Colts’ Biggest Surprise, Disappointment, Wild Card of 2023 Season

Colts’ Biggest Surprise, Disappointment, Wild Card of 2023 Season

The Indianapolis Colts have had an up-and-down 2023 season, with plenty of surprises and disappointments to complement it.

The Indianapolis Colts get to rest for Week 11 as they go into their bye with an even 5-5 record. The biggest positive is that head coach Shane Steichen and his team are riding a two-game win streak with a crucial period to relax, recuperate, and prepare for the upcoming seven-game stretch to finish the year.

With a 10-game sample size to use, it’s warranted to give the biggest surprise, disappointment, and wild card that the Colts have had up to this point in their season. Let’s begin with the positive side of things.

Biggest Surprise: WR Josh Downs

Looking back now at the 2023 NFL Draft, there are likely teams that wish they would have selected North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs when they had the chance.

Downs is currently sitting with some solid numbers for the year for Indianapolis. Below are both his overall statistics and where he places among the receiving ranks on the Colts (14 eligible):

Catches: 43 (2nd)

Targets: 60 (2nd)

Receiving Yards: 523 (2nd)

Touchdowns: 2 (T-2nd)

First Downs: 22 (2nd)

Outside of the clear number one receiver for the Colts, Michael Pittman Jr., Downs is the go-to pass-catcher and is being relied upon right out of the gate to make plays in Steichen’s offense. Also, when factoring in that Downs has pulled in 71.6% of his targets, it showcases the incredible skills that he possesses.

At only 22 years old, look for Downs to blossom in Steichen’s offense, but especially when quarterback Anthony Richardson returns to the field. I think it’s safe to say that nobody expected Downs to produce so quickly and without sitting behind veteran slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie to begin his pro career.

Well, that might not be true, as legendary Colts player and current wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne had the highest praise of Downs, likely helping lead to general manager Chris Ballard taking the chance on him in the third round (79th overall).

After showing moments of serious abilities in 2022 despite a hellacious QB rotation, second-year receiver Alec Pierce has fallen off a cliff from a production standpoint.

In 2022, Pierce had 41 catches for 593 yards (14.5 avg.) and 2 TDs. While these aren’t superhuman numbers, it’s not bad at all given that a washed Matt Ryan, an over-the-hill Nick Foles, and a third-string QB Sam Ehlinger were all throwing him passes in his rookie season.

Many assumed the strong-armed Richardson would unlock Pierce’s receiving skills. However, even when Richardson was on the field, it didn’t amplify anything for Pierce.

Since Richardson’s injury, backup Gardner Minshew isn’t finding Pierce anywhere on the field. Now, this could be Minshew’s lack of downfield awareness at times. However, Pierce is also not getting open consistently with separation or route running, often being used for blocking and or a decoy downfield.

Pierce has just 18 catches on 33 targets for 264 yards and no touchdowns this year.

While he’s been great at blocking, he’s not doing much of anything as a receiver. We’ll see if the last seven games can provide a turnaround for Pierce or if he’ll continue to be underwhelming in the passing offense.

Biggest Wild Card: DE Dayo Odeyingbo

Third-year Colts defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo now leads the team in sacks (6.0) for 2023. This came after a Herculean performance against the New England Patriots in Germany, where Odeyingbo would grab 3.0 sacks, all in the first half.

Odeyingbo is beginning to surface as a serious threat in pass-rushing. He’s also getting better at halting opposing rushing offenses.

What makes Odeyingbo a wild card here is his snap count, which is fourth on the team among defensive linemen (385). He’s also fourth on the squad in overall pressures applied with 20. Despite not seeing ample snap counts, he’s still putting up big plays defensively.

With his recent performances and momentum, will Odeyingbo start to see the field more? Could he outright start over Kwity Paye or Samson Ebukam at some point? It’s all up in the air.

However, what’s certain is that Odeyingbo is making a case to be more than just a rotational piece on the Colts’ defensive front. He’s showcasing starter potential. We’ll have to see if this type of high-level play can continue from the Vanderbilt product.

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