The future begins now in Indianapolis, as Andrew Luck takes over at quarterback following the Colts’ disastrous 2-14 campaign in 2011. Dubbed by many as the greatest quarterback prospect in the last 25 years, Luck will have his work cut out for him as he tries to follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest players in the history of football, Peyton Manning.
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There was some holdover from the previous regime, as the team retained the services of defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, as well as wide receiver Reggie Wayne. The Colts’ brass hopes that the mix of veteran leadership with the talented youngsters will make for a dramatic improvement in 2012.
The Colts are clearly in a rebuilding mode, as they moved on from players who were so instrumental during their great run, including Manning, Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, Pierre Garcon, Jeff Saturday, Joseph Addai and others. Longtime personnel czar Bill Polian has been replaced by new general manager Ryan Grigson, who hired Chuck Pagano as head coach, replacing Jim Caldwell.
With seven Pro Bowls to his name, Dwight Freeney is the Colts' top defensive threat.
Andrew Luck headlines what could be a fantastic rookie class as he takes the reins of a proud franchise. Luck’s Stanford teammate Coby Fleener was the first of two tight ends selected by Indy, along with Clemson’s Dwayne Allen. The Colts grabbed the speedy T.Y. Hilton from FIU late in the third round, and completed their draft with Alabama defensive tackle Josh Chapman, Mississippi State running back Vick Ballard, Ohio wideout LaVon Brazil, Georgia tackle Justin Anderson, Vanderbilt defensive end Tim Fugger and Mr. Irrelevant, Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish.
After winning just two games all of last season, the Colts will have a decent opportunity to match that total by the end of September as they face both Minnesota and Jacksonville -- teams that combined for eight wins last season -- at home in the first three weeks before a Week 4 bye.
After difficult games vs. the Packers and at the Jets, Indianapolis again faces beatable opponents in Cleveland, Tennessee, Miami and Jacksonville, alternating home and away. The schedule then takes a tougher turn as Indianapolis travels to New England before returning home to face Buffalo. Then they hit the road to the Motor City before facing division foe Tennessee again. Indy closes with a pair of games against AFC South champ Houston with a road trip to Kansas City sandwiched in between.
The Colts have deficiencies on both sides of the ball but this schedule could boost them to a significant improvement in victories over 2011.
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAYER
Andrew Luck, quarterback. The Colts replaced future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning with the rookie Luck, so he had better be the best player on that offense.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER
Dwight Freeney, defensive end. Freeney has earned seven trips to the Pro Bowl and he's clearly the best player on a suspect defense. Freeney will have to adjust to Chuck Pagano's 3-4 scheme.
WILL WIN DIVISION IF ...
Andrew Luck is everything he’s touted as being as a rookie. There also must be a huge improvement with a Colts defense that was ranked 25th overall last season.