Chris Ballard has brought a new vision to the Colts, and the early returns are exciting
“Competition,” it’s the new cliché in the Colts front office, joining ‘grit’ and ‘chopping wood.’
All teams preach competition in the organization; ideally, competition drives the players to play and develop their best, giving the team better talent top to bottom. A lot of time it’s just talking. Because big money contracts, coaches favorites, and draft picks usually have the job all but locked up.
For Chris Ballard, so far it has been more than a cliché, it’s a mindset. Every move that Ballard has made has fit that mindset. No guy has come in with a guaranteed starting spot beside possibly Johnathan Hankins.
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Darius Butler, Robert Turbin, Barkevioius Mingo, Jabaal Sheard, Sean Spence, Margus Hunt, Johnathan Hankins, and Jon Bostic all signed contracts this offseason, and all of them now have draft picks behind them in the depth chart. On top of that, picks like Quincy Wilson and Zach Banner will push incumbents, Haeg, Clark, and Melvin, for playing time and starting spots. None of these signings are locked in for past 2017, with only $4 million in guaranteed money after this season.
I haven’t even talked about how Ballard has openly said that Aiken will push Dorsett and Moncrief for playing time, and I would wager that if Aiken outplays Moncrief this year enough to supplant him as the second receiver, he will be the one the Colts sign to a long-term deal moving forward. All of these moves have stressed the theme of the competition. By the end of the season Hooker, Wilson, Basham, and Mack will all probably be starting at their respective positions. Chris Ballard has repeated that he will pick the best player available, and he did right away with players like Hooker and Basham, who play positions with plenty of depth already.
One of the more interesting notes about this offseason is how young all of these players are. Butler is the only signing who is 30 or older, and Hooker and Wilson are 21 years and younger. The Colts were the fourth oldest team last year at 26.52, this year the Colts are in the top five, and that’s with 44-year-old Adam Vinatieri.
The age of the team, especially on defense, showed, with the team being at the bottom of almost every defensive category. The team lacked a real playmaker last year, the best being Darius Butler, and it has shown on the field. Now with 7 INT-3 TD, safety Malik Hooker should breathe some life into the secondary along with trash talking corner Quincy Wilson. And don’t forget about former receiver now corner Nate Hairston who could crack the starting lineup later in the season.
A lot of new has been focused about the pass rush, but a bad secondary can throw away game(remember the last drive by Blake Bortles against Antonio Cromartie in London last year?). Now back to that pass rush, I have to admit I did not know too much about Basham before the draft, but after watching him, I am extremely impressed.
Basham may not be ready to handle all the responsibilities that an outside linebacker right away, but he can get to the ball. Basham may be a guy who when the team needs someone to get to the QB in times like 2-minute drills or when they have a big lead, they put him in and let him pin his ears back and go. He can be a player who has an impact like Johnathan Newsome did in 2014, without the off-field issues that Newsome had.
Imagine if the Colts had a player like that in the Houston games, the Jacksonville game, and the Detroit game? That’s a 12-4 record, number three seed, and playoffs.
Now, it is not the good to play the “what if” game. Since the new additions will take some time to mesh and will probably have their fair share of growing pains as well. On top of that, we don’t know how missing a large part of the offseason will affect Andrew Luck. And he may have some rust early on.
However, it is a fun time to be a Colts fan if you are like me, a young team with a fresh and exciting vision. Like I have said in previous articles, this team may be rebuilding, but with Andrew Luck at the helm, this team is always a threat to rattle off double digits wins. Luck only need a little bit of help to win games. And they may not be a Super Bowl contender right now, but they are still the AFC South team with the highest upside as long as they have Andrew Luck.