The Colts arrive in Arlington having already clinched their AFC North crown, punching their ticket to the playoffs for the 14th time in the last 16 years. While much of that credit is attributed to the run of Peyton Manning, the last three seasons under Chuck Pagano and young Andrew Luck have been most impressive. Luck, the first overall pick of the 2012 draft, started from the moment he arrived and has guided the Colts to a 32-14 record over those three years.
But, there is much more about this Colts squad to consider, and watching them on tape over the last several weeks has brought a few more pieces to mind:
LT Anthony Castonzo
The Colts are certainly a team that does not place a very high premium on running the ball and therefore the quality of their pass protection is required to be excellent. Castonzo, the first round pick in 2011, has developed nicely as protection for Luck’s blindside. His movement skills with his feet and body position generally have him easily squared up on his man and he seldom is caught leaning in the wrong direction. His blitz recognition has come a long way since his rookie year and is now a rock at left tackle for the Colts. No tackle in the league has played more snaps this year than Castonzo, yet he has yielded only two sacks – both of the “coverage sack” variety. The Colts will give up pressure, but seldom from the blind-side.
CB Vontae Davis
According to Pro Football Focus, no cornerback in the NFL has a lower opposing QB-rating when targeted than Vontae Davis. Known for years as “Vernon’s little brother”, Vontae benefited from a change of scenery trade at the end of training camp in 2012 when Miami gave up on him and sent him to the Colts for a 2nd round pick. Last March he signed a 4-year, $39 million deal to stay in Indy, and has blossomed into a very difficult to attack defender. Davis has great speed combined with physicality to go up and defend the run. He can cover the best receiver on the field and he is always looking to attack an errant pass, even if it means gambling a bit. His recovery is off the charts and can cover in both zone and man coverages. He has not surrendered a touchdown all season long, and is certainly not short of confidence to make plays out on his island. He is very impressive to study.
TE Coby Fleener and TE Dwayne Allen
Luck was drafted #1 overall in 2012, but the Colts then spent enormous resources building the offense around him by spending their next 3 picks on two tight ends and a slot receiver. Those three picks turned out to be 2nd round TE Coby Fleener, 3rd round TE Dwayne Allen, and then traded their 4th and 5th rounders to get back into the 3rd round and to take WR T.Y. Hilton. All four of the picks have performed at high levels and the multiple tight end attack allows for the team to demonstrate balance and vertical threats from inside out, often sending the two tight-ends on corner routes simultaneously. The versatility of the two tight ends, complimenting Hilton and Reggie Wayne and stressing safeties weekly, has been a massive weapon as their league-leading statistics would indicate.