INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano routinely refers to the NFL season as a marathon.
So after eight weeks of football, the Colts have reached mile marker 13.1.
Andrew Luck has led the early pace for the AFC South leaders and the quarterback was asked, reluctantly, to put on his teacher hat in looking back on the first half of the season.
"I hesitate to give letter grades. I think the progress report is 5-3. That's probably the simplest, probably the only way to measure a team. There are no moral victories. I'm not an accredited teacher. I don't know a grading system, but 5-3 would be my grade," the NFL's leading passer in the first half of 2014 said.
Here's a look at some of the improvements the Colts have made since last season and areas to improve on in the second half of the season (it should be noted that the special teams has climbed to one of the league's most consistent units):
-Under second year offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, the Colts offense has flourished in 2014. In virtually every single statistical category, the Colts have seen a rise, some much more significant than others.
-The Colts have made a major jump in total offense by more than 100 yards per game, thanks to possessing the ball around five minutes more per game.
-Third-down conversions were a focus this offseason and the Colts are currently sixth in the NFL at 44.9 percent (last year they finished the year 15th at 37.6 percent).
-Two areas to watch in the second half for the Colts offense is how efficient they are in the red zone and the ability to project the football. The Colts are still in the middle of the pack of red zone efficiency (another area of focus this offseason). Giveaways are certainly a key during the second half of the season. Last year, the Colts led the NFL in committing just 14 turnovers. In 2014, they've already had 15 giveaways, a number that does not correlate to their 5-3 record.
"I think we've done a better job of understanding the basic concept of the offense this year," Coby Fleener says. "Something that I think we need to get better at is the new stuff we put in each week. We need to have a better understanding."
-Defensively, there are some varied stats for the Colts (mostly good) since last season.
-The Colts are allowing 25 yards less per game on the ground and find themselves currently 9th in rushing yards per game (last year they were 26th).
-The passing defense is allowing 21 yards more per game with obviously a large chunk of that coming in last week's loss to the Steelers.
-The sack numbers for the Colts are pretty similar from last year to 2014 and will definitely be something to watch down the stretch.
-Third-down percentage is the most dramatic area where the defense has ascended. The Colts are No. 1 in the NFL in allowing just 31.1 percent of conversions. Last year, the Colts ranked 15th at 37.6 percent on third down.
-An area the Colts defense would like to improve on in the final two months of the year comes in the red zone where the unit currently ranks 29th in the NFL.
"We did some good things, especially this month…getting off on third down, limiting our plays and getting the ball back to our offense," cornerback Darius Butler says. "Those are good things that we've got to build on and start doing again."