A few things I'm slightly worried about, now that the Colts have signed Joe Gilbert to the head O-line coach. Gilbert previously served as the Colts's assistant O-line coach. First, this quote:
“We are extremely excited about Joe coaching our offensive line,” said Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano. “He did a great job last year. Joe brings great energy and passion to that room, and stresses fundamentals and technique. He expects a lot from his players and will continue to develop that unit into one of the best in the NFL.”
We can only hope that Coach Pagano actually saw Indy's O-line last year, but … maybe not? Andrew Luck was pressured and generally beaten to a pulp multiple times, like in the rookie's first playoff game. On an optimistic note, Luck was still able to break a couple records and Indy found a good running back, so all of the pieces are there. Hopefully the Colts can put together another good draft, because they've been epically abysmal at picking offensive linemen recently.
Everyone remember Tony Ugoh? That's where it started. Poor Tony Ugoh.
Anyhow, as it stands at the moment, the Colts have at least two, maybe three, wide receivers set for next season (if you factor in either Brazill or Avery), a very good quarterback, a good running back, and great tight ends. With a decent offensive line and some work this offseason, this offense could be just as good as the Colts's 2006 squad.
QB: Manning over Luck, but let's be honest – the soon-to-be-sophomore is pulling his weight, and Manning's stats improved significantly in year two (15 less turnovers is always a good thing). In 2006, Manning cut down his picks to 9, threw for over 30 touchdowns, and held a passer rating of 101.1. Possible next season for Luck? He'd need 8 more touchdowns, 9 fewer picks, and about 20 more yards, so … we'll see. Maybe.
RB: Joseph Addai ran for over slightly over 1000 yards, and (in total) the Colts knocked down about 1700 yards of total rushing offense. Ballard, when starting, rushed for an average of 68 yards a game, which would have put him on pace for about 1086 yards on the season … five more than Addai. With Andrew Luck's running ability, the Colts are a decent backup RB away from sporting a much better attack in '13.
#1 WR: Harrison was coming into the twilight of his career in '06, compiling his last over-1000 yard season while almost amassing 100 receptions (he finished with 95). Wayne had a great year in 2012; why can't he do the same in 2013? As long as he remains Luck's favorite target, Reggie will be set to get over 150 targets, and should come close to Harrison's 1366 mark for the same year. Keep in mind however that the Colts are using Wayne as an inside receiver quite frequently, while Harrison went downfield a lot.
#2 WR: Wayne, in 2006, had a good year – 1300+ yards, almost 90 receptions. TY Hilton is a totally different brand of receiver, compiling 860 yards on only 50 receptions this year. Hilton will have to work on his dropped passes, but because Luck is used to going downfield with him, Hilton's stats have a good chance of topping Wayne's 2006 totals (either this year or next).
TE(s): Dallas Clark was a good tight end, but his 2006 campaign resulted in only 30 catches for 367 yards. By the same token, Coby Fleener has been off and on, missing the same number of games as Clark (4) while amassing fewer catches and yards (26 and 281 respectively). Clark gets the slight advantage here, but then again …
Ben Utech actually caught more passes (37) for more yards (377) than Clark. Next year, Dwayne Allen – who looks awesome in every play he's involved in – will be trying to build on his 45 receptions for 521 yards. He's a better blocker than Utech or Clark, but most importantly, doesn't drop nearly as many passes. Remember Pittsburgh? Of course you do. Indy's tight ends are better in 2013 by default, as long as Allen stays healthy.
… and, the line.
In 2006, the Colts had perhaps the best line in football. Manning threw less than 10 picks for the first time in his career (with the lowest INT to pass ratio of his career), was sacked less than once a game (14 overall), and was flanked by two pro bowlers (Tarik Glenn and Jeff Saturday). Glenn held Manning's blind spot in check, while Jake Scott and Ryan Diem – two mainstays for the Colts at the time – solidified their Superbowl run. For a better summarization of the Colts line at the time, check out this entry I posted earlier this year.
With a good offensive line, this offense stands to be just as good as an average Manning squad – high praise given the veteran QB's consistency. More than anything else next year, the Colts need this fixed.