INDIANAPOLIS — On Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, the Indianapolis Colts went into their preseason opener fresh off an appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
Three years later, when the Colts open up their 2018 preseason schedule Aug. 9 against the Seattle Seahawks, at least 90 percent of the Indianapolis 90-man roster from that 2015 preseason opener is no longer with the team.
As of today, just nine players — kicker Adam Vinatieri, quarterback Andrew Luck, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, safety Clayton Geathers, tackle/guard Denzelle Good, tackle Anthony Castonzo, tackle/guard Jack Mewhort, tight end Jack Doyle and tight end Erik Swoope — remain.
Of those nine players, just six — Vinatieri, Luck, Hilton, Castonzo, Mewhort and Doyle — played in that 2014 AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots.
And while a quick turnover can be commonplace among teams in the the National Football League, where the year-to-year parity, especially of late, is so apparent, the Colts have undoubtedly been one of the more active organizations in recent seasons, as they work on getting back on track to once again becoming an annual contender making deep playoff runs.
With a new general manager, Chris Ballard, brought on board last year, and now a brand new coaching staff, led by first-year head coach Frank Reich, getting started just a few months ago, the shift to a younger roster in such a short amount of time has been very apparent.
The changes accelerated even more this offseason, with new schemes on both sides of the ball requiring some hard roster decisions to be made — oh, and not to mention, a Colts modern-era record 11-player NFL Draft class coming on board.
All that being said, the Colts haven’t taken their roster rebuild lightly. While Ballard and the Colts’ personnel staff always have their eyes on the future, Reich was brought in win ballgames and get the Colts back to the postseason as soon as possible.
With six Super Bowl appearances under his belt as both an NFL quarterback and coach — winning Super Bowl LII as the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator back in February — Reich knows a thing or two about what it takes to get to that championship level.
And he’s confident that “with a few breaks, staying healthy, a few more players … we can get it done” — and sooner than some may believe.
“I get there’s certain positions in the organization where there are different perspectives. And I think it’s mature to be able to say something can be of both hands,” Reich told reporters in March at the NFL Annual Meetings in Orlando. “But as a coach, I’m not both hands. I’m not being paid to be both hands. Other guys are being paid to see the rebuilding and have the patience. I’m not being paid for that. There’s not one ounce of me being patient. There’s not one ounce of me that thinks we are in a rebuilding project. Every ounce of me feels that we are winning this year.”
And, by the way, the Colts’ desire to get younger isn’t all talk. The Colts’ 90-man roster in that 2015 preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles had an average age of 27.4 years old.
The current average age of the Colts’ 90-man roster heading into training camp, just three years later? 24.8 years old.
That’s a 2.6-year difference that means a lot to Ballard as he oversees the replenishing of talent in Indianapolis.
Now comes the fun part, as the team meets again July 25 at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind., to start figuring out who will ultimately rise up and make the 53-man roster heading into training camp.
“You know, we’re going to have a young team. But it’s been fun to watch — it’s fun to be a part of building a team,” Ballard told Colts.com’s Bob Lamey earlier this month. “And we know just from a talent standpoint we needed to add talent. We think we did that through the draft.
“We’re throwing a lot at ‘em,” Ballard continued. “I’m pleased with what I’ve seen so far, but we have a long way to go. You know, this game’s played in pads, and until we get the pads on, that’s when the real evaluation starts.”