INDIANAPOLIS – More so than in any other NFL season, watching the injury report will take on a far greater meaning in 2020.
The uncertainty of COVID-19 will complicate things even more for teams projecting who they will have in a given week.
For the Colts in 2020, there’s some debate on who would be the team’s most indispensable players.
What would my list look like?
1. Anthony Castonzo: The decision by Castonzo to keep on playing was a massive sigh of relief. He’s still playing at a high level (will turn 32 years old in August) and this team has no viable backup at left tackle. Because of the lack of mobility coming from the quarterback position in 2020, even more pressure is on Castonzo and company to continue to be a high-level, and healthy, offensive line.
2. DeForest Buckner: Having Buckner this high isn’t because the Colts have a big void in defensive line depth. It’s because Buckner is thought to be an All-Pro talent and plays such a key position in this defense. The Colts have pleaded for more playmaking at the three-technique defensive tackle position, and that’s why Chris Ballard felt more than comfortable in trading away the No. 13 overall pick. The addition of Buckner, and having his durability in the lineup week-in-and-week-out, should be a needed boost for the Colts defense.
3. Philip Rivers: Most teams would have their starting quarterback a little higher on this list. There’s definitely debate Rivers could be higher, but I think slotting him No. 3 is fair. On paper, the Colts have one of the deeper quarterback situations in the league. But there’s still a drop from Rivers to Jacoby Brissett. There’s a reason why the Colts made sure they did something significant at quarterback this past offseason. An injury to Rivers for an extended period of time could lead to another season in which the Colts are watching the postseason.
4. Ryan Kelly: We will put another offensive linemen on this list for many of the same reasons as listed above. It’s probably ‘easier’ to find a stop-gap center than it is out at left tackle, but Kelly’s spot means a whole lot in a Frank Reich offense. Again, the offensive line carries a ton of pressure on them in 2020 because we saw last year how Philip Rivers can struggle when the unit blocking for him battles injuries and inconsistency.
5. Darius Leonard: This was a toss-up between Leonard and Kenny Moore, because they play two of the key hot spots in the Indy defense. Leonard’s playmaking and the fact that he’s around the ball more gave him the nod. The Colts do have some nice options at linebacker. But no one carries the playmaking pedigree that Leonard has created in his first two NFL seasons.
Thoughts: I gave a whole lot of thought to putting Quenton Nelson, T.Y. Hilton and Kenny Moore on this list. Nelson is the team’s best player. Hilton has the only proven history at the receiver position. And Moore serves multiple key roles with the defense wilting down the stretch last year with him sidelined. Still, I just thought the 5 names mentioned being slightly more indispensable. Nelson plays a position that doesn’t carry the same impact as many others. Hilton is getting up there in age and there’s some questions on what type of wideout he is at this point in his career. Moore has a strong case, but I think an improved pass rush should take some of the strain off the secondary in 2020.