The Indianapolis Colts open 2020 NFL training camp on July 28 in Indianapolis. Here’s a closer look at a few storylines:
Will the Colts get 2019 Philip Rivers or 2018 Rivers, when he was playing at an MVP level?
Rivers’ résumé screams that he’s an upgrade over Jacoby Brissett, who faltered as a starter in 2019.
But it’s not about career stats. It’s more about, "What have you done lately?" And that’s where the questions surround Rivers, whom the Colts signed to a one-year, $25 million contract in March.
Rivers struggled so much last season -- 23 turnovers -- that the Chargers parted ways with him last winter after 16 seasons. The Colts don’t need Rivers to throw for nearly 4,800 yards, as he did in 2015, or for 34 touchdowns, as he did in 2008. They simply need him to run the offense and take shots down the field when the opportunity presents itself.
Rivers will be playing behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines and has a top-10 rushing attack at his disposal. So the weight of the offense isn’t on his right shoulder. Rivers is at a disadvantage because he didn’t have any on-the-field work with his new teammates during offseason workouts, but he is familiar with coach Frank Reich’s offense, which he ran from 2013-15, when the two were together with the Chargers.
Did the Colts make a mistake in giving up a first-round pick to get DeForest Buckner instead of selecting their next franchise QB?
No. The Colts were picking too far down in the draft -- No. 13 -- to be in the mix for Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert, the three quarterbacks selected in the top 10. They could have stayed put and selected a receiver such as CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy because of their need at that position.
They didn’t have to, though, because of the depth at receiver in the draft. They used their first pick -- No. 34 overall -- to select USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who had 101 receptions for 1,275 yards last season, while also adding another young player in Buckner, who is 26 and had 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons, to go with linebacker Darius Leonard to anchor the Colts defense. So it was a win-win for the Colts.
Should the pressure be on GM Chris Ballard’s job if the Colts miss the playoffs for the third time in four years?
Yes. Ballard made his vision very clear when he was hired in 2017. He wanted a roster that was put together through the draft while re-signing their own players and finding several young players who would be part of their core. And, of course, win games along the way.
This is where the pressure comes in. The Colts have missed the playoffs in two of Ballard's first three seasons. Both of those years were without quarterback Andrew Luck (who was injured in 2017 and suddenly retired just before the 2019 season). But remember, Ballard stood behind the podium on that winter day in 2017 and said it’s not all about one player. It's about the team. So that’s why he doesn’t get a complete free pass when it comes to not having Luck in those two seasons. The Colts have their best team under Ballard -- on paper at least -- after the additions of Buckner and Rivers, giving them an opportunity to get back to the playoffs even with no on-the-field activities during the offseason because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Will the lack of adding depth to the offensive line catch up to a unit that started all 16 games last season?
Not if the Colts can repeat the same kind of success that they had in 2019. But what are the odds of that happening for the second straight season? The Colts, the only team to have the same starting offensive line every game last season, will have the same group back this season after left tackle Anthony Castonzo held off retirement for at least one more year to re-sign with the team. The issue the Colts will face is if any of their starters go down with an injury; they lack depth up front after key backups Joe Haeg (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Josh Andrews (New York Jets) signed elsewhere during the offseason. The Colts selected only one offensive lineman -- Danny Pinter -- in the draft.