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Once former quarterback Peyton Manning was shelved due to a serious neck injury that refused to recover before the 2011 regular season even kicked off, the Indianapolis Colts season was realistically over. The team that had been the class of the AFCo South for over a decade went winless over its first 13 games last year without Manning, and was embarrassingly fortunate to finish with a 2-14 final.
At 36 years of age, no one was truly sure how much Manning had remaining in the tank, and the worst part was that Indianapolis had to decide whether or not they would give him a $28 million bonus for the upcoming season. However, if there was ever a perfect time to have such a troublesome dilemma in Indianapolis, it was last year. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was predicted to forego his senior year of college and enter the 2012 NFL Draft. Many do not hesitate to claim that he is one of the most – if not the most – polished quarterbacking prospects of all time.
After months of nationwide speculation, the Colts finally cut ties with Manning, cutting him on March 7, confirming the widespread belief that they would draft Luck and build toward the future.
But owner Jim Irsay felt that a change in quarterback would not suffice. He went ahead and changed the entire regime by firing both head coach Jim Caldwell and general manager Bill Polian. Chuck Pagano, who served as the Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator last season after three previous seasons as their secondary coach, will replace Caldwell in his first season as an NFL head coach. Ryan Grigson, a former Philadelphia Eagles scout, was hired as the new general manager.
With the additions came several subtractions. Veterans such as tight end Dallas Clark, running back Joseph Addai, center Jeff Saturday, wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Anthony Gonzales, and linebacker Gary Brackett have all gone elsewhere. Long-time wide receiver Reggie Wayne, in a surprise to many, did however re-sign with Indianapolis.
Additions that are expected to have an immediate impact include former Tennessee Titans wide receiver Donnie Avery, former Ravens defensive lineman Corey Redding, and former Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis. Draft picks other than Luck who are believed to step in and receive a significant amount of playing time include his former teammate, who was drafted in the second round, tight end Coby Fleener, tight end out of Clemson, Dwayne Allen (third round) and former FIU wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (third round).
Expectations aren’t too high in Indy as far as the win total is concerned following the period of extreme transition, but after finishing 28th in the league in both scoring offense and defense last season at 15.2 and 26.9 points per game, respectively, the Colts main hope is to simply improve and grow as a team that could be serious AFC contenders for years to come.
Image Courtesy of Indianapolis Colts