The Indianapolis Colts avoided their ninth straight opening day loss to begin the 2022 season. But with a 20-20 tie to the Houston Texans, who were predicted to be one of the worst NFL teams this season, that’s hardly a consolation prize.
Indianapolis made a plethora of mistakes in the season opener. The offense, defense and special teams all contributed to the team’s list of blunders. Several question marks heading into the 2022 offseason remain concerns for the Colts after Week 1.
It’s only one game, and it’s important not to overreact. But here are 3 of Indianapolis’ biggest concerns moving ahead into Week 2 and the rest of the 2022 season.
The Colts Pass Catchers Beyond Pittman, Hines
There were positives for the Indianapolis wide receivers in Week 1. Ashton Dulin, Parris Campbell and Mike Strachan all had multiple catches and recorded at least 36 receiving yards. Colts tight ends Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson combined for 48 receiving yards.
But the box score looks better than it really was in part because the Colts had 92 offensive snaps. Quarterback Matt Ryan attempted 50 passes, which allowed Indianapolis pass catchers more opportunities to pad their stats.
In key situations, the Colts receivers struggled. Rookie Alec Pierce dropped a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. If he secures the score, the complexion of the game is much different. The Colts would have been ahead 10-0 in the first half. Instead, they eventually fell behind 20-3 (on the drive where Pierce dropped a touchdown, the Colts failed to score on fourth-and-goal).
Dulin failed to make a play on a long pass attempt in the third quarter and didn’t secure the ball on a pass in the end zone towards the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Those are game-changing plays.
Many questioned the Colts going into the season without a proven receiver beside Michael Pittman Jr, who led Indianapolis with 121 receiving yards in Week 1. Those questions aren’t going away after the missed opportunities from the Indianapolis receivers versus the Texans.
Running back Nyheim Hines was second for the Colts in catches (6) and yards (50) in Week 1.
Colts Release Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship
The Colts waived Blankenship on September 13. But that hardly means the team’s concerns at kicker are finished.
To replace Blankenship, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported Indianapolis signed kickers Chase McLaughlin and Lucas Havrisik. The Colts plan to elevate whichever kicker performs best during the week in practice to the active roster for Week 2.
Colts insider Joel A. Erickson reported, in total, Indianapolis invited in 7 kickers for a tryout.
The fact the Colts looked at 7 kickers — all of whom weren’t good enough to have a job to begin the season, by the way — and elected to not sign any of them to the active roster doesn’t instill much confidence.
Having McLaughlin and Havrisik compete in practice allows the Colts to get additional looks at each kicker. But it also means kicker will be a question mark no matter who performs better in practice.
It’s hard to foresee kicker not being a concern for the Colts the entire season.
Colts’ Lack of Depth Along the Defensive Line
There were a few different areas that could have taken No. 3 on this list. After a quiet first 3 quarters from the defensive line, the unit finally made some plays in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Most notably, edge rusher Kwity Paye recorded 2 sacks in overtime to help force a Texans punt.
But the concern at defensive line for the Colts is depth. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner played 85.71% of the team’s defensive snaps, and edge Yannick Ngakoue lined up for 81.43% of Indianapolis’ snaps on defense.
It’s unlikely Buckner and Ngakoue will be able to play that much every week. Buckner hasn’t played more than 80% of his team’s defensive snaps for an entire season since his rookie year in 2016. Ngakoue has never lined up for more than 80% of his team’s defensive snaps in a season.
They likely played that much in Week 1 because the defense was trying to ignite a comeback, and Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley wanted his best players on the field.
But that also says something about the depth of the Indianapolis defensive front. If the defensive line doesn’t rotate more in future weeks, the Colts are going to feature some tired defensive players up front late in games.