INDIANAPOLIS – A new era of Colts football will begin on Sunday afternoon.
After an offseason where Jim Irsay gave his head coach, general manager and franchise quarterback significant contracts, the Owner envisions a run of winning football starting back up in Indianapolis.
On Tuesday afternoon, Irsay spoke at the "Pete and Alice Dye Championship" hosted at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, an event that raised thousands for Autism Speaks and The First Tee of Indiana.
Irsay was his usual candid self in delving deep into the outlook for the 2016 Colts.
Irsay's 2016 Outlook
Irsay: "Time will tell. I'm optimistic, personally. I think we have the makings of a third golden era, if you will. There was Unitas. There was Peyton. And now it's Andrew's time. I believe we can get to the top of Mount Everest and plant that Colts flag."
- This offseason, Irsay fortified the foundation of his team for the next handful of seasons. Names under contract for at least two more years include the likes of Pagano, Grigson, Luck, Hilton, Kelly, Castonzo, Davis, Moncrief, Dorsett, Allen, Mewhort…Outside expectations are not very high for the Colts (compared to last season), but Irsay is hopeful the core is in place to get back to being a routine team playing meaningful games in January.
Irsay: "We are laser focused on getting ready for Sunday against Detroit."
- We've heard from Irsay and Chuck Pagano several times in recent weeks just how important a fast start is to this team. Pagano spoke in Anderson how this team has started 0-2 the last two seasons and was adamant in stressing the need to get out of the gate quick. It's kind of surprising, given the virtually unmatched regular season success the Colts have had this century, that they've won just one of their past six season openers.
Irsay: "This is a team that has to score 24-plus Sunday. The offense has to carry us while the injured, young defense holds on and tries to find some playmakers and some health."
- The defense could be without four starters on Sunday, and possibly another major contributor in Darius Butler. With a virtually healthy starting offense going into Week One, this is why Irsay laid it out like he did on Tuesday. The offense is much, much healthier than the defense. That's why Andrew Luck and company need to carry the load early in 2016.
Irsay: "We have to go out and reprove ourselves. People are wondering, 'Who are they?' Are they a 7-9 team that needs more draft picks and more maturation? Or is this a football team that has the right mix of some veterans and some young players that can go out and win the division and continue to get better?"
- The Colts have dominated the AFC South ever since it's creation back in 2002. But Irsay knows that with Houston winning the division last season, and each team in the South thinking they now have their franchise quarterbacks, people are questioning if the Colts will continue to find themselves atop their division.
Irsay: "My expectation is that we have to offensively be really productive, and that means the offensive line has to come together."
- In looking ahead to 2016 as a whole, Irsay believes if the line can do its job, that will allow Andrew Luck to be in the MVP-talk come season's end. Irsay said he is "concerned" about the line, but believes things can be "stabilized" within that group. He knows defenses will come after the Colts early, until they can show consistency in protecting the quarterback.
Irsay's Personnel Thoughts
- Irsay said Jack Mewhort will not play on Sunday. Mewhort is ahead of schedule though and it looks like his return could come very soon. Mewhort was originally scheduled to be out two-to-four weeks after getting hurt on Aug. 27 against the Eagles.
- Irsay also said top line reserve Joe Haeg could play Sunday, if really necessary, but probably isn't going to be ready for Week One. Without Mewhort and Haeg, look for Jon Harrison to get the starting nod at left guard.
- Irsay did say that the Colts would love to involve undrafted skill players WR-Chester Rogers and RB-Josh Ferguson in the offensive game plan. It will be interesting to see if the Colts can incorporate those guys with other established weapons ahead of them on the depth chart.
- Irsay knows the void the Colts currently have in Vontae Davis. Even though the staff really likes Patrick Robinson, no Davis changes things on defense. Irsay did say the Colts are excited about the future at safety with T.J. Green and Clayton Geathers. Finding a pass rush is something that Irsay said the Colts are still looking for going into 2016.
- According to Irsay, new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino calls Sio Moore one of the most, if not the most, athletic linebacker he's been around in his years of coaching. Moore is currently on the sideline after injuring his hamstring in the preseason opener. Moore is expected to start next to D'Qwell Jackson this season.