Following up two-straight road games against division rivals in Kansas City and San Diego, the Raiders return home to face the Colts. In fact, all four of the Raiders division games to end the season are on the road, including heading to Denver the week after. So, this is their 2016 home finale. Gotta make it count.
Colts 2015 numbers
Offense rank: 28th
Defense rank: 26th
What a dreadful team the Colts were last season. As one of just two teams in the bottom seven in both offense and defense. And yet somehow managed to finish 8-8. That has almost everything to do with being in the worst division in football. The AFC South was won by the Texans at 9-7.
Andrew Luck had the worst season of his career even before being lost for the season in week nine. And that includes his rookie year. Even still, he was given a record contract this offseason, based on his tremendous numbers over his first three seasons which included three-straight Pro Bowls, and an 11-5 record each season. He is also just a season removed from throwing for 4761 with 40 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
His best weapon is wide receiver TY Hilton, who was also a Pro Bowler in 2015 with 69 catches for 1124 yards and five touchdowns. There isn’t much in the way of talent after that on the offensive side of the ball. Donte Moncrief is a decent second receiver, top back Frank Gore just turned 33 years old, and tight end Coby Fleener left to sign with the Saints.
On the defense, the best players are in the secondary with cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Mike Adams. Robert Mathis was a perennial Pro Bowler, but he’s now 35.
Their success will be dependent upon Andrew Luck rebounding from last season. But he can’t do it alone. Here to tell us how the Colts have attempted to improve their predicament is 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).