessman plans a Raiders-themed brothel

Getty Images

Just sin, baby.

The Raiders’ upcoming move to Las Vegas is being greeted with open arms — or something — by one enterprising Nevada businessman.

According to Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Sun, Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof announced plans to open a Raiders-themed establishment called “Pirate’s Booty.”

“I’ve had a license for a seventh brothel near Las Vegas for some time now, but I was waiting for the right time to launch another house of debauchery,” Hof said. “The Raiders coming to Vegas will mean big business for me, so my next sex den will honor the ‘Men in Black’ and their ‘Raider Nation.’”

(In a related note, Hall of Famer and former Raider Warren Sapp is plotting a comeback as we speak.)

The house of ill repute will be 90 miles outside of Las Vegas in Crystal.  Hof said Raiders players and staff will get 50 percent off at his establishments, and there will be a VIP section at staffed with “over 20 cheerleader-garbed working girls.”

So now, at least someone other than fans in Oakland will be getting, … oh, never mind.

Permalink 39 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Oakland councilman wants Raiders out now

Getty Images

The Raiders are headed to Las Vegas after Monday’s 31-1 vote by NFL owners to approve their relocation for the 2020 season.

That leaves three seasons for the Raiders to play elsewhere and team owner Mark Davis suggested after the vote that the Raiders could stay at the Oakland Coliseum for all of that time. The team has options on their lease for the 2017 and 2018 seasons, but Oakland Councilman Larry Reid hopes to take those options away.

Reid said Monday that he’s started talking to attorneys for the city to see if there’s a way to ship the Raiders out of town ahead of schedule.

“I don’t want them here,” Reid said, via the East Bay Times. “They can go down to Santa Clara and play.”

Davis said Monday that the team would issue refunds to any fans who have put down deposits on 2017 season tickets. If Reid has his way, they’ll be issuing them to everyone.

Permalink 46 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Hue Jackson: Browns haven’t discussed Colin Kaepernick

Getty Images

The Brows are searching for their franchise quarterback, but that search has not included Colin Kaepernick.

Browns coach Hue Jackson said today that the Browns haven’t discussed signing Kaepernick, although he didn’t rule it out in the future.

“We haven’t really discussed Colin,” Jackson said. “There’s other players at this point that we’ve had a lot of conversations about to see if we can put them on our team. Not saying it won’t come up later on. You have to exhaust everything. But at this point he hasn’t come up.”

Jackson said that in 2011, when he was head coach of the Raiders, he would have liked to have drafted Kaepernick, who went to the 49ers in the second round that year.

“Yes, I did. When I was in Oakland I did, no question,” Jackson said when asked if he liked Kaepernick coming out of college. “And I’m not saying I don’t now. I just think the situation we’re in right now, the players we’ve evaluated thus far to this point, those are the guys we’re going to spend our time with first. If that doesn’t fall right, there’s still other players.”

That’s not exactly shutting the door on Kaepernick, but it sure doesn’t sound like the Browns are particularly interested, either.

Permalink 33 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Chris Long signs with Eagles

Getty Images

After winning the Super Bowl with the Patriots, defensive end Chris Long said that he wouldn’t be returning to New England for a second season.

Long cited a desire to play a more prominent role on defense than he did down the stretch for the Patriots as the reason for moving on and we now know where he’ll be vying for that kind of playing time. Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports that Long has agreed to a contract with the Eagles.

Long will likely take on a fair number of the snaps that Connor Barwin played at defensive end last season. Barwin was released earlier this offseason and wound up signing with the Rams, who once employed Long although their defensive scheme has changed and will allow Barwin to move back to outside linebacker.

Long had 35 tackles and four sacks for the Patriots in the regular season last year.

Permalink 20 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota out of boot, expects to be ready for camp

Getty Images

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is out of the walking boot, and planning on being 100 percent by the time training camp starts.

Mariota told KHON2 in Hawaii that going home to work on his rehab (as well as doing part of the work in Oregon) has been beneficial to him as he recovers from last year’s broken leg.

“The opportunity to come home, to relax, to see family, to hang out with friends, to enjoy some of the sun and the beach, it really rejuvenates me,” Mariota said, via the Tennessean. “It gives me an opportunity to get healthy mentally along with getting healthy physically. With all the eyes and ears that I’ve kind of had around me, this process has been really good and I’m in a good spot.”

Mariota said his recovery from the Dec. 24 injury was a bit ahead of schedule, and that he’s been running on the beach.

He said he planned to return to Tennessee in late May, at which point he’ll decide if he’ll be able to take part in any of the OTAs.

Permalink 2 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

It’s time to fix the overtime rule (and not by chopping it to 10 minutes)

Getty Images

As the league’s owners gather in Arizona to consider potential rule changes, one proposal that will soon be on the table would reduce overtime in the regular season for 15 minutes to 10.

Here’s some free advice for the owners (money-back guarantee): Don’t do it.

It definitely will result in more ties, and that’s the last thing fans want. Yes, it’s important to reduce the total number of snaps, and a 10-minute overtime would do that. But an uptick in ties will be good for no one.

Fans (and coaches and players) want resolution. Investing more than 3.5 hours and ending up with an 0-0-1 on the regular-season record of two teams won’t provide it.

So here’s the proposal that the owners should adopt, in a nutshell: A two-point conversion contest.

One offense and defense goes to one end of the field, and the other offense and defense go to the other end of the field. A two-point conversion attempt occurs at each end of the field, three times per team, with either two points or zero points being scored. To keep things moving along, the snaps occur 25 seconds apart. (The officiating crew would be split, with four on one end of the field and four on the other end.)

If the game is tied after each team has three chances to score, the teams go back and forth, one chance each, until there’s no tie after both teams have had their chance to score.

It would be exciting, frenetic, compelling, and it would involve as few as six extra snaps. And we’ve yet to hear a good argument against it.

Permalink 116 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Jason Witten agrees to four-year extension with Cowboys

Getty Images

In February, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said he wasn’t sure how much longer he wanted to continue playing and that he thought the best approach was to “just go into it and look at it one year at a time.”

Witten’s view appears to have changed pretty dramatically over the last few weeks. Todd Archer of ESPN.com reports that Witten has agreed to a four-year extension with the Cowboys that will keep him under contract through the 2021 season.

The desire for the Cowboys to have Witten on hand beyond 2017 comes as little surprise given how much he’s meant to the team’s offense. The length of the deal for a player who turns 35 in May does more to raise the eyebrows, although the details of the pact will be enlightening as to its impact on the team’s overall salary cap picture.

In the short term, it will likely lower Witten’s 2017 cap hit from the current $12.262 million, giving them a bit more to spend elsewhere as they build for the coming season.

Permalink 24 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

NFL says Raiders vote not a message to Buffalo about stadium

Getty Images

Last June, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that the Bills “have to stay up with” other teams in the league in terms of their stadium in what seemed like a suggestion that it was time for the team to move forward with a push for a stadium to replace New Era Field.

Giants co-owner John Mara sent similar vibes earlier in 2016 when he said the Bills would need a new stadium to keep pace financially with others in the league. It didn’t take much to remember both sets of comments as 31 of the league’s owners (including Terry and Kim Pegula) voted to approve the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas. That adds up to three teams moving in a relatively short span of time after failing to secure new stadiums, but NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman said there was no message for Buffalo to take away from the vote, however.

“This certainly is not intended to send any message and I don’t believe anyone should take any message in it,” Grubman said. “Buffalo’s fans are legendary and ranked right up there with the greatest fans in the NFL. Ownership there is evaluating their options and those options are very long-term in nature. I don’t want to speak for them, but I think you can see, by virtue of the fact that they’re not waiting and have done work on the stadium already, that they care about their fans and they care about Buffalo.”

Direct message or not, the stadium issue has been on the table in Buffalo for several years now and the team is going to step up the push for a new building sooner or later. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News quotes a league source that says the Pegulas “want the team to have some success” before putting out their palms for public money, but the team’s current lease is up in 2022 so the conversation is coming.

Permalink 31 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Jim Irsay: “Wrong to assume” it is win or else for Chuck Pagano

Getty Images

The Colts made a change at General Manager after the 2016 season by dispatching Ryan Grigson and bringing in Chris Ballard to run the personnel side of things in his place.

Coach Chuck Pagano remains in his job, but Ballard’s arrival and two straight years out of the playoffs would seem to put him in the crosshairs should the team decide to make another change heading into the 2018 season. During a media session at the owners meetings in Arizona on Monday, Colts owner Jim Irsay said that any decision on that front won’t be based solely on the team’s record.

Irsay talked about the need to build around young players who will be with the team for several years and broached the possibility of trading down in the draft to stockpile picks, both of which could be seen as signs of a patient approach in Indianapolis. His comments about Pagano send the same message.

“I think it is wrong to assume, particularly coming from me, the owner, that, ‘Hey, Chuck, you better win or else. … This year, you’ve got to get it done,'” Irsay said, via the Indianapolis Star. “Honestly, I think it’s really about seeing how we are getting the best players on the field and really doing the type of smart things that really make you sit back and say, ‘Hey, I don’t know if Chuck would have done that three or four years ago. I see growth there.'”

Improvement in terms of the team’s record is black and white, but the progress that Irsay is talking about can be a bit harder to quantify. That’s especially true if the focus on developing younger players coincides with a downturn in the standings that upsets a fanbase that likely expected to be in a different place at this stage of quarterback Andrew Luck’s career.

Permalink 17 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Tuesday morning one-liners

Getty Images

Making a case for the Bills drafting Pittsburgh QB Nathan Peterman.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has been a big donor to the University of Michigan and would love to see the team draft some players from Ann Arbor.

The addition of WR Brandin Cooks and CB Stephon Gilmore excites Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of UCLA basketball star Lonzo Ball, went to camp trying to make the Jets a couple of times in the 1990s.

The Ravens may be done adding free agents until after the draft.

Would the Bengals take a wide receiver with the ninth pick in the draft?

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam termed the team’s offer to WR Terrelle Pryor before he left an “extremely fair” one.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin identified the team’s defensive needs as cornerback and outside linebacker.

It seemed obvious, but Texans owner Bob McNair confirmed the team will look to add a quarterback to the roster.

The Colts’ work to upgrade their pass rush got some positive recognition.

Will this year’s free agency haul work out better for the Jaguars on the field than past ones?

The path of Titans QB Marcus Mariota’s recovery from a broken leg continues to be a positive one.

Broncos S Justin Simmons made a huge play last year by jumping the line on an extra point attempt and isn’t in favor of losing the option to do it again.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said it was a sad day when the team released RB Jamaal Charles.

A range of reactions to the news that the Raiders are going to Las Vegas.

The Chargers announced the dates for their offseason work.

LB Jaylon Smith’s return to the field is something the Cowboys still hope to see.

Giants WR Brandon Marshall will join QB Eli Manning at Duke for workouts in early April.

Should the Eagles trade WR Jordan Matthews?

Will coach Jay Gruden have a bigger role in Redskins personnel decisions?

Bears G.M. Ryan Pace meets the media on Tuesday.

The Lions expect to have contract talks with DE Ziggy Ansah.

Said Packers G.M. Ted Thompson of TE Martellus Bennett, “We like what he brings to the equation. He seems to be excited about being there, so we’re happy to have him.”

A list of prospects who have met with the Vikings leading up to the draft.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn is still working on getting past the Super Bowl loss.

Have the Panthers improved the most in the NFC South this offseason?

Former Saints RB Deuce McAllister is consulting with a high school athletic department.

Buccaneers G.M. Jason Licht said he doesn’t think he’ll ever be risk averse in the draft.

Will the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas impact the Cardinals?

Rams COO Kevin Demoff is full of optimism about the team’s second year in Los Angeles.

RB DuJuan Harris became the second player to re-sign with the 49ers after hitting free agency.

Trevone Boykin’s arrest could lead to a change at backup quarterback for the Seahawks.

Permalink 0 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bills bring in former ESPN exec to work on public image

AP

After the Bills fired Rex Ryan and benched quarterback Tyrod Taylor late last season, General Manager Doug Whaley held a press conference that left many feeling the franchise was being run in a dysfunctional manner.

Owner Terry Pegula took issue with that characterization at the time and it appears that the team is taking further steps to make sure that future dealings with the public don’t leave that impression.

Mike Rodak of ESPN.com reports that the team has hired Gerry Matalon as a consultant to work with members of the organization. Matalon was a longtime talent executive at ESPN who worked on developing on-air personalities and will be meeting with Bills executives at the league meetings in Arizona this week.

He will work with coach Sean McDermott and his role “might also expand” to advising Whaley, although recent reports have pegged Whaley’s job security as tenuous. The team has also hired a new head of communications this offseason, so they seem equipped to put up a better front should those reports foreshadow Whaley’s departure in the near future.

Permalink 25 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Texans will talk to Bill O’Brien about an extension next offseason

Getty Images

Bill O’Brien has kept the Texans competitive without what you’d call a stable quarterback situation, or a quarterback, for the last three years.

But if he wants a new contract, he’s going to have to wait.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Texans owner Bob McNair said he’d talk to O’Brien about an extension after this season, which will be the fourth of the five-year deal he signed when he took over the team.

“We’ll talk to him about it at the end of this year,” McNair said. “That’s typically when we do that sort of thing. . . .

“We’ll sit down and see what he’s [O’Brien] happy with and if he wants to be extended and see how we feel.”

Whether he wants to is a reasonable question, after reports that he might have been on his way out last year. But O’Brien did the best he could to quell the speculation then.

The reality is, if he’s not in Houston, he’d be somewhere else soon. He’s 27-21, posted winning records each of his three seasons, and done so with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, and Brock Osweiler as his quarterbacks.

Permalink 8 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

John Mara on Odell Beckham: He’s the last guy I’m worried about

Getty Images

In the aftermath of the final game of the Giants’ season, wide receiver Odell Beckham punched a hole in a Lambeau Field wall in an expression of the emotions he was feeling after his team was blown out by the Packers.

That led a variety of people from the team, including General Manager Jerry Reese, to say that it was time for Beckham to grow up after a couple of years filled with emotional outbursts that sometimes detracted from Beckham’s production on the field. On Monday, co-owner John Mara took a different track.

He joked that he offered the Packers $100 to fix the hole in the wall and said that Beckham is “the last guy on our team that I’m worried about.”

“He’s an emotional player,” Mara said, via NJ.com. “I think he’s going to mature over time, but I’m not losing any sleep worrying about him. He’s a prideful, motivated young man who competes at 100 percent all the time. I think he’ll mature over time.”

Beckham is entering the final year of his rookie contract, which means he’s eligible for both an extension and a fifth-year team option. Picking up the latter seems inevitable, but Mara said no talks have taken place about a longer deal.

Permalink 7 Comments Feed for comments Back to top