Indianapolis Colts 2021 Season Recapby Mason Thompson January 11, 2022 0 comments
The Indianapolis Colts entered the 2021 season with lofty expectations. Following a wild card exit to the Bills in the 2020 playoffs, Indianapolis made some moves in the offseason that had many analysts nailing the Saints as a Super Bowl dark horse. With the move to trade for Carson Wentz, the Colts had the quarterback they wanted to pair with a young running back and superb defense.
Unfortunately, the Colts didn’t reach the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. Following a 1-4 start in the first five weeks, Indianapolis won eight of their next ten games. With a win-and-in scenario entering Week 17, many expected the Colts to enter the playoffs hot and be a team nobody wanted to see. Well, no team will see them after Indianapolis lost by three against Las Vegas and crashed and burned against the Jaguars in the Clown game. For a team with lofty expectations, this season was a bust.
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What Went Right
Chris Ballard is a mastermind in the general manager position. His drafts are usually some of the best in the league. His 2020 class has looked to be just that. The first two picks in that draft class were Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman. Both second-rounders have exceeded their draft slots. Taylor will be mentioned later, so the focus here will be on Pittman. The Colts desperately needed a receiver to take over the number one role with T.Y. Hilton aging and not staying healthy as many would hope. Pittman more than met expectations as he caught 88 passes for over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. With Hilton likely playing his last season in Indianapolis, the progression from Pittman was a welcome sight to the front office.
When the Colts signed Darius Leonard to a massive five-year extension that included a yearly average of about $20 million, it was met to a lot of skepticism. While Leonard is one of the best linebackers in the league, many called out his coverage skills. He silenced the doubters with 122 tackles, four interceptions, and eight forced fumbles. Leonard is the leader of the Indianapolis defense, and he showed this year why the Colts awarded him with a new contract.
What Went Wrong
Of course, this has to start with how the last two weeks unfolded. After beating the Patriots and Cardinals, the Colts were a team nobody wanted to play in the playoffs. All that stood in front of them were the Raiders and the Jaguars. The Raiders are a good team playing with a lot of passion for an interim head coach that has seemingly turned the team around following a disaster during the early weeks of the season that flooded the organization. The Colts lost by three in a close game. The Jaguars game was a disaster. The Jacksonville fans were dressed up in clown suits as their team beat a division rival to knock them out of the playoff race. Indianapolis came out flat and was out-coached against a team coached by an interim head coach once more.
Injuries often derail a team. That was the case for the Colts at points this season. The offensive line was riddled with injuries during the late parts of the season, and both Hilton and Parris Campbell were hurt at the receiver position. Leonard and DeForest Buckner also dealt with injuries this year, while Julian Blackmon, another player in the 2020 draft class, missed half the season with a torn Achilles.
Team Award Winners
MVP – Jonathan Taylor
The second-year pro took the league, and fantasy leagues, by storm this season. Taylor is debatably the leader in the MVP race, and that is while splitting time with Nyheim Hines. Taylor rushed for over 1,800 yards, averaging over five yards per carry AND over 100 rushing yards per game, while also adding 40 catches for 360 yards and a whopping 20 total touchdowns on the season. He may not win the MVP award with how well some other players have done this season, but the Colts have a ferocious ground attack behind one of the league’s best offensive lines when healthy, and Taylor.
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Kylen Granson
Indianapolis didn’t select an offensive player in the draft until their third selection, a fourth-round pick. That pick was Granson. He wasn’t expected to get on the field during his rookie season, as the Colts had Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox ahead of him on the depth chart. Granson played in all 17 games and was on the field for 21 percent of the offensive snaps. The rookie tight end finished with 11 catches for 106 yards. With Alie-Cox an impending free agent and Doyle a potential cap casualty, Granson could have a bigger role in the 2022 season.
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Kwity Paye
There were two very large needs heading into last year’s draft for the Colts. The first was a left tackle, and the other was a pass-rusher. Indianapolis attacked the pass-rusher position with their first two selections. Paye played in 15 games and started all 15 this year. He had 32 tackles, ten quarterback hits, and four sacks. On a defense filled with stars, Paye showed that he could be a top pass-rusher next to Buckner.
Biggest Surprise – Rock Ya-Sin
Coming into this season, Ya-Sin was considered a bust and was benched at the end of last year. 2021 was a make-or-break year for the third-year cornerback. Under a new defensive backs coach, Ya-Sin seemed to find himself more this season. He isn’t the same player that panics when the ball is in the air, which led to him getting 15 penalties against him during his first two seasons. With Ya-Sin’s development, the Colts can cross cornerback off their major needs in the 2022 season.
Biggest Disappointment – Parris Campbell
The biggest surprise was the first pick the Colts made in the 2019 draft. The biggest disappointment is the third choice in the same draft. When Indianapolis chose Campbell, they expected a lot of him in the screen game and used him similar to how the 49ers use Deebo Samuel. Unfortunately, Campbell’s career has been derailed by injuries as he has only played in 15 games in three seasons. He only played in six this year and caught ten passes for 162 yards and a touchdown. With Hilton likely playing his final downs in Indianapolis, the status of Campbell remains the same. If he stays healthy, maybe he can be a dynamic playmaker in the offense. Unfortunately, that is a big if.
One Burning Question
Do the Colts Finally Spend in Free Agency?
In the last few seasons, Indianapolis has been at the top of the pecking order in terms of cap space heading into free agency. Surprisingly, they haven’t been active and have instead chosen to sign their players to large contracts ahead of their expiring contracts. This year, the Colts have over $56 million in cap space to play with. Mark Glowinski, Alie-Cox, Zach Pascal, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Kemoko Turay, Chris Reed, Taylor Stallworth, and Matt Pryor could all be retained and still have room to acquire more assets.
One position the Colts could take a deep look at is the receiver position. Pascal and Hilton are free agents, and Campbell hasn’t managed to stay healthy. Other than Pittman, the receiving core is a major question mark. Look for the Colts to sign one of Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, or Michael Gallup during the free-agent market.