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INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are returning from their bye week with a 3-5 record and still thinking about making a run in the AFC South.
After losing 4 straight games from Weeks 3-6, the Colts rebounded with must-have wins over the Bills and Raiders to enter the bye week.
Here are six questions facing the Colts over their final eight games of the season:
1. Will Andrew Luck continue his strong return from shoulder issues?
By virtually any account, Luck’s return has been a success. The quarterback has a career-high in completion percentage through eight games, has shown no ill effects from the shoulder issues and is on pace for a career-year across the board statistically.
Really, besides another win or two, you would probably hand out a letter grade of ‘A’ for Luck in the season’s first half.
For the Colts to make any serious run in the final two months of the season, they are going to need to see the Pro Bowl type of play they’ve received so far from No. 12.
2. Is the playmaking we’ve seen from the defense going to carry over into the second half?
It’s been pretty remarkable to see the Colts’ defensive playmaking in 2018.
Despite a lack of impactful personnel and the implementation of a simpler defensive system, the Colts still find themselves in the top-10 of key playmaking categories: sacks, tackles for loss and forced turnovers. That’s been needed with leakage in defending the entire field.
Is this the norm for Matt Eberflus’ defense?
3. Is this offensive line here to stay for the Colts?
The offensive line looks to be fixed.
With three first-round picks at left tackle, left guard and center, plus the emergence of Mark Glowinski at right guard and rookie Braden Smith slotting in at right tackle has given Indianapolis play they’ve dreamed about for years from their offensive line.
The Colts will see some more formidable defensive fronts in the second half of the year to test this impressive line play they’ve received as of late.
4. Will the wide receivers find more playmaking in the second half?
There’s been flashes from the running backs and the tight ends in the red zone, but the wide receivers haven’t done enough for the Colts in 2018.
Having T.Y. Hilton back and healthy should continue to attract more defensive attention, therefore opening up those opportunities elsewhere.
Against Oakland, the Colts had their top running back (Marlon Mack), top wide receiver (T.Y. Hilton) and tight end (Jack Doyle) healthy for an entire game for the first time all season.
5. Will we see rookie Tyquan Lewis in 2018?
Looking ahead to the future, the Colts could get a glimpse at this second-round pick from Ohio State.
Lewis practiced before the bye and is eligible to return off the injured reserve list sometime in early November.
The Colts are extremely high on Lewis, who is a versatile defensive line presence expected to offer more help in the interior. Could he make the sort of impact we’ve already seen from fellow second-round defenders Kemoko Turay and Darius Leonard?
“(He) came back last week, got his first week of action since Training Camp. Movement was good, toe felt good. This off-week, he’ll work with our strength and conditioning staff, and they’ll put him through 3 full days of hard work to really work on getting his conditioning back up, and then we’ll hit him that next week to see where he’s at and if he’s ready to move up after the Jacksonville game (Nov. 11). He was a defensive end in college, but they also slid him down inside to the three (technique), and we ultimately think that’s going to be his best position in the system, as an upfield disruptive three technique. When I was in Chicago we had guys, prototypical and same build that (Lewis has) in Tommie Harris and Henry Melton, and we think he can develop into that same type of role. We’ll probably play in him both spots here early, because he does have some position flexibility. We’re high on Tyquan. We moved up in the second round to get him. It’s unfortunate that he had the injury, but he looked good last week in practice, and we expect big things of him when we get him up to the roster.”
6. Will the Colts receive more contributions from Malik Hooker, Quincy Wilson?
These two are only grouped together because of where they were drafted in 2017.
Hooker is starting and has been pretty steady for the Colts in his ACL return. But we have yet to see the same sort of playmaking we saw out of him last year.
Wilson is currently the team’s No. 4 or No. 5 cornerback and it’s hard to see where exactly he finds playing time right now.
With fellow 2017 draft picks Tarell Basham and Zach Banner gone, the Colts really could use an even higher level of play from Hooker, and for Wilson to climb on the depth chart.
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