5 Indianapolis Colts Players Poised to Become Stars in 2013
Indianapolis Colts: 5 Players Poised for Stardom in 2013 NFL Season
After a 2-14 2011 season, expectations were very tempered for the Indianapolis Colts as they entered last year with their No. 1 overall pick under center. Indy had obvious areas of weakness all over their roster the year prior so it seemed justified for fans to have reservations when it came to optimism regarding the team.
Heading into 2013, that attitude has taken a complete 180 as Andrew Luck has this team geared for big things after he turned that 2-14 squad into an 11-5 playoff squad a year ago. His tangible and intangible skill-set quickly vaulted the Colts from the doldrums to one of the most talked about teams in the NFL, but there’s still plenty of work to do if they want to take the next step.
There is no shortage of young talent on the Indianapolis roster now as general manager Ryan Grigson has completely overhauled the personnel in just two offseasons. Chuck Pagano will be around for a full year on the sidelines after Bruce Arians had to lead the team for the bulk of the year due to Pagano’s battle with Leukemia, and that can only further increase the team’s chances of improving where they need it most: Defense.
While the defense figures to be heavily featured in this list of five players poised to become stars in Indy this coming season, the offense will make some appearances as well. The makeover has been fast in The Circle City, and rightfully so given the affiliation with the Indy 500. These five players will become household names for the Colts in 2013 and further accelerate their chances for the big stage this season.
5. Erik Walden, OLB
What makes Erik Walden unique as a 3-4 outside linebacker is his ability to drop into coverage. Although outside linebackers are often asked to tackle that task in a 3-4 alignment, not many of them are capable of excelling in that role. Most at the position are strictly pass rushers, but Walden’s versatility will allow the Colts to mix up their looks and confuse opponents all year long. Look for him to improve upon the three sacks and two interceptions he had last season with the Green Bay Packers.
4. Dwayne Allen, TE
Coby Fleener got all the pub coming into last season given his familiarity with Andrew Luck from their Stanford days, but it was Dwayne Allen that emerged as the top tight end due to Fleener’s durability concerns. Allen is currently listed above Fleener as the top guy at the position heading into the year, and I expect it to stay that way. He recorded at least one grab in every game but Week 1 a year ago, and this season his numbers should continue to increase.
3. Greg Toler, CB
This free agent signing certainly went under the radar, but Greg Toler is a good tackler who can make an impact on a defense. He has already been doing so in the preseason by forcing turnovers left and right. Veteran safety Antoine Bethea said of Toler: “I tell him all the time, he has the tools to be a great cornerback and I just keep telling him you got to believe in it. Last week he had an interception, this week, forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He’s doing some great things for us.” Those great things are going to translate into Toler becoming a nuisance for every team on the Colts’ schedule this season. The defense desperately needs to improve on the 15 turnovers it forced last season, and Toler will be a big part of that effort.
2. Ricky Jean-Francois, DE
Boy he looks mad, doesn’t he? Buried on the San Francisco 49ers for his first three NFL seasons, Ricky Jean-Francois has reason to be. Fortunately he’s poised to flourish under coach Pagano in the Colts’ 3-4 scheme. Some may be concerned that he has never played more than 27 percent of a team’s defensive snaps throughout the course of a season, but Jean-Francois will prove the doubters wrong this year. His numbers may not be eye-popping, but his on-field impact will be staggering as opponents are forced to double-team him regularly to keep him out of their backfield. Look for some moderate statistics from this free agent addition, but the coaches will laud him week after week as he makes the players around him better.
1. T.Y. Hilton, WR
Reggie Wayne isn’t going to last forever, and there’s no doubt the Colts need to find his replacement post-haste. That search may already be over as T.Y. Hilton has emerged as one of Luck’s top targets during the preseason. His rookie year wasn’t too shabby with 50 receptions for 861 yards and seven touchdowns, but he is ready to take the next step in 2013. Look for Hilton to break the 1,000-yard barrier and find the end zone double-digit times this season to truly establish himself as a star.