Colts first-year GM Chris Ballard has gutted the roster to make the Colts younger, faster, and more physical. His trade turning former GM Ryan Grigson’s first-round bust WR Phillip Dorsett into starting QB Jacoby Brissett (pictured) was brilliant (if a week too late for the start of the season) and has breathed life into an offense waiting for Andrew Luck to get healthy. In only his first two starts and with limited practice time, Brissett has shown that he has all the tools to be a successful starter in the NFL.
Despite the recent rhetoric, the Colts are Andrew Luck’s team and will be as long as he is able to play. I really enjoy watching Brissett play and believe the Colts have a very valuable future asset if they choose to move him to a franchise in which he can start. For now, he has given the Colts hope and the breathing room to ensure that Luck is fully healthy before returning. Here is how Brissett’s first two career starts compare to Peyton Manning and Luck:
Manning (1998) – He completed 42-70 (60%) passes for 490 yards with 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in losses against Miami and at New England. His first career TD pass was a 6-yarder to Marvin Harrison on a day Dan Marino led the Dolphins to a win. Adam Vinatieri kicked 3 field goals to lead the Patriots to a win in Manning’s second game.
Luck (2012) – He was 43-76 (57%) for 533 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 picks at the Bears (loss) and against the Vikings (win). His first TD pass went to Donnie Avery for 4 yards against the Bears. He also rushed 6 times for 30 yards in those games.
Brissett (2017) – He completed 37-61 (61%) passes for 475 yards and 1 touchdown and 1 interception against the Cardinals (OT loss) and Browns (win). He also rushed 11 times for 36 yards and 2 touchdowns while teaming with T.Y. Hilton on a 61-yard strike for his first career touchdown throw.
The eras are different. The offensive coordinators had much different styles. The strength of the opponents was considerably different. Yet Brissett did little to show that he did not belong as a potential long-term starter in the league.
After three games in 2017, Colts unheralded DB Matthias Farley is second on the team with 20 (15 solo and 5 assists) tackles while also defending 2 passes. Undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2016, Farley has played 19 games for the Colts with his only starts coming this season. After signing with the Cardinals in 2016, he was cut during their final roster moves and was claimed off waivers the following day by the Colts. He started his college career as a receiver at Notre Dame before switching to the defensive side of the ball after his red-shirt season. He was a key contributor for the Irish team which went undefeated before losing in the BCS National Championship Game to Alabama.
Farley played in all 16 games for the Colts in his rookie season of 2016, yet did not start any games and finished the season with 4 tackles and no passes defended. His primary role was on special teams where he recorded 373 snaps. He only recorded 67 snaps on the defensive side of the ball. In his 3 defensive starts in 2017, Farley has been on the field for 163 plays on defense and 51 special team snaps. He has become a very consistent player in the Colts young defensive secondary and has made the most of his opportunities early this season.
Finally, #13 became T.Y. again instead of “The Ghost” against the Browns. He and QB Brissett seemed to develop chemistry during their second game together and he finished with seven catches for 153 yards; including a 61-yard touchdown. Despite a slow start to the year and overcoming Pagano’s decision to start Tolzien for the first game, Hilton is averaging 18.5 yards (4th in the NFL) on his 14 catches and is fifth in the NFL in receiving yards (259). He has only been targeted 21 times over the first 3 games so his numbers should continue to rise with Brissett firmly entrenched as the starting QB until Luck returns.
Hilton led the NFL in receiving yards (1,448) in 2016 on 91 catches. He is averaging 15.8 yards per reception over his career and is on-pace for his best average since setting his career high (17.2 yes/rec.) under Arians during his rookies season of 2012. It is tough to believe now, but Hilton only started 1 game that season playing behind Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery. Hilton also returned punts and kickoffs that season before being named to the All-Rookie team as both a WR and as a punt returner.
Like he did for Luck in 2012, Hilton should become one of Brissett’s favorite targets which should keep opponents from stacking the line to stop the Colts rushing attack. Hilton currently ranks sixth in the Colts franchise for catches (388), fourth in receiving yards (6,120), and tenth in receiving touchdowns (31).
From the obscure Colts records file: S Tom Keane holds the single-season interception record for the Colts with 11 picks in 1953 (note they only played 12 games per season then). Playing for a team that finished only 3-9 on the year, Keane had a remarkable season for the Colts while finishing 2nd in the NFL in interceptions. Impressive, but that stat alone does not define all he accomplished for a bad Baltimore that year.
From his safety position, Keane recovered 4 fumbles (3rd in the league) and was named First-Team All-Pro and was selected to his only Pro Bowl. He also played end on offense and caught 3 passes for 61 yards (20.3 avg.). He was the Colts punter in 1953 and finished seventh in the league with an average of 41.8 yards per punt. He also returned one punt for 3 yards to complete his ironman season.
Keane played 2 seasons for the Colts (1953-54) and during those 24 games he compiled 16 interceptions (17th all-time for the Colts) and 5 fumble recoveries. He completed his only pass for the Colts in 1954 for zero yards, but still finished with a career passer rating of 79.2 placing him ahead of many players such as Johnny Unitas (78.8), Bert Jones (78.8), Jeff George (72.0), and Scott Tolzien (52.4).
The Indianapolis Colts single-seaon record for interceptions is 8 shared by Eugene Daniel (1985) and Ray Buchanan (1994). Big Play Ray made the most of his picks that season by returning them for 221 yards and a league-leading 3 touchdowns.