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Arizona Cardinals 2017 Opponent Preview: Are the Colts more than Andrew Luck?

A look at the Indianapolis Colts heading into the 2017 season.

Indianapolis Colts v Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals open the 2017 season with two teams who are expected to be playoff contenders, but have plenty of question marks.

Yesterday, we looked at the Detroit Lions, thanks to Jeremy Reisman of Pride of Detroit, today, we take a look at the Indianapolis Colts and what they did to get Andrew Luck some help for 2017.

Thanks to Brett Mock of Stampede Blue.

Indianapolis Colts

Notable Free Agent Additions: DT, Johnathan Hankins, WR, Kamar Aiken, OLB Jabaal Sheard, OLB John Simon, ILB Jon Bostic, ILB Sean Spence, C/G Brian Schwenke, DT Al Woods, DE Margus Hunt, OLB Barkevious Mingo, P Jeff Locke

Notable Free Agent Departures: P Pat McAfee (RETIRED), S Mike Adams, OLB Robert Mathis (RETIRED), DT Zach Kerr, CB Patrick Robinson

Trades: TE Dwayne Allen

Draft picks expected to contribute as rookies:

Malik Hooker, S, Round 1: With the departure of veteran Mike Adams and the need to add speed, athletic ability, and youth to the back-end of the Colts defense, Hooker will be relied upon heavily. Health-permitting Hooker should take nearly every defensive snap in the coming season and his progress to the NFL game will have a major impact on Ballard’s new focus on improving the defense’s opportunism.

Quincy Wilson, CB, Round 2: The Colts have been trying to find an outside corner to compliment Vontae Davis for some time. Patrick Robinson did not blow anyone away, even when he was healthy. Greg Toler was not as bad as some want to make him out to be but he was not the strong compliment that Colts would like to have to have the strong physical cover-corners they need to play the type of aggressive defensive style that they’ve hoped to model after the Baltimore Ravens defenses. The hope is that Quincy Wilson brings the physical presence and press cover skillset that will develop quickly throughout the season and finally fill that spot.

Tarrell Basham, OLB, Round 3: The Colts were one of the worst teams in the NFL at getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and it didn’t just start last year. Former GM Ryan Grigons relied upon the aging Robert Mathis who struggled to stay completely healthy in his last few years along with another aging veteran in Trent Cole as primary contributors to the pass rush. The results were not inspiring and new GM Chris Ballard has replaced those departing players with Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, and third round rookie Tarrell Baham. The team will need Basham to make an impact as a rookie to continue the effort to fix the pass rush a success – he doesn’t need to lead the team but you still need a meaningful impact.

Marlon Mack, RB, Round 4: It is difficult to say just how many carries will be handed to Marlon Mack as a rookie but what is clear is that the Colts have been looking for a player with his talents. Last year they brought in undrafted rookie Josh Ferguson and they didn’t rest with just Mack this season either – adding undrafted rookie Dalton Crossan. Like Mack, Crossan is considered a potential X-fact due to his ability to line up at running back and wide receiver, they both have good hands, and they will likely be able to fulfill a role that short-yardage specialist Robert Turbin and primary back Frank Gore cannot. Expect Mack to get meaningful carries each game, particularly if the Colts are able to take advantage of their “weak schedule” and work with some leads.

Biggest offseason addition: Johnathan Hankins, DT.

When Head Coach Chuck Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson arrived in 2012, the Colts moved on from their long-standing reliance on the base 4-3 Tampa 2 defense that was in place during Peyton Manning’s career in Indianapolis. With Pagano came the team motto to “build the monster,” which focused primarily on a defensive revival that would hopefully develop into a Baltimore Ravens aggressive defensive style.

Frankly, that hasn’t happened. The move to a 3-4 defense occurred immediately but it has taken years to put together pieces that properly fit the vision of the new Colts coaching staff. Truth be told, the defense still isn’t there but one of the primary pieces that makes a 3-4 defense work is a stout defensive line -- and particularly a dominant nose tackle. Johnathan Hankins is the best promise under the new regime to fit that bill and if he performs as Giants fans seem to think he can at nose, he will have a big impact on the improvement of the Colts defense.

Biggest storyline heading into training camp:

While opinions vary as to how serious Andrew Luck’s shoulder injury is as he continues to recover from off-season surgery, there can be no more important single impact on the outlook of the Colts season than a fully healthy quarterback. If Luck is completely healthy throughout the entire season, and if the offensive line helps him stay that way, it will go a long way in helping the Colts regain their spot at the top of the AFC South and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. If he is not fully recovered, all bets are off.

Under-the-radar storyline heading into training camp:

While Colts fans may already know, the competition for the third wide receiver position might include a name that many outside the team won’t recognize. Second-year receiver Chester Rogers, who was an undrafted free agent last season out of Grambling State, could very well shock much of NFL nation and leap over former first round pick Phillip Dorsett and free agent acquisition Kamar Aiken as the third most utilized wide receiver in Indianapolis.

Rogers contributed to the Colts in the return game a season ago and even made key contributions on offense when the team’s second receiver, Donte Moncrief, missed time due to injury. While he was not as explosive during the regular season as he was in preseason competition, it became clear late in the season that he was establishing a rapport with Luck and had started to gain his trust.

Reports out of summer camp and OTAs suggest that Rogers has picked up where he left off and has been getting positive attention from his coaches. This is a story worth monitoring.

Notable injuries heading into training camp:

Andrew Luck (shoulder), Clayton Geathers (neck), Kendall Langford (knee), Malik Hooker (hip/groin), Hassan Ridgeway (shoulder)