We have officially reached the dead period of the year for the NFL.
Teams have departed for the summer and will not reconvene until training camps begin at the end of July. Until then, all we can do is build up the hype for the upcoming season.
The Indianapolis Colts are one of those teams who have heightened expectations for 2022. With new players in key positions throughout the roster, the Colts have a legitimate chance of taking back the AFC South crown for the first time since 2014.
While the Colts may be off for the summer, that does not mean we cannot speculate on what will happen this fall. In the weeks leading up to training camp, a weekly “Colts Top 5” column will look to identify how certain players shape up as we head into 2022. From breakout candidates to those on the hot seat, we will look at various topics and which players fall into these categories.
The first topic in the series will be players who are poised for a big season in 2022. While everyone can have a great season once the pads are on, these men have shown throughout the offseason they are ready to have a major impact in the fall. Here are the top five Colts destined to shine this season.
QB Matt Ryan
Ryan comes to the Colts looking for a fresh start. After 14 seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, Ryan joins a Colts team ready to win now and gives him his best supporting cast in years. The former NFL MVP is picking things up very quickly in Indianapolis.
“I feel like a lot has been accomplished in whatever it’s been – eight weeks, something like that,” Ryan said after mandatory minicamp. “I feel like personally, I’m a lot further along when it comes to terminology and kind of understanding what we’re trying to do offensively. So, I feel a lot more comfortable now.”
Ryan’s leadership and accuracy have stood out this spring as multiple teammates have spoken about his elite ball placement. His fit within Frank Reich’s timing-based offense seems to be a great match, as well. While now 37 years old, it seems like a rejuvenated Ryan has the opportunity to have his best season in years.
RB Nyheim Hines
It is no secret the Colts want to get Hines more involved on offense. Hines saw a dip in production last season due to the ascension of Jonathan Taylor and the fact the running backs were not used as much in the passing game as in previous seasons. Reich has made it clear Hines will be a priority in 2022.
“If I was a fantasy (football) owner, if I was going to be in a fantasy league, I think I’d pick Nyheim this year. I think I’d consider drafting Nyheim,” Reich said with a smile.
Whether it is on the ground or through the air, good things typically happen when Hines has the ball. Hines has been working with the running backs and wide receivers this spring, showing the Colts’ plan to use him all over the field. Combine that with the fact Ryan likes to utilize his backs in the passing game and get the ball out quickly, and it seems there is a good chance the fourth-year back could have a career season.
WR Parris Campbell
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Campbell once again looks like he could have a big role within the Colts’ offense. But as has been the case the last three seasons, talent is not the question when it comes to Campbell. The question is whether or not he can stay healthy for a full season.
“I’ve always seen Parris since the day we drafted him as a guy who can play every position and can really do it all,” Reich explained. “He’s smart, he’s explosive, you can put him at the outside. He’s got speed to get deep. He’s got good footwork on the top of routes on the outside going vertical…Really, that’s the upside if he can stay healthy. He’s got to prove it. He’s got to prove that he can stay healthy.”
Campbell has looked really good this spring, running almost exclusively with the first-team offense. Ryan and Campbell have already developed a chemistry with one another that stood out in the spring practices. After three injury-riddled seasons, a clean bill of health may be all that’s needed for Campbell to have a big season.
DE Kwity Paye
One player who seemed to get better as the 2021 season went along was Paye. While his rookie year started slow, Paye finished strong and showed flashes of why the Colts took him in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. As he heads into year two, the young pass rusher is expected to take a big jump.
“For me, I feel like something that I really wanted to focus on was my mental throughout the season,” Paye admitted. “I started reading a lot more books – Chop Wood Carry Water (and) Chase The Lion. When I’m in the game just be relentless. I’ve always been a hard worker, but I felt like the mental part of my game is something that I lacked. That’s what I focused on.”
Many pass rushers take a big step in year two as the game starts to slow down for them. The Colts also added Pro Bowl pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue to their defensive line to rush the passer opposite Paye, giving him more one-on-one reps. Indy is hoping Paye can ascend in his sophomore campaign, and it looks like he is up for the challenge.
CB Isaiah Rodgers
The battle for the final outside corner spot will wage on throughout training camp, but do not be surprised if Rodgers ends up as the starter. Rodgers has been making plays all spring and showing that he can contribute to the defense in a full-time role. The coaches have noticed as well.
“We feel like Isaiah’s a great cover corner,” Reich said. “Smart, instinctive, great ball skills. You know if he gets near it and he has a chance to catch it, he’s going to catch it because of his ball skills. He’s continued to progress really well. We have a lot of confidence in Isaiah.”
Rodgers proved last year that he has a nose for the ball and the speed to stick with any receiver. Those ball skills have been on display throughout spring practices, with the speedy corner making plays every day. A productive season could be right around the corner for the young defensive back.
Have thoughts on which Colts' players could be poised for big seasons in 2022? Let us know in the comments section below!
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