INDIANAPOLIS – It’s the first goal for every NFL team entering a regular season.
From 2002-14, it was something the Colts achieved a whole lot.
During the first 13 years of the AFC South, the Colts won the division a stunning 9 times.
Since last capturing the division in 2014, it’s been 5 straight years since the Colts were atop the AFC South.
What are the steps needed to capture the division this season?
More Efficient Quarterback Play
Overall, it was the general inefficiency of the quarterback position last season that had the Colts seeking out Philip Rivers this past offseason.
We are mainly talking a better completion percentage and a bigger yards per attempt.
Rivers is going to get the ball out faster, and the Colts believe his decisiveness and processing ability will lead to passing success that never lasted for more than one random game throughout in 2019.
Make The Easier Kicks
This, seemingly, foregone conclusion didn’t happen last year for the Colts. Adam Vinatieri missed 6 extra points, and missed 5 of their 20 field goals attempted inside of 50 yards.
Those kicking issues put way too much pressure on the other units through a 2019 season in which the Colts played 9 straight one-possession games to start the year.
Expectations don’t need to be through the roof for Rodrigo Blankenship this season, but him knocking in over 90 percent of his extra points and showing consistency inside of 50 yards would alleviate so much stress on the rest of the football team.
Better Pass Defense
We’ve heard a lot of talk this offseason from the Colts about creating more turnovers.
And that would, obviously, be ideal.
But the pass defense just needs to be harder to complete passes on. That sounds simple, but it has been the biggest defensive issue under Matt Eberflus. Opposing quarterbacks have had way too easy of a time getting into an early rhythm, hovering north of 70 percent completion wise over the last two years.
The Colts need to disrupt the timing of opponents passing game at a better rate.
A bolstered pass rush should aid in this endeavor, along with more disguising of coverage and ‘stick-ie-ness’ from that first line of pass defense (whether that’s in zone drops or just pure man press).
Assertive in the AFC South
Arguably, the biggest accomplishment of the Chuck Pagano/Ryan Grigson era was the Colts winning an NFL record 16 straight divisional games from 2012-15.
Well, that same divisional dominance has been far from there for the Colts in the past four-plus seasons.
Since that historic run ended in the final month of the 2015 season, the Colts have the 3rd best record in the AFC South (two games below .500) against a division they used to dominate.
Teams like Houston (by finding their new franchise quarterback) and Tennessee (by finding a good head coach) have emerged with better success than the Colts.
It’s time for Indy to get back to being a mainstay atop the AFC South, a division that the Colts have not won in 5 seasons.
Maintain A Sufficient Level Of Offensive Line Health
It would be ludicrous to expect the Colts to have all 5 offensive line starters together in the starting lineup for every single game again this season.
Dating back to the 2018 season, the Colts have had Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, and Braden Smith starting for 18 straight games.
That’s rare. Very rare.
So, factoring in some form of water finding its level and just ‘normal’ offensive line health, if the Colts could get this quintet to start 13 or 14 games together in 2020, that would be huge.
Remember, even more pressure is on the offensive line this season with a much more stationary quarterback in Philip Rivers under center.
Finding another pretty healthy year up front would do wonders for this team.
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