Well, the Carson Wentz experience was fun while it lasted, right? After suffering a Week 17 loss to the worst team in 2022, the Jacksonville Jaguars, which subsequently eliminated the Indianapolis Colts from playoff contention, the Colts wanted to get rid of any evidence of that game happening, and they did that by trading Wentz to the Washington Commanders in March.
With Wentz’s departure, the Colts needed a new signal-caller, and luckily for them one became available shortly after.
After the Atlanta Falcons made it clear that they were looking to explore other options at quarterback, it was clear that Matt Ryan’s 14-year tenure with the team would come to an end. This opened up the possibility for a trade and the Colts pounced on the opportunity, giving up a third-round pick in order to land the former MVP.
Ryan’s production took a dip last season, mainly due to a new offense and only having wide receiver Calvin Ridley for five games. For the remaining 12 games, rookie tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receiver Russell Gage were Ryan’s top options behind an offensive line that was ranked 27th in the league.
With a more run-heavy offense, an offensive line that was ranked 12th last year and a top-10 defense, Ryan’s in an ideal situation for this stage of his career.
Where’s the defense at?
In Ryan’s 14 years with the Falcons, he played with a top-10 defense on three occasions, the last one coming in 2017. In the years Ryan played with a top-10 defense, the Falcons won at least 10 games and made it to the NFC divisional round twice and the NFC Championship once.
In the past four seasons, the Colts have had a top-10 defense in three of those years.
Having a top-10 defense is going to allow Ryan to play with even more ease because he won’t have to worry about going tit-for-tat with the other offense, which was the main issue in Atlanta.
The off-season additions of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will be an added boost to the outside and interior of the Colts’ defense, which in turn, should create better field positioning for Ryan and the rest of the offense.
A different kind of offense
Last season, the Colts ran the football a total of 499 times compared to the Falcons’ 393. Besides the 2008 Falcons, which featured running back Michael Turner and Ryan as rookie, it looks like this may be the most run-heavy team he’s played for in his career.
And at age 37, that might be what Ryan needs. That isn’t to say he’s not a more than capable quarterback because we saw last year that he still has what it takes to be at least an average starter in the NFL. But running back Jonathan Taylor will still get a lot of the offensive load, which will take some pressure off of Ryan.
Ryan still threw for almost 4,000 yards last year and with a better receiving corps, that number could go up. His No.1 target, Michael Pittman Jr., is coming off a season where he caught for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his young career.
The Colts added to their wide receiver depth in the draft by selecting Alec Pierce from Cincinnati and all signs point to him being a redzone nightmare for an opponent’s defense.
Where do the Colts stand in the AFC South?
Even with the Tennessee Titans winning the AFC South division by three games last year, going into next season I think the Colts have to be the favorites to sit on top of the division. The return of running back Derrick Henry will undoubtedly create problems for the opposition, but Henry just turned 28 and has accumulated a lot of mileage in the last three seasons, so it remains to be seen how he will hold up.
Now would it shock me if Henry made me look asinine for saying that? Not in the slightest. That’s usually the way things tend to swing.
However, the addition of Ryan will make the Colts better on and off the field. Ryan is heralded as one of the best locker room guys in the league and his presence will make the Colts better as an overall team.