Offseason hype means nothing in the NFL, but it’s not really bad to have it.
The Indianapolis Colts received plenty of hype from NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network on NFL Total Access on August 4. Specifically, Jeremiah praised the Colts “up the middle” on both sides of the ball.
“When you look at this team up the middle, you can put them up against anybody from offense to defense right through the guts of your team.”
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Colts More Than Just the Addition of Matt Ryan
Indianapolis improved behind center with the arrival of the 2016 MVP winner. The NFL is a quarterback driven league, so if the Colts do well, Matt Ryan will likely dominate the headlines.
But Ryan is set up for success in Indianapolis because he has a lot more offensive help than what he had the last couple years with the Atlanta Falcons. Jeremiah implied that most of that help will come from center and running back.
So, the arrival of Ryan not only solidifies quarterback for the Colts, but the direct middle of their offense.
“Everybody is going to be talking about Matt Ryan and that addition,” Jeremiah said on NFL Total Access. “But when you think about championship teams, in any sport, building up the middle, you put him in at quarterback, you’ve got Ryan Kelly, who’s one of the best centers in football. You’ve got Jonathan Taylor, the best running back in football, I don’t think anyone would argue that right now with what we saw last year.”
Taylor led the NFL with 1,811 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on his way to first-team All Pro last season. Ryan may not be his former MVP self anymore, but he’s never had the luxury of playing on an offense that features a rushing champion.
Strength of the Colts Defense
In the same NFL Total Access segment, Jeremiah noted that the Indianapolis defense is also strongest “up the middle.”
“Shaq Leonard is as good as inside linebacker in football,” he said. “You’ve got DeForest Buckner at defensive tackle [too].”
Not to dispute Jeremiah, but the biggest difference with the Colts defense and offense is the team’s defense also has a lot of playmakers on the outside.
Other than Ryan, Indianapolis’ two biggest offseason additions were edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue and cornerback Stephen Gilmore. Together, they should help the Colts post more than 33 sacks as they did last year, which was 25th in the league.
Ngakoue has recorded at least 8.0 sacks in all six of his NFL seasons. In 2021, he registered 10.0 sacks. No Colts player had more than 7.0 sacks last year.
As the former Defensive Player of the Year Award winner, Gilmore should lock down the outside. That could create even more pressure on the quarterback and takeaways.
Slot cornerback Kenny Moore II is also a playmaker for the Colts defense. He received praise this offseason as one of, if not the best slot cornerback in the NFL.
Returning to Jeremiah’s “up the middle” theme, though, rookie safety Nick Cross is emerging as a quality player. He’s looked impressive at training camp as the Colts are searching to replace recently retired Khari Willis.
The Colts defense has a chance to dominate at all levels in 2022. But overall, the team’s “up the middle” strength makes Indianapolis a contender in the AFC.