With the 2021 NFL season just several days away, the Indianapolis Colts prepare to embark on a season that could go a variety of different ways.
On one hand, they could see their new franchise quarterback, Carson Wentz, resurrect his career while the defense establishes itself as elite, making the Colts one of the most feared teams in the AFC.
On the other hand, that quarterback could continue to struggle as he did in Philadelphia, COVID-19 could ravish the team and force players to miss time, and injuries could take their toll causing a long and painful season.
As ESPN’s Chris Berman says, “And that’s why they play the games.”
But before the Colts take on the Seattle Seahawks this Sunday, I thought it’d be fun to give my predictions on which players will have the biggest impact for the Colts this year.
So, who will be the Colts’ 2021 award winners? Let’s find out.
Most Valuable Player
QB Carson Wentz
While Wentz may not be the best player on the team, he will certainly be the most valuable. Owner Jim Irsay said as much earlier in training camp when he reiterated the point that the Colts would go as far as Wentz took them.
So much of the Colts’ success rides on how Wentz performs this season. If he can regain his form from a couple of years ago and play like a high-end starting quarterback, the Colts will be very tough to beat. However, if Wentz struggles or misses time due to injury, the Colts will have a rough year.
The preseason did not go how Wentz or the Colts wanted. The quarterback was sidelined for most of training camp recovering from foot surgery and then spent a few days on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. But Wentz now looks healthy heading into the season, and the Colts are excited to have him under center.
Overall the season may start slow for Wentz, but I believe we’ll see head coach Frank Reich build his confidence up and turn him back into a winning quarterback.
Offensive Player of the Year
RB Jonathan Taylor
If you’ve been following along with the Colts throughout training camp, you know Taylor looks good. Really good.
The second-year running back ended his rookie campaign red hot, rushing for 741 yards and seven touchdowns over his final six games. He’s carried it over into this season as Taylor has broken off numerous runs for huge gains in camp, running with explosion and a nastiness to his game.
Reich has generally used a running back by committee approach, but that may be changing. Do not be surprised if Taylor turns into a bell-cow back this fall with the Colts focusing much of their offense around his incredible talent.
Defensive Player of the Year
DT DeForest Buckner
Not only did Buckner play through a significant ankle injury to end the 2020 season, but it was also revealed on Wednesday that he suffered a hand injury before the year as well.
“Last year, the day before we put pads on in training camp actually, I dislocated my fourth MCP joint,” Buckner said. “I wasn’t really able to grab or throw or any of that the entire year so I had to adjust little things on how I’m defending off of blockers, shedding blocks, and little things like that.”
While dealing with two tough injuries, Buckner put up 9.5 sacks and 26 QB hits on his way to being named a First-Team All-Pro. Pretty impressive.
Now imagine a fully healthy Buckner wreaking havoc. Buckner is one of the best defensive tackles in the entire league and very well could be in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“I think about it all the time,” Buckner admitted. “It’s one of my personal goals. I’ve mentioned it before, I definitely think I have the potential to obtain that goal and I just need to let it come together and bring it all to fruition.”
Offensive Rookie of the Year
TE Kylen Granson
Much of the hype in training camp for the offensive rookies has surrounded wide receiver Mike Strachan. While Strachan has been impressive, the rookie that will have the biggest impact on the offense this year will be Granson.
At 6’2”, 242, the Colts have been using Granson all over the field as a mismatch weapon in the passing game. He has good speed and his ability to separate from defenders makes him a tough cover for linebackers and safeties.
Reich has been looking for a “move” tight end ever since Eric Ebron left the Colts after 2019. With Granson in the fold and Wentz loving to use tight ends, the rookie is sure to make an impact on the field.
Defensive Rookie of the Year
DE Kwity Paye
The Colts have not had a dominant edge rusher since the days of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. They’re hoping that changes with Paye.
Paye has been everything the Colts have hoped for. The rookie has been the starter at right defensive end since camp began and has had his way with whoever he has lined up against. Paye racked up 2.0 sacks, a forced fumble, and multiple run stops in around two quarters of play during the preseason.
The hype around Paye is warranted. The first-round pick has been a very fast learner and takes coaching well, as the Colts transition him to a speed rusher to attack the quarterback. He also has the benefit of playing on a defensive line with Buckner and Grover Stewart.
There is little doubt Paye will make the biggest impact among the Colts’ defensive rookies. He may even garner some attention for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Comeback Player of the Year
WR Parris Campbell
It’s hard to find a player that has had worse injury luck to start their career than Campbell. After a mostly healthy career at Ohio State, Campbell has suffered an abdominal injury, a broken hand, a broken foot, a concussion, and a sprained MCL and PCL.
After a fully healthy training camp and preseason, Campbell is ready to shed the injury-prone label and be a vital part of the Colts’ offense. Campbell has looked good in camp and Reich wants to get the ball in his hands. With T.Y. Hilton out due to a neck injury, this gives Campbell even more opportunities to show he can be relied upon.
The question isn’t whether Campbell has the talent to be a dynamic weapon for the Colts. Rather, the question is can he stay on the field enough to make that kind of impact? If the answer is yes, Campbell is poised to have a big third year.
What do you think of these predictions? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMooreSI.