AFC South: T.Y. Hilton

Colts vs. Steelers preview

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
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The streaking Indianapolis Colts will try to win their sixth game in a row on Sunday when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers. Slowing down quarterback Andrew Luck will be the Steelers' priority, and they have to find a way to minimize his impact or score enough to keep pace with the 5-2 Colts. Beating Indianapolis would give Pittsburgh a 5-3 record at the halfway point of the season as well as a signature win.

ESPN Colts reporter Mike Wells and Steelers reporter Scott Brown take a closer look at the 4:25 p.m. ET game at Heinz Field.

Brown: Mike, the Steelers’ passing game has been torched by the likes of Mike Glennon and Brian Hoyer this season. The Steelers' pass rush has been average, and they are suspect in the secondary. That is not a good formula for stopping Luck. What is the best way to contain him, if that is possible?

Wells: Blitzing Luck is the best way, but that appears to be a problem for the Steelers. Luck has done an exceptional job of spreading the ball around this season. He is not just focusing on receivers Reggie Wayne or T.Y. Hilton. Luck had back-to-back games where he completed passes to nine different receivers this season. His biggest problem, though, is interceptions: He is tied for third in the league in that category with seven. The Colts have survived Luck’s miscues so far, but they won’t be as fortunate once they get to the playoffs and face teams that can make them pay for their mistakes.

The Steelers are a tough team to figure out. One week they get blown out by Cleveland, and then they come back and use an incredible performance in the second quarter to beat Houston. What is Pittsburgh’s identity?

Brown: Mike, I can’t figure out this team quarter to quarter, much less game to game. The defense certainly isn’t the one that people are accustomed to seeing. There is no intimidation factor, no swagger, and the Steelers are really just trying to get by defensively as they retool a unit that is in transition. The Steelers have the potential to forge a personality as a dynamic offensive team, as they have the NFL’s leading receiver in Antonio Brown, the second-leading rusher in Le'Veon Bell and, of course, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers have moved the ball this season, but they have too often bogged down in the red zone. Maybe scoring three touchdowns in the last three minutes of the second quarter Monday night against the Texans will serve as a springboard for the offense. It had better put up a lot of points against the Colts if the Steelers are to beat one of the NFL’s hottest teams.

I normally don’t associate the Colts with the kind of defense they played in absolutely stifling the Bengals on Sunday. Is Indianapolis' defense underrated?

Wells: It is very underrated. I didn’t think this defense had a chance once linebacker Robert Mathis, last season’s sack leader, was lost for the season with a torn Achilles. The unit appeared to be headed for a rough season after it had only one sack over the first two games. But defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has taken a hold-nothing-back approach with his defense. With two cornerbacks who can blanket receivers, Greg Toler and Vontae Davis, Manusky is loading the box and constantly blitzing. That is why the Colts have 20 sacks and nine turnovers during their five-game winning streak. They have also held their past four opponents to 4-of-41 on third down. People might not have respected the Colts' defense before, but now teams have to take notice.

The Steelers have a history of being a good defensive team. They are 15th in the league in yards allowed a game. Are they on the decline defensively?

Brown: That is a great question. The Steelers have to hope it doesn’t get any worse defensively, or they could be in trouble. They have some promising young players to build around in rookie linebacker Ryan Shazier and rookie defensive end Stephon Tuitt. But the Steelers have serious questions at outside linebacker, especially if 2013 first-round pick Jarvis Jones doesn’t develop into a pass-rushing force. Cornerback is also an issue, a position at which the organization has not drafted well or neglected, depending on your vantage point. Cortez Allen is the Steelers’ best young cornerback, and he recently lost his starting job to Brice McCain. Allen has the physical ability to develop into a No. 1 cornerback, but the 2011 fourth-round pick has to become more consistent. It could get worse before it gets better on defense, given some of the holes that the Steelers have tried to spackle over by moves such as coaxing veteran outside linebacker James Harrison out of retirement.

The Colts seem like they have something going with Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw at running back. Richardson seems to be playing much better than he did last season. Is part of the reason that Bradshaw has eased the pressure on Richardson to carry the Colts' ground game?

Wells: Richardson might never live up to the expectations as being the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, but he is running better than he did last season, when he eventually was demoted. He is running with more confidence and making better decisions. Having Bradshaw has been a blessing for Richardson because he doesn’t have the burden of carrying the load in the backfield. Neither player has a problem sharing the work, and it helps that Bradshaw is familiar with sharing the load in the backfield. He went through it while with the New York Giants.

Brown looks like he could surpass the 1,499 receiving yards he had last season. What makes him so successful, and what type of challenges will he present to the Colts’ secondary?

Brown: I thought Brown would have a really tough time matching his production in 2013, when the fifth-year veteran set a Steelers record for receiving yards in a season. He has been even better this season and has scored five touchdowns after reaching the end zone eight times in 2013. Brown is an excellent route-runner, makes tough catches in traffic and is dazzling after the catch. The Colts will have to limit the damage Brown does after the catch, and I would imagine they will do everything they can to take him out of the game. But no team has succeeded in doing that, even though a reliable complement opposite Brown has yet to emerge.

The Film Don't Lie: Texans

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
11:00
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HOUSTON -- A weekly examination of what the Houston Texans must fix.

To better their chances of topping the Pittsburgh Steelers next week on "Monday Night Football," the Houston Texans will need to regain control of opponents' explosive plays. They were particularly problematic last week against the Indianapolis Colts, mostly because of receiver T.Y. Hilton.

Bomb after bomb went Hilton's way. He beat at least three different Texans defensive backs in one-on-one coverage and sometimes created space for himself to the point where there were no Texans around him. He caught passes of 49, 40, 37 and 33 yards and was part of why the Texans now lead the NFL in allowing plays that gain 30-plus yards. The Texans have allowed 12 -- 11 passes and one run.

Pittsburgh ranks second in the league in plays that go 30 yards or longer with 11 (the Texans have 10), eight of them passes and three rushes.

"We've just got to take coaching and do what we're supposed to do, play the call and just do it right and not try to help other people out would be good," Texans' cornerback A.J. Bouye said.

I asked if it was difficult to have that discipline, and he said it wasn't. It just takes trusting the calls and trusting your teammates. Another solution safety Kendrick Lewis offered on Thursday was better communication on the back end of the defense.
Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST

This only changes if an injury occurs.
T.Y. HiltonBrian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable plays in Colts' history dating back to when they moved to Indianapolis from Baltimore in 1984. In the next two days we'll feature: Peyton Manning's 21-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley for Manning's 49th TD of the season, which broke Dan Marino's single-season TD record in 2004, and cornerback Marlin Jackson's interception of New England quarterback Tom Brady to seal the Colts' 18-point comeback in the AFC Championship Game in January 2007.

Score: Colts 45, Chiefs 44
Date: January 4, 2014 Site: Lucas Oil Stadium

Indianapolis Colts second-year quarterback Andrew Luck was playing in his first home playoff game, against a team he had beaten two weeks earlier.

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But the Colts didn't know what hit them.

Seven-point deficit. Ten-point deficit. Seventeen-point deficit. Twenty-one point deficit. The deficit grew as large as 28 points, and many of the Colts fans at sold-out Lucas Oil Stadium sat stone-faced, not believing what they were watching on the field.

Luck wasn't helping the situation. He looked like a rookie quarterback taking his first snaps. His third interception of the game gave the Chiefs a short field to work with, which they used to increase their lead to 38-10 just 81 seconds into the second half.

“[Luck] kept telling us, even at 38-10, 'We're going to win this game,'" offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo said.

Luck wasn't worried about the double-digit deficit. He proved six prior times in his young career that he could lead the Colts back from a double-digit deficit.

Luck -- pun intended -- was on the Colts' side. Trailing 41-31 early in the fourth quarter, Colts running back Donald Brown fumbled a handoff and the ball bounced off of center Samson Satele's helmet. But Luck picked up the ball and ran in from 5 yards out to cut Kansas City's lead to 41-38.

Indianapolis completed the improbable comeback when Luck stepped up in the pocket and found receiver T.Y. Hilton streaking downfield for a 64-yard touchdown with less than five minutes left in the game.

The 28-point comeback was the second-largest in NFL playoff history. Long snapper Matt Overton called it an, “Instant ESPN Classic,” after the game.

“[Luck's] not giving you a bunch of bulls--- when he says that stuff,” Castonzo said. “At no point does he not believe we're not going to win. He's led us on a lot of comebacks for a reason. The guy does not freak out.”

INDIANAPOLIS -- So money over marijuana, LaVon Brazill?

That is what Brazill told reporters in training camp in July 2013 after he revealed he was suspended for the first four games of last season for smoking marijuana.

It turns out that was just talk by the Brazill. Now he won’t be making any of the $570,000 he was scheduled to make in 2014 because taking substances not allowed by the NFL is more important.

Brazill
Brazill
The NFL suspended Brazill for at least the 2014 season for again violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. Don’t be surprised if his two-touchdown performance against New England in the playoffs turns out to be the final time you see Brazill in an Indianapolis Colts uniform.

Brazill’s suspension does make things easier for the Colts coaching staff when it comes to picking the final receiver spots on the roster.

He was expected to be one of the primary options with Da'Rick Rogers and Griff Whalen to compete for possibly up to two receiving spots on the roster depending on how many the Colts decide to keep.

Now Rogers and Whalen have the inside track if the Colts go with six receivers on the roster. The Colts are set with the first four receivers: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is headed into his third season. He has played in three playoff games -- winning one -- and has had two offensive coordinators in his first two seasons.

Luck
Luck also has 22 regular-season victories, an arm, mobility and the will the win. That is why ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando, with the help of anonymous league insiders Insider, views the Colts’ franchise player as a top-five quarterback in the league.

Luck is ranked higher than fellow quarterbacks like Manning. No, not that Manning, but Eli Manning, Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger.

The quarterbacks are broken up into four tiers. Luck is in Tier 1 with all future Hall of Fame quarterbacks. He joins Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers in that top tier. Impressive company for a third-year player.

Here is what Sando wrote about Luck:

"Luck doesn't have the track record of the other Tier 1 QBs, and there was a clear gap in the voting between him and the top four. But people in the league love him almost unconditionally, and 14 of the 26 voters insisted upon putting him in the top tier (each of the top four received 25 of 26 Tier 1 votes).

The evaluators think Luck has carried a subpar roster to a 22-10 record without much help. They see no limitations. They have zero doubt about his long-term stardom and felt strongly enough to give him 14 first-tier votes even while acknowledging he is below the Big Four at this early stage. Every other QB fell into the tier in which he received the most votes, and so shall Luck, even if his Tier 1 designation feels a bit premature."

The Colts' offensive line was atrocious Luck’s rookie season and only a little better last season. Luck didn’t have a reliable receiver to turn to outside of T.Y. Hilton after Reggie Wayne went down with a torn ACL in Week 7 last season. The running game? That was a problem, too.

Projecting Colts starters

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
3:30
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INDIANAPOLIS -- A lot can happen for the Indianapolis Colts between now and Week 1 against the Denver Broncos. Injured players become completely healthy. Healthy players get injured. Projected starters get beat out by a teammate.

But that hasn't stopped fans from asking about what the Colts' depth chart will look like this season. It's July and players, coaches and front office officials are taking one last vacation before reporting for the start of training camp in Anderson, Indiana, on July 23. So for the next two days I'll take a shot at who I think the starters will be.

We'll start with the offense today. We'll do the defense on Tuesday.

Quarterback: Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck

Comment: This is self-explanatory. Go ahead and keep Luck's name there as long as he's healthy.

Running back: Trent Richardson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Stanley Havili

Comment: As I mentioned last week when I did position battles, Richardson will be given the first shot at starting because of his talent and the last thing the Colts want to show is that their trade for him last September was a failure.

Receiver: Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks

Comments: The pressure isn't on Wayne to be the Reggie Wayne of a few years ago because he has help with Hilton and Nicks at the position, but Wayne is out to prove that he can still produce at the age 35 and after tearing his ACL.

Tight end: Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen

Comment: Allen is a better all-around tight end than Fleener, but he missed all but one game last season because of a hip injury.

Offensive line: (LT) Anthony Castonzo, (LG) Jack Mewhort, (C) Khaled Holmes, (RG) Hugh Thornton, (RT) Gosder Cherilus

Comment: The only position really up in the air at the moment is left guard. Mewhort currently has the edge because Donald Thomas didn't take part in offseason workouts and he moved ahead of Lance Louis during organized team activities (OTAs).
Here's Part I of the Colts Mailbag. Part II will run Sunday Mike Wells: Delano Howell appeared to be the frontrunner -- and he still may be -- the entire offseason until the Colts signed Adams to take Corey Lynch's spot on the roster. The Colts could have easily gone out and signed a young player, but they didn't. They signed a proven veteran, one who was on the roster of a team -- Denver -- that played in the Super Bowl last season. Howell lacks starting experience. The Colts aren't handing the starting spot to Mike Adams, but don't be surprised if he ends up starting alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Wells: Second-round pick Jack Mewhort. The offensive lineman is capable of playing all five positions on the line. A positive for Mewhort is that he moved ahead of Lance Louis and was working with the first unit by the end of offseason workouts. The competition for that starting spot will intensify in training camp once Donald Thomas starts practicing. It'll be Louis and Thomas as the two primary players pushing Mewhort for that starting spot. Wells: The Colts have about $13.7 million in salary cap space left. Colts GM Ryan Grigson said a number of times earlier in the offseason that they didn't plan to use all their salary-cap space because they'll have to pay players like Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton at some point down road. Wells: That's strictly up to Daniel Adongo. Practice well and play well in the preseason and he'll have a chance to get on the field in a game. The opportunity will definitely be there early in the season when linebacker Robert Mathis is serving his four-game suspension. Playing time at Mathis' position is far from set. It's up to Adongo to prove he deserves to get snaps. Wells: It's way, way too early to tell if Ahmad Bradshaw can stay healthy. Teams don't wear pads during offseason workouts, and even then, Bradshaw joined the quarterbacks and fellow running back Trent Richardson by wearing a red non-contact jersey. Bradshaw's health was the only thing that stopped him from being the Colts' starting running back last season. Bradshaw and Richardson were the only two running backs of three expected to push for the starting spot to take part in offseason workouts. Vick Ballard, the third, is still working his way back from a torn ACL.
INDIANAPOLIS -- There were some players missing on the practice field during the final day of the Indianapolis Colts' mandatory three-day minicamp.

Quarterback Andrew Luck wasn't taking snaps. Receiver T.Y. Hilton wasn't catching passes. Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was walking around the facility in street clothes.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano rewarded the veteran players by allowing them to miss the final day of minicamp.

That means the Colts' rookie class got plenty of snaps and quarterback Chandler Harnish, who has spent his first two seasons on the practice squad, was the one throwing the ball around the field.

"Met with the guys and just felt like as a staff we've had such great participation, great work, made great strides," Pagano said. "Everybody got better. We got better on all three phases. Felt like we wanted to get the young guys some work so we let the vets go and kept first and second-year guys and give them another opportunity to get the work that they need and to come out here to get better."

Pagano, like most coaches do, ended the final minicamp practice early when kicker Cody Parkey nailed a field goal and was immediately mobbed by his teammates.

The Colts won't be back together as a team until they report for training camp at Anderson University (Ind.) on July 23.

"Pleased with the offseason program, pleased with the minicamp and the direction we're headed and the guys are excited to get away," Pagano said. "We talked about being smart, doing the right thing, making great choices and staying in the playbook, working at their craft day-in and day-out. So with that, we're happy where we're at."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thursday was Day 3 of the Indianapolis Colts' organized team activities. It was also the first day that the media had access to the players.

Here's a quick roll call of players who didn't take part: Receiver T.Y. Hilton, running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard, fullback Stanley Havili, linebacker Cam Johnson, guard Donald Thomas, tight end Erik Swoope and offensive lineman Thomas Austin.

Those players are likely dealing with some kind of injury.

Receivers Reggie Wayne and Donte Moncrief and safety LaRon Landry weren't in attendance Thursday.

Wayne isn't scheduled to take part in OTAs because he's still working his way back from the torn ACL. Moncrief is in Los Angeles at the NFLPA's Rookie Premiere event. Landry is absent because he prefers to work out on his own in the offseason. He did the same thing last offseason.

It's not mandatory for players to attend the OTAs, but it's a little surprising Landry decided not attend. You obviously don't have to worry about him being in shape because he lives in the weight room during the offseason and during the season. It's more about developing continuity at safety with Delano Howell, the frontrunner for the starting spot. There's a significant difference going from Antoine Bethea, a proven veteran, to Howell, who has limited starting experience. And it's not like Landry had an impressive first season with the Colts.

But again, OTAs aren't mandatory for the players. It would just be good if Landry attended as the Colts try to improve a defense that finished 2oth overall last season.
INDIANAPOLIS – As much as some may not want to believe it, the clock is ticking on what should end up being a Hall-of-Fame career for Indianapolis Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.

That's why the Colts have to start preparing for life after Wayne once he finally decides to stop making impressive one-handed grabs.

The Colts took a step in doing that when they selected Mississippi receiver Donte Moncrief in the third round.

"We have to always (prepare for not having Wayne), but at the same time he was one of the highest-rated guys on our board," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "He’s a guy that’s done a lot at a high level and he’s still young. He’s still got some things to learn."

Moncrief, who left school early, had 59 catches for 938 yards and six touchdowns last season at Mississippi.

The 20-year-old Moncrief doesn’t have the pressure to contribute right away because the Colts are set at the top three receiver spots with Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks.

"The Colts offense, they spread the ball around," Moncrief said. "The locker room will be great. They have a quarterback in Andrew Luck that you can trust."

The Colts are intrigued by Moncrief’s size -- 6-2, 220 pounds -- and his desire to be an all-around receiver.

"Football is his life and we’re anxious to get him here and see his big body moving around because he can separate," Grigson said. "We just felt like what was almost a fourth-round pick was tremendous value at that spot."
INDIANAPOLIS - Will Reggie Wayne not participating in minicamp impact the Indianapolis Colts' chemistry?

Bush
Wayne
That was one of the questions that came up after the receiver said he probably won't take part in the team's minicamp.

No.

Wayne tore his ACL in Week 7 last season. Holding him out until the start of training camp at the end of July is the right thing for the Colts to do.

Wayne is a veteran, he doesn't need to work on his timing with Luck. He's simply excited to be out there with his teammates again even if he'll be limited on what he does.

The fact that 35-year-old Wayne is ahead of schedule is another indication that there's little doubt he'll be able to fully recover from the injury.

Of course there will be questions about how comfortable Wayne will be running sharp routes and making hard plants on his surgically repaired knee.

Don't get me wrong, Wayne wants to be out there during minicamp. He told me he's always been "kind of hard headed," but waiting until training camp is the best thing for him to do.

"It's only natural to think about it, but that's why I'm going to slowly work my way back out there," Wayne said by phone earlier this week.

Wayne has high expectations for the offense now that they've added Hakeem Nicks to join him, T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin knows all too well about receiver Hakeem Nicks.

Nicks, the new Indianapolis Colts receiver, spent his first five years in the NFL playing for Coughlin. He had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons and helped the Giants win a Super Bowl.

Nicks
“I think two years ago, he was one of the best receivers in the NFL,” Coughlin said.

Last season was a different story for Nicks. He had 56 catches for 896 yards, but didn’t catch a touchdown pass for the first time in his NFL career.

I spoke to ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano when Nicks signed this month, and Graziano said the coaches were frustrated with Nicks because he couldn’t make plays in the passing game.

“He’s had some nicks, he’s had some things he’s had to deal with,” Coughlin said. “The production isn’t what it should’ve been last year. We wish Hakeem success, nothing but the best for him. Perhaps this is what he needed, the change he needed -- the reality of our business.”

Nicks signed a one-year deal with the Colts to play alongside Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton at receiver, catch passes from quarterback Andrew Luck and hopefully have a bounce-back season.

“What is there not to like about the guy? He’s a big guy,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Very, very athletic, experienced guy, played at a high level, won championships. He brings that with him. He’ll do a great job against press coverage, and teams we’ll have to face. All of them are built to stop the big wide outs. He brings a lot to the table.”

And if Nicks is able to re-establish himself in Indianapolis?

“They’ll have one heck of a football team,” Coughlin said.
Andrew LuckElsa/Getty ImagesWith an improved running game, the Colts won't have to rely on Andrew Luck to save each game.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- It was one of those moments that could easily send chills up your spine or cause you to break out in goose bumps as the words came out of Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano's mouth early Tuesday morning, as the sun was still making its way up in Central Florida.

The Colts have a quarterback -- a pretty a darn good one, I must say -- who has consistently proven in just two short seasons that he has everything it takes to lead a team that has dealt with on- and off-the-field adversity.

Arm? Check.

Mobility? A hidden talent of his.

Mental toughness? There's no question he has that.

The results prove it. Twenty-two regular-season victories. An AFC South division title. A playoff victory.

Enter Pagano.

"From a mindset standpoint, it all starts with running the ball and stopping the run," the coach said in between sips of his coffee. "We do have a great quarterback, with a great arm and he has weapons to throw to. Certainly we understand that and we know that."

Pagano also added that they'll continue to emphasize running the ball, "until they run me out of there."

The Colts will run the ball, especially with three running backs -- Trent Richardson, Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw -- who have all been starters at some point in their careers. But don't be mistaken about what Pagano said, Luck will still drop back in the pocket and fling the ball downfield more than he hands it off. That's their best chance to win.

There are legitimate question marks about the Colts' top three running backs next season.

Ballard is coming off a torn ACL. Bradshaw needs to prove he can stay healthy. Richardson, well, simply put, he's still a work in progress after being traded to Indianapolis early last season.

The Colts tried to run the ball in 2013. But the thought of them having anything close to a ground game came to a halt in Week 3 when Bradshaw's season ended because of a neck injury. Richardson and Donald Brown simply didn't get the job done -- partially because of offensive line problems and partially because of a lack of production from the two running backs.

That left Luck using his arm to bail the Colts out of deficits. They threw the ball 582 times compared to 409 rush attempts last season.

The NFL is a copycat league. What the Colts and 27 other teams saw was the final four teams playing -- New England, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco -- all mixing in the run to go with their talented quarterbacks.

The Colts experienced it firsthand, as the Patriots ran for 234 yards against them in their AFC divisional playoff matchup -- a 43-22 loss.

A successful run game is what Indianapolis wants. Not Luck strapping on his cape to lead the Colts back from constant double-digit holes.

Also, Luck could have his best arsenal of weapons to throw to in his young career with the addition of receiver Hakeem Nicks to go with fellow receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Coby Fleener and the hopeful healthy return of receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dwayne Allen. Throw in a consistent running game -- cross your fingers the offensive line can block better -- and it's the type of offense that will allow the Colts to be successful.

"We're not going to try to do things to make us lose," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "...All that matters at the end of the day is that you make the playoffs and if you can win in the playoffs. We don't want to make it all on Andrew. We want to give him help with our stable of running backs and [with] our offensive line creating those lanes to open up the play-action pass, so it takes the pressure off of him."

Colts' performance-based pay

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Nine Indianapolis Colts players received performance-based incentives for more than $100,000 each during the 2013 season. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman and offensive line Hugh Thornton both earned more than $218,000.

The incentives are based off playing time and a player’s base salary. Veteran backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck received only $827.05 out of the $3.46 million which teams are allotted. The money usually benefits minimum-salaried free-agent signings and players on their first NFL contracts who end up playing a lot.

Here’s a breakdown of the top-10 performance bonuses on the Colts.

LB Jerrell Freeman $248,772.35

OL Hugh Thornton $218,167.75

WR T.Y. Hilton $162,808.35

FB Stanley Havili $132,945.28

TE Jack Doyle $128,223.40

DE Ricardo Mathews $118,490.40

LB Cam Johnson $109,230.89

WR Griff Whalen $101,056.36

LB Kelvin Sheppard $100,435.98

LB Mario Harvey $92,307.29

Here’s a breakdown of the bottom-10 performance bonuses on the roster.

WR Reggie Wayne $6,651.65

TE Dwayne Allen $5,711.86

C Khaled Holmes $4,695.54

TE Justice Cunningham $3,913.60

OL Donald Thomas $3,384.86

K Adam Vinatieri $2,738.82

RB Robert Hughes $2,618.30

RB Kerwynn Williams $2,494.16

OL Thomas Austin $1,816.86

QB Matt Hasselbeck $827.05

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