NFL

Indianapolis Colts: 5 Burning Questions

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It feels like yesterday when Andrew Luck was selected as the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. Now, the 25-year-old quarterback is entering his fourth season, with expectations at an all-time high.

The Colts have made the playoffs every year under Luck, but it’s to the point where that’s simply not good enough anymore. 

“I’d like to think that we can get better and improve on 2014,” Luck said. “That’s the goal for every team when hope springs eternal during the off-season. It’s everybody’s goal to go out and win the Super Bowl — I’d like to think we have a realistic chance. We certainly have the guys to get it done, the coaching staff and the support so that’s what we’re working for.”

For Indianapolis to make that leap, they must answer these critical questions.

Who snaps the ball to Luck? 

The center position doesn’t get the glitz and glamour, but it’s a very vital piece to any offensive unit. Quarterbacks will tell you their relationship and continuity with the center has to be on point for them to succeed.

Last year, Jonotthan Harrison started 10 games, but he found himself on the bench due to mental lapses, whether it was missed pass protections or mistiming the snap count. Khaled Holmes finished the season as the starter.

During early off-season sessions, Harrison and Holmes were splitting snaps, but Harrison is more physical gifted, which gives him an edge.

“Honestly, just consistency,” Harrison said. “That’s what the coaches are looking for.  And of course, they understand that there may be a technical issue every once in a while, no player is perfect, everyone gets beat every once in a while, but just who can remain the most consistent throughout all these phases leading into the season.”

If Harrison is able to grasp the mental part of the game, expect for him to be the starter this fall.

Can Luck keep everyone happy?

After the additions of veteran Andre Johnson and speedy rookie Phillip Dorsett, the Colts find themselves with ridiculously great depth at the wide receiver spot. Indianapolis led the league in passing yards per game (305.9) just a season ago and on paper, it looks like they’ll be able to do the same thing in 2015.

However, with so many good pass catchers, is it possible for Luck to keep everyone happy?

The young superstar doesn’t seem too concerned. 

“If you start thinking about wide receivers being happy, as a quarterback you’ll dig yourself a mental hole real quick,” Luck said. “I think that’s what the beauty of this offense is, that everybody is counted on to make plays. There are ways to get everybody open and everybody is a part of the offense.”

Tight end Coby Fleener is another guy who’ll demand touches this season. The 26-year-old caught 51 passes for 774 yards to go along with eight touchdowns in 2014.

“If we’re all honest. I think we’re all a little bit selfish,” Fleener said. “We all want the ball. But more important than that, we want the team to win.”

As we all know, individual egos are a part of the game, but as long as the Colts are winning, don’t expect to see any rift among the receiving corps in Indy.

Is Robert Mathis done?

Last season was the most trying year during Robert Mathis’ 13-year career. The six-time Pro Bowler was suspended four games for a violation of the league’s performance enhancing drug policy and then Mathis missed the remainder of the season due to a shredded Achilles tendon.

At the age of 34, some players would’ve considered retirement at this point, but Mathis has too much heart to go out like that.

“I have to come back,” Mathis said. “I have to be a part of this. I have to prove to myself that I can do this.”

In 2013, Mathis accumulated 19.5 sacks and while no one should expect that kind of production from Mathis in 2015, it’s still feasible for him to be a force.

Head Coach Chuck Pagano surely believes in Mathis.

Indianapolis has solid depth at outside linebacker, with guys like Erik Walden, Bjoern Werner and Trent Cole. Having said that, if Mathis is even close to the Pro Bowl guy he once was, this defensive unit will get a major boost.

Can they stop the run?

The past two seasons have ended at the hands of the New England Patriots. A major reason for that has been the Colts inability to stop the run. During the two playoff losses to the Patriots, Indy has given up 234 and 177 rushing yards respectively.

When you look at the full body of work, however, you’ll realize the Colts aren’t that bad against the run. Last year, they finished 18th against the run, which isn’t terrible.

So, what needs to happen for them to see major improvement?

Well, the team didn’t really address the issue in the off-season, but defensive coordinator Greg Manusky believes it’s more mental than anything. 

“We did a study at 419 plays we gave up 2.2 (yards per carry) and then 59 plays we gave up 11 or 12 yards per carry. It’s either missed tackles or communication,” Manusky said. “So communication is one of the biggest things defensively that we need to do across the board. That’s what we’ve been focusing on.”

Is Chuck Pagano the long-term solution?

The NFL is a cutthroat business.

When you look on paper, Pagano’s career record of 33-15 is mighty impressive, but for a team with Indy’s talent, it simply isn’t good enough.

Pagano’s contract expires after this upcoming season, which begs the question, is he the right guy long-term?

Owner Jim Irsay appears to be behind his coach.

“We’re working on contracts, whether it’s management, coaches, players,” Irsay said. “We had discussions and it doesn’t mean that they won’t continue. It’s not a Super Bowl-or-bust season or anything like that.”

It’s easy for Irsay to say it’s not ‘Super Bowl or bust” now, but if you’ve been following this league long enough, you know not to fully believe everything you hear. I mean, if Indy was sure about Pagano being their guy, why not get a deal done now?

No matter what has been said, the Colts are ready to make that next leap and whether or not Pagano is able to lead this team in that direction has yet to be seen.

Nonetheless, Pagano knows where his heart is.

“I look forward to coaching the Colts this season and for many years to come,” Pagano said.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Colts are able to get over the hump this year.


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.