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New Faces, Old Opponents: Indianapolis Colts

Long live mediocrity in the AFC South. The Luck-less Colts are struggling this season as injuries continue to mount.

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts are sinking without Andrew Luck at quarterback. The native Houstonian will not be playing against his hometown team on Sunday due to a nagging shoulder injury. When an entire organization’s formula for success hinges on one player, the team and season becomes unhinged by his absence. It seems that the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts as the Colts are 2-6 midway through the 2017 season.

Luck is not the only player on the roster who has suffered an injury. First-round pick Malik Hooker is out for the season with a torn MCL and ACL. A gruesome hit late in the second quarter knocked him out for the season. His loss leaves the Colts’ secondary in a perilous position. They are the 31st in the league for Passing Yards/Game (YPG) this season, allowing 290 YPG through the air. Starting OG Jack Mewhort is on IR with another knee injury, leaving a giant hole in an already porous offensive line. Familiar face John Simon has been out with a neck injury. Rashaan Melvin has a concussion. Clayton Gathers and RBs Christine Michael and Robert Turbin are also done for the season with injuries.

Robert Mathis is a defensive consultant. He is an old face in a new place.

Fun fact: Andrew Luck put up 23 TDs his rookie year. Deshaun Watson already has 19. Remember the amount of hype and expectations Luck had after his first year? So yeah, Watson is other-worldly.

Through Free Agency:

John Simon (Texans)

Why does it always seem that our division rivals pick up our free agents and we cannot get any of theirs? Simon was an unsung hero on the Texans defense for three years. He always cleaned up when J.J. Watt overpursued or when young Jadeveon Clowney was injured or learning. Whether it wasn’t a scheme fit, salary cap, or they thought Brennan Scarlett was a suitable replacement, the Texans sadly parted ways with Simon. He had excelled early this season with 39 combined tackles and 3 sacks before getting injured against the Jacksonville Jaguars and now is week-to-week.

Jabaal Sheard (Patriots)

Sheard was a part of the Patriots’ defense that won Super Bowl 51, in which he had a half sack and two tackles. He received a three year, $25 million deal from the Colts this offseason. Through eight games, Sheard has been the most consistent and productive of Indy’s free agents this year. The OLB has racked up 25 tackles and 2.5 sacks. His calling card has been his pass-rush ability, along with quality pass defense. Sheard’s main issue is the lack of help he receives from his counterparts in the front seven. Expect Sheard to be the focus of the Texans’ blocking assignments on Sunday

Barkevious Mingo (Patriots)

Add Mingo into the book of Cleveland Browns’ first round draft mistakes. A semi-productive rookie year is all that he can account for as he is on his third team in three years. Mingo stepped into a starting role in place of injured John Simon last week and played well throughout the game. He was known as a great pass-rusher at LSU and the Colts hope he can be revitalized in Indianapolis.

Margus Hunt (Cincinnati):

Being a 6’8” freak of nature does not equate to success in football. Hailing from Estonia, the SMU product came into the NFL as a developmental prospect with some “potential” written all over him. In college, his knack for blocking extra points helped boost his draft stock. However, his talents have been mitigated by injuries and overall poor performance.

Al Woods (Tennessee):

The Colts gained a new starting NT in Woods from the Titans in order to have one consistent starter on the line. Continuity upfront for the Colts has been an issue in recent years, so adding Woods made logical sense. He is on pace to have his best season yet; he has recorded 19 combined tackles and one sack. The 6’4”, 330 lb. mammoth has been one of the better performers on a terrible defense.

Kamar Aiken (Baltimore):

After bouncing around several teams’ practice squads, Aiken finally found a home in Indianapolis. He climbed the depth chart and has taken over the WR3 role as a main target on first down. Although he does not have a touchdown this season, the Texans’ lack of depth in the secondary will give Aiken a great opportunity to improve his stat line.

Through Trade:

Jacoby Brissett (Patriots)

Brissett has stepped in while Andrew Luck has been on the PUP list. The Colts traded away former first round pick Phillip Dorsett to acquire New England’s third-string QB. Texans fans are all too familiar with Brissett and his talents. He absolutely torched us last year as a rookie when Brady was out from “Deflategate” and Jimmy Garappolo was injured. Although this year he has shown a bad tendency to hold onto the ball too long, Brissett’s athleticism can help him escape poor offensive blocking. My favorite quarterback trait Brissett possesses is size and athletic build. His 6’4” frame is hard to bring down and is helped by quick feet and solid vision. His performance last year should not be as stellar this season, purely because the men blocking for him are worse than ours.

Through the Draft:

Quincy Wilson (Florida)

The Second Team All-SEC CB is underperforming in regards to the expectations of a high second-round pick. The Colts have desperately needed help in the secondary, but with Hooker’s injury and Wilson’s overall poor performance, the Colts have one of the worst back ends in the league.

This play against the Arizona Cardinals and John Brown shows Wilson’s potential and athleticism. Getting him to consistently perform at this level is a challenged for the franchise and their patience.

Tarell Basham (Ohio)

The third straight defensive choice in the 2017 NFL Draft for the Colts was enlisted to help rush the passer. He does have one sack, but his work load has been limited due to better play by free agent pick-ups Sheard and Simon. Basham plays mostly on special teams and will be a factor in future years against the Texans.

Marlon Mack (South Florida)

In the search for a replacement for Frank Gore (which should be more urgent than it seems), the Colts selected Mack in the fourth round. He is outpacing expectations so far this season. Last week, he recorded 53% of the offensive snap counts (three more plays than Gore), but still received less rushing attempts than Gore. Mack’s job it to do the dirty work that Gore is too old to do.

Nate Hairston (Temple)

Another CB on the roster whose excellent tackling has boosted his playing time this season. The fifth-round selection comes in mostly on special teams, but he is seen in dime packages and in rotation with the other corners. His frame still needs to be built out, but his production is helping sure up a bad defense. Look for him to be the runner on punts and also helping out in dime.

Shout out to my roommate for some of these insights on the Colts. Unfortunately for him, he is a diehard Colts fan; I have been trying to take him in for counseling. I know I’ve made progress because he has both Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller on his fantasy team.

I left out some other draft picks and free agents who have not been playing or injured. The Colts could offer a much needed win after such a heartbreaking loss last week, though Jacoby Brissett’s athleticism will be difficult for our young LBs to manage. Consistent pressure and complex blitz packages will help confuse the Colts’ offensive line and throw off Brissett’s reads.