As bizarre because the 2022 NFL offseason has been, I don’t assume anybody noticed the Atlanta Falcons buying and selling away Matt Ryan earlier than one other quarterback was introduced in. It felt just like the inevitable conclusion to Atlanta’s ill-advised pursuit of Deshaun Watson, and whereas that potential deal would have ensured Ryan’s exit, the commerce on Monday which despatched the winningest quarterback in Falcons’ historical past to the Colts took everybody unexpectedly.
We knew the quarterback shuffle within the NFL was going to be jarring, however this one was a heck of a twist — and it’d simply be sufficient to push Indianapolis into the AFC’s elite.
Let’s face it, this has been a wierd few years for Indy on the quarterback place. The franchise nonetheless hasn’t recovered from Andrew Luck’s shock retirement in 2019 and located itself in limbo. The Colts tried to run again to the playoffs with Philip Rivers, and to their credit score it labored, however when Rivers retired the group was at a crossroads: Tear all the pieces down and rebuild, or preserve looking for solutions?
Why Carson Wentz didn’t work
We now know this newest try failed. Carson Wentz was a wonderfully serviceable quarterback in 2021, however “serviceable” isn’t going to push a group deep within the playoffs except they’ve an astounding protection and different x-factors just like the 49ers. Wentz put up stable numbers, however the satan was within the particulars. He was barely above-average in his accuracy, didn’t stretch the sector, and whereas he didn’t get intercepted loads, he made a ton of ill-advised throws that wouldn’t delay drives the way in which the group wanted to.
Wentz would try a “dangerous cross” on nearly 19 p.c of his dropbacks, in accordance with Professional Soccer Reference’s superior passer metrics — and this got here regardless of having a mean of two.5 seconds to throw the ball. By comparability, Joe Burrow solely had 10.4 p.c of his throws labeled as a “dangerous cross,” whereas getting 2.2 seconds of time to throw on common.
Which may appear small distinction, but it surely was way more pronounced contemplating how Indianapolis favored to run its offense. A rarity within the NFL, the Colts are very a lot a throwback fashion offense — which sounds cringeworthy contemplating being “old skool” on this sense solely dates again 15 years. This can be a group that likes to run the ball, throw off play motion, and grind down the clock. Over a 3rd of Wentz’s passing yards in 2021 got here off play motion passes, and this could actually be the place a QB can eat — particularly with a again like Jonathan Taylor to pretend the handoff to. As a substitute, Wentz averaged 8.6 yards-per-attempt on these throws. Not horrible, however not adequate.
The Colts had been intimately conscious that Wentz wasn’t the man. At the least not the man who might take them on a deep playoff run. It was a foul deal that took away the Colts’ first spherical decide this season in an exceptionally deep draft, however at the least they bought some return, buying and selling him away to the Washington Commanders. For some time it appeared the rebuild would start now, a gradual march into desolation earlier than a brand new quarterback may very well be discovered.
Why Matt Ryan is totally different
Okay, so no person is complicated Ryan in 2022 with Russell Wilson in relation to promise and hype, however he matches so profoundly nicely into the Colts’ offense that this feels prefer it was meant to be.
In 2020 with Todd Gurley as his characteristic again, Ryan averaged 9.8 yards-per-attempt on play motion. Clearly Taylor is vastly extra intimidating for defenses, so this quantity ought to enhance with the brand new QB on the helm. Ryan has additionally pushed the ball downfield extra all through his profession, and is way extra cautious with the soccer. Even final season he solely tried a “dangerous cross” on 14.5 p.c of makes an attempt, and this was whereas he was needing to pressure throws to try to generate offense.
Whereas Ryan isn’t a cannon-armed quarterback who can take over a recreation at this level in his profession, he’s nonetheless higher than anybody left in the marketplace. There’s additionally a good argument to be made that Ryan is healthier proper now than Rivers was when he joined the Colts in 2020, and that bodes extraordinarily nicely contemplating Indianapolis went 11-5 that season and solely misplaced be three factors to the Payments within the Wild Card spherical.
In any occasion, Ryan is the precise QB on the proper time, and located himself in the precise place. As painful as leaving Atlanta shall be, it was the type and honest factor to place him on a fringe playoff group vs losing considered one of his last seasons within the doldrums of the NFC South solely to lose to Tom Brady.
Now, Indianapolis must be seen as one of many favorites to win its division. Outdoors of Tennessee, who’ve been stable however unspectacular with Ryan Tannehill beneath heart, there’s actually no problem within the AFC South. The window is now open.
Ryan is the proper match, however issues are removed from excellent on offense
There’s no id disaster in Indianapolis, however that doesn’t imply they will afford to neglect the necessity for one more vast receiver. Michael Pittman Jr. is a stud No. 1 who will put up large numbers with Ryan, however extra must be accomplished.
With $16M in cap house remaining, there’s room for Indy to signal at the least another top-flight receiver. The obvious reply that simply makes an excessive amount of sense is Julio Jones. Jones is at some extent the place he’ll doubtless signal a “show it” deal, simply to point out he can transition right into a veteran function. After a disastrous season in Tennessee he’ll be dying to point out the NFL he nonetheless has expertise, and there’s no higher manner that reuniting him with Ryan.
Outdoors of Jones, there’s some stable expertise left in the marketplace. Odell Beckham Jr. is but to resolve his group, and the Rams seem to have moved on by signing Allen Robinson. OBJ may very well be a very nice slot in Indy. There’s additionally Jarvis Landry, who’s trying to show himself as nicely — and to a lesser extent Will Fuller.
Any of those gamers would pair properly with Pittman Jr. and range the assault sufficient, that with Taylor as the focus of the offense there may very well be profound success.
What’s the restrict for these Colts?
I’m actually bullish on this commerce. Indianapolis was already a very good group that was slept on an excessive amount of in 2021 as a result of everybody knew Wentz wasn’t going to hold them far. Now with Ryan on the helm, I feel there’s severe potential for Indianapolis to make noise.
Naturally, that is simpler mentioned than accomplished. The Bengals took main strides in free company following their breakout season, the Chargers bought markedly higher as nicely, the Chiefs and Payments will stay forces — and the wild card within the AFC is now Denver, who’s all-in with Russell Wilson.
Nonetheless, I’m having a tough time not seeing the Colts in that firm, if the group can get some extra weapons. Frank Reich has been a great coach, the group has nice chemistry, and I feel sleeping on Indy is an enormous mistake. If the Colts make a serious run this 12 months I gained’t be stunned, and it’s superb that one commerce can try this.