The Indianapolis Colts and head coach Shane Steichen are an even 5-5 going into their Week 11 bye. After 10 games, injuries, position switches, and plenty more, questions have risen for Indianapolis.
For this piece, I’ll dive into the five most pressing questions for the Colts that are still floating about without answers. Let’s get started with a tight end who’s been a misty figure so far through the 2023 season.
Jelani Woods showed plenty of promise on an awful team as a rookie in 2022. However, not only is he not performing up to his rookie year, he hasn’t seen the field at all in 2023.
After dealing with a hamstring injury early in training camp, Woods hasn’t been able to get back on the field. This is a huge disappointment, mostly with the promise that Steichen has shown as a head coach and play caller. Many believed former coach Frank Reich and interim coach Jeff Saturday simply misused Woods and that Steichen could change that.
Unfortunately, it’s not been able to even get started for the Steichen-Woods tandem. Joining a long list of injuries for Indianapolis this year, will Woods be able to suit up at all?
This upcoming bye week will say a lot about Woods’ status. If the Colts go into their Week 12 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers without Woods, it may be an indication that he’s not playing for the remainder of the season.
Despite his workload greatly decreasing over the last few contests since Taylor came back, he still ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yards with 617. This shows how dominant Moss was to kick off the year.
In just his first four games, Moss had 89 carries for 445 rushing yards (5.0 avg), 3 rushing TDs, and 1 receiving TD. This included an incredible performance against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 3. He'd log 30 carries for 122 rushing yards (4.1 avg) and a receiving score.
Many fans have urged Indy to re-sign Moss so he can be paired with Taylor, which would help QB Anthony Richardson develop with a strong ground game. However, given that the Colts have Evan Hull (out for the year with a torn meniscus), Moss is likely going to be the bell-cow elsewhere.
While it’s merely an opinion, it’s also a strong one that Moss will be on another team in 2024 when he hits free agency. Taylor is the long-term answer for Indianapolis and Moss will likely command too much money for Chris Ballard to justify paying a complimentary running back.
Steichen bringing in former Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants assistant offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr. to lead the Colts’ protection has aged like a fine wine up to this point in the season.
After a horrendous 2022, the Colts’ offensive line was one of the biggest question marks heading into Steichen’s inaugural season as head coach. However, through 10 games, Indy’s offensive line is playing like a top-10 group again.
Currently, they’re tied for eighth in the NFL in the least sacks allowed with 22. This has been with Gardner Minshew for most of the season, who isn’t immobile, but is nowhere near the athlete that Richardson is.
Also, the ground game is working through the line, as the Colts are ninth in the league in rushing yards per contest with a strong 118.0. When it’s all coming together the numbers show that Indy is improving. Below are the Pro Football Focus grades for overall blocking from all five starters, with snap counts included:
- LT Bernhard Raimann: 82.8 (547 snaps)
- C Ryan Kelly: 81.2 (490 snaps)
- RT Braden Smith: 79.2 (399 offensive snaps)
- LG Quenton Nelson: 63.6 (677 offensive snaps)
- RG Will Fries: 62.9 (658 offensive snaps)
Have the Colts returned to peak efficiency on the offensive line? So far, the answer is yes. However, the biggest part of this question is reserved for the final seven games to finish the season.
If the Colts and their resurging offensive line can take advantage of a soft schedule to conclude 2023, they may just sneak into the postseason, after all.
Despite the Colts boasting a strong defensive front led by DeForest Buckner and a rising linebacker corps led by Zaire Franklin, the defensive numbers are still lacking, and have lost the team games in the process this year.
The big critiques for the defensive pitfalls have been thrown at coordinator Gus Bradley. Below are some key metrics defensively and where the Colts rank in the NFL:
- Total Yards Allowed Per Game: 358.5 (26th)
- Total Passing Yards Allowed Per Game: 228.8 (t-19th)
- Total Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game: 129.7 (24th)
- Total Points Allowed Per Game: 24.8 (25th)
The Colts aren’t posting the best averages through 10 games. This has put a lot of people in a position to pose the question of Bradley’s future. While his criticism is fair, the Colts are also tied for third in the league (11) for most team interceptions, showing Kenny Moore II and a developing secondary are beginning to take away the football.
Strong safety Julian Blackmon is also having his best season yet. Perhaps in the final seven games the secondary and Bradley’s defense can perform closer to how they did against the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots.
If they can look better to finish 2023, perhaps Bradley will stick around for the near future.
This is a name, rather than a question like the previous four entries. The reason? His name alone raises so many questions.
In recent interviews, and on multiple occasions, Shaquille Leonard has voiced serious displeasure with the Colts and how they’re utilizing him. While a number of things could be on the receiving end of this, it’s likely that the message is for defensive coordinator Bradley.
For those not in the know, here's the quick version. Leonard had an uncharacteristically bad 2022 season. This was later revealed to be caused by a severe issue with Leonard’s lower back, which led to pain in his lower extremities due to the issue being nerve-related.
Later, he would have surgery and begin the long road to recovery, which ended at the beginning of the 2023 regular season. Through nine games played, Leonard has 65 tackles (34 solo) and 2 tackles for loss. The former three-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro is having issues re-discovering his efficiency. Is this due to his surgery? Could he still be getting back to 100%? Is it Bradley’s scheme? There are many questions surrounding Leonard and none seem to be having answers soon.
It seems like any way you cut it, Leonard isn’t happy and feels like he can play more, but Indy isn’t giving him the snaps. We’ll see what happens in the upcoming weeks and through the break.