The Colts are still feeling the effects of Andrew Luck’s retirement announcement. As the Browns may find out this season, Jacoby Brissett is not the ideal starter for an NFL team. Philip Rivers played well enough for one year but was done after his only season in Indianapolis. Carson Wentz was a disaster when you consider that the Colts gave up two draft picks to get him.
Indianapolis made up for the initial Wentz mistake by dealing him away to Washington. Now they are about to try another Luck replacement in 2022, but the expectations should be more optimistic this time around – specifically by the looks of how sportsbooks started adjusting The Colts betting odds. Matt Ryan is 37 years old, and may no longer be one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but he can still be a very effective offensive leader. The Colts only had to deal a third-round draft pick for a definite upgrade from Wentz, who will likely disappoint in Washington.
Does Matt Ryan Have Enough Left To Boost the Colts Offense?
The Former MVP is Not Quite Done Yet
Ryan had only 20 TD passes last season and finished with under 4,000 yards passing for the first time in over a decade. But his receiving corps was depleted and paled in comparison to the pass-catching crews he worked with in previous seasons. Ryan is still fully capable of stabilizing the Colts’ passing game, even if it is for just the next two seasons or so. He is under contract through the 2023 campaign.
The former MVP will certainly benefit from working with the best runner in the league. But to have a chance to win the division and assure themselves of a playoff berth, the Colts cannot depend on Jonathan Taylor to shoulder most of the offensive load, as he did last year. Ryan allows Indianapolis to exhibit more offensive balance.
Over the past four seasons, Ryan dealt with mediocrity at running back as Devonta Freeman declined and was then gone from Atlanta. He should benefit from working with a standout running back, and there won’t be the pressure on him to carry the offense as was the case in many of his seasons with the Falcons. The backfield pairing of Taylor and Ryan should prove to be a very positive one for the Colts in 2022.
Finding a franchise quarterback in the NFL is very hard, as evidenced by the package Denver was willing to send to Seattle in the trade for Russell Wilson. At some point shortly, the Colts are going to have to identify their quarterback of the future. For now, Ryan can still improve the overall offensive outlook and can further elevate the team with his proven leadership qualities.
Pittman Needs His Pass-Catching Partners To Step Up
We can expect Ryan to instantly demonstrate a strong connection with Michael Pittman Jr., who could boost his performance level even more after his breakthrough season in 2021. Pittman should draw a lot of defensive attention as Ryan’s clear No. 1 wide receiver, but Ryan has a lot of experience working with standout wide receivers who are heavily covered by opposing secondaries.
What has yet to be determined is who else will come forward to be a reliable playmaker on offense outside of Taylor and Pittman. This is a contract season for Parris Campbell, and likely the final year in which he can attempt to salvage his career in Indianapolis. He only has 34 receptions and two TDs in three seasons, so it’s hard to have much confidence in him despite his opportunity to work with another new quarterback.
Campbell’s struggles to stay healthy led the Colts to draft Alec Pierce in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and it appears he has a good chance to beat out the veteran for the honor of being the most preferred target outside of Pittman. Pierce may be one of the more underrated wide receivers to come out of this year’s draft class. He is a big target with downfield gears. He can combine with Pittman to give Ryan a pair of sizable wideouts that can challenge opposing pass defenses.
You can also look for Ryan to get Nyheim Hines more involved again, as he has shown in the past he will utilize a quality pass-catching back if available. Ryan worked very well with Freeman, who was a true weapon as a receiving RB in his prime. At tight end, Mo Alie-Cox has never been a major pass-catching threat, and Kyler Granson has not shown us much yet. Jelani Woods is promising, but rookie tight ends do face a significant learning curve early in their NFL careers. The Colts’ offense is not going to overwhelm anyone, but it should be much more efficient and balanced than it was in 2021 when the passing game ranked 26th in the NFL. We should not be entertaining any true hopes of an AFC Championship run this season, but with Ryan at the helm this year, the Colts have a good shot of winning their first AFC South title since 2014.