INDIANAPOLIS — The positive reviews continue pouring in.
ESPN recently tasked its NFL Nation reporters with evaluating the offseason for each team, giving the moves they liked (and didn't like) and what they believe will be the news to follow once training camp gets underway about a month from now.
And, following the trend of other previous league media experts and pundits, the Indianapolis Colts should be commended for the work they've done re-building their roster heading into the 2017 season.
The Colts received a grade of "B " from Mike Wells, who covers the team for ESPN, tying them with four other teams for the second-best grade handed out this offseason (the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers each earned "A-" grades, respectively).
You can read Wells' entire evaluation by clicking here, but here's a sampling of exactly what he believes Indianapolis was able to do in the past six-plus months to put the pieces back together after a second straight 8-8 season in which it did not qualify for postseason play:*Offseason goals/grade: Getting younger, more athletic and more physical on defense was what Chris Ballard was striving for when he took over for general manager Ryan Grigson over the winter. Ballard cleaned house on the Colts' aging, slow defense by releasing or not re-signing unproductive players such as Art Jones, Trent Cole and Patrick Robinson. The Colts signed or drafted 13 defensive players during the offseason and they could end up having as many as seven new starters on that unit next season. They aren't expected to suddenly become one of the top defenses in the NFL, but a jump from being 30th in the league last season to being in the middle of pack, to go with what is expected to be one of the better offenses in the league, should be good enough to get the Colts back to the playoffs. Grade: B *
Of the (many) moves Wells liked that the Colts made this offseason, the signing of free agent defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins stood out the most:
"Hankins, the Colts hope, will be the anchor on the defensive line that they've been missing as teams have run up the middle against them (25th in yards allowed in 2016) and they've lacked quarterback pressure in that area in years past. Hankins was part of a New York Giants defensive line that tied for the third-fewest yards allowed per game (88.6) last season."
A move (or non-move) not particularly up to Wells' standards, however, was the fact the team still might have some questions at pass rusher, he writes:
"The Colts ended last season with pass-rush questions and you can say they'll head into training camp with the same questions after they bypassed signing the top players at the position on the free-agent market or during the draft."
Instead, the Colts elected to sign free agents Jabaal Sheard and John Simon, and took Tarrell Basham — the 2016 Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year — in the third round, hoping to build a younger nucleus of sack artists.
And what about "the biggest question still to be answered in training camp?"
"Andrew Luck, Andrew Luck and Andrew Luck. The franchise quarterback did not take part in any of the team's offseason workouts — as expected — following right shoulder surgery in January. What also caused some warning flags is that Luck, who originally injured his shoulder in Week 3 of the 2015 season, had yet to start throwing at the conclusion of the team's offseason workouts on June 15."
The obvious hope is that Luck will be able to make his return to the field by training camp late next month; but, as team Owner Jim Irsay indicated recently, the longer Luck is unable to practice, the more concern will grow about his availability for the team's Week 1 game on the road against the Los Angeles Rams.
The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.