Entering the 2020 season, the Indianapolis Colts were a team right on the verge of the top ten in most power rankings. The Colts found their quarterback for the season when they acquired Philip Rivers in free agency. Indianapolis also sent a first-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for DeForest Buckner. He would be one of the primary leaders on a defensive unit that was vastly improved.
The Colts got off to a rocky start, as they lost the season opener to the Jacksonville Jaguars, which happened to be the only victory the Jaguars had all season. Indianapolis finished 11-5, which was enough to secure the seventh-seed in the AFC playoffs. In the Wild Card Round, the Colts wound up losing to the Buffalo Bills 24-27. There were a few plays in the game that greatly affected the result, and Indianapolis was just a few plays away from going to the divisional round to face the Kansas City Chiefs.
What Went Right
The Indianapolis defense was one of the best in the league. The Colts finished eighth in yards allowed and tied for tenth in points allowed. The unit led by Matt Eberflus was one of the best in the league and has a lot of young talent. While the defense is led by young players, two grizzled veterans vastly helped the defense. Justin Houston was second on the team with eight sacks and ten tackles for losses. Xavier Rhodes was signed to a one-year prove-it deal after he struggled for the Vikings in 2019. Rhodes had an excellent season that saw him finish second on the team in pass deflections and interceptions.
The Colts have seemingly found a running back tandem for the future. Indianapolis selected Jonathan Taylor in the second round of the draft, and once Marlon Mack went down with an injury in Week 1, Taylor burst onto the scene. He finished with 1,169 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground behind an offensive line that had Taylor rushing for five yards each time he carried the ball. He also had 36 catches for 299 yards and a touchdown.
Nyheim Hines was primarily the third-down back in Indianapolis before this season. With Rivers coming to town, Hines was in for a big receiving year, as Rivers throws more passes to running backs than any other quarterback. Hines also had an average of over four yards per carry as he had 380 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. On the receiving end, he corraled 63 catches for 482 yards and four touchdowns.
What Went Wrong
There wasn’t much that went wrong for Indianapolis this year. The one biggest could be the fact that there were some injuries to some key players. Mack went down early in Week 1 after having just four carries in what could have possibly been his last game in Indianapolis. The very next week, the Colts got more bad news as Malik Hooker tore his Achilles. Similar to Mack, Hooker could have played his last down in a Colts uniform. Late in December, Anthony Castonzo would have an ankle injury that would sideline him for the rest of the season. Castonzo played his final season this year, as he announced his retirement earlier this month.
Besides Rhodes, the Colts are relying on a lot of youth at the cornerback position. 2019 second-round selection Rock Ya-Sin had an up-and-down sophomore campaign. There were a few bright spots, like the diving interception against the Packers. Teams seemed to target Ya-Sin and hope for either a completion or a flag. The cornerback position is one of the hardest positions to transition from the college level to the NFL level, and it’s taking some time for the second-year pro.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Darius Leonard
Leonard has come a long way since the Colts were bashed for selecting him in the second round a few years back. He is one of the best linebackers in the league and had another excellent season. Leonard totaled 132 tackles, three sacks, seven pass deflections, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. He will have an even larger role next season as Anthony Walker is set to leave in free agency.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Jonathan Taylor
Both Taylor and Michael Pittman were selected in the second round of the 2020 draft. Both carved a role, which will likely be expanded next year. The Colts got excellent production from their first three draft picks, and all three will be pivotal to the success of the team for years to come.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Julian Blackmon
The third selection the Colts made in the draft was the selection of Blackmon. The third-round pick had an excellent season filling in for Hooker and had 42 tackles, two interceptions, six pass deflections, and a forced fumble. Blackmon will now likely take over as the starter at the free safety spot, with Hooker going elsewhere once free agency hits.
Biggest Surprise – Khari Willis
Indianapolis has a young tandem at the safety position. Willis was overlooked in the 2019 draft and went in the fourth round. Chris Ballard and the scouting department traded up 20 spots to select him in the draft. Since then, Willis has been one of the best players on the defense that can play in a variety of roles. The versatile Willis finished third on the team with 82 tackles, two sacks, two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, six pass deflections, and a forced fumble. The tandem of him and Blackmon is one of the biggest reasons for optimism on the defensive side of the ball.
Biggest Disappointment – Jack Doyle
Doyle was one of three tight ends involved for the Colts this season. He finished third of the three tight ends with only 23 catches. On those 23 catches, he had 251 yards and three touchdowns.
One Burning Question
Who starts at the two most important positions next year?
Indianapolis will already be without Castonzo next season, as he retired. The Colts could potentially move one of Quenton Nelson or Braden Smith to the left tackle spot, but that opens up a whole elsewhere on the line. It is unknown if Rivers will retire, let alone be back for the Colts next season. Indianapolis has two options behind him, with Jacoby Brissett and Jacob Eason. Brissett was mainly brought in on short-yardage plays this year where he could sneak for the first down. Eason was selected in last year’s draft as a developmental project. The Colts could opt to, once again, look for a veteran quarterback, such as Matthew Stafford or Carson Wentz, via the trade block. Either way, Indianapolis has a bright future.