LAST YEAR: Philip River’s arrival and an improved defense helped the Colts overcome an early injury rash and they returned to the playoffs for second time in coach Frank Reich’s three-year tenure. Indianapolis played a solid game in the wild-card round but lost at Buffalo.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Carson Wentz, LT Eric Fisher, OT Sam Tevi, DE Kwity Paye, DL Dayo Odeyingbo, TE Kylen Granson, OT Julien Davenport, DT Antwaun Woods, DE Isaac Rochell, LB Malik Jefferson.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Philip Rivers, LT Anthony Castonzo, LB Anthony Walker, DL Denico Autry, DE Justin Houston, TE Trey Burton, S Malik Hooker, OL Le’Raven Clark, QB Jacoby Brissett, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.
CAMP NEEDS: Wentz is slated to become Indy’s fourth opening-day starter in four seasons and with only two weeks of on-field work during the offseason, Reich will use July and August to help Wentz revive his career. The biggest offensive question: Who starts at left tackle following Castonzo’s retirement? Fisher may not play until October as he recovers from a torn left Achilles tendon. Indy also needs defensive replacements after losing last season’s top two pass rushers, Autry and Houston, and middle linebacker Anthony Walker in free agency. Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus believes Paye, Indy’s first-round draft pick, can fill one void and hopes second-round pick Odeyingbo can fill the other when he returns from a torn Achilles tendon.
KEY CAMP COMPETITIONS: With Fisher expected to be out until October, the Colts may need Tevi or Davenport to protect Wentz’s blind side. The other big question is who replaces Walker as the defensive signal caller. Veteran Zaire Franklin could get the first crack at middle linebacker. Fans also want to see how new offensive coordinator Marcus Brady uses Marlon Mack and last year’s breakout star, Jonathan Taylor, at running back.
EXPECTATIONS: GM Chris Ballard believes Reich’s reunion with Wentz will help the once-promising franchise quarterback reach his full potential — behind one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. If Wentz returns to his pre-2020 form, the Colts should be a viable playoff team. And if the defense continues making strides this season, the Colts could emerge as the AFC’s strongest contender to unseat two-time defending conference champion Kansas City.
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