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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cody Manning

Colts’ report card after first 10 games of season

The Indianapolis Colts are 5-5 coming out of their bye week and will have a chance to crack into the postseason during the final seven weeks of the season.

But how have they looked in their first 10 games? Let’s take a look at how the roster has performed thus far in 2023:

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Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

This grade is mostly on Gardner Minshew since unfortunately for the Colts, Anthony Richardson was only able to play in 67% of the offense’s snaps in the four games he appeared in before his season-ending shoulder surgery. 

To Shane Steichen’s credit, when Richardson was in the lineup, he showed moments of greatness, and if he was able to stay healthy, it is fair to say the Indianapolis would’ve won a game or two more with him, and there would have been better play and excitement from the quarterback position. 

As far as for Gardner Minshew, he’s been a roller coaster of a ride as the full-time starter. He has his drives where he’s able to guide the offense to a touchdown but also has his moments where he makes questionable decisions that lead to turnovers and he can play with happy feet that hold back the passing attack. 

There shouldn’t be an expectation that Indy can win because of Minshew but he can’t be the reason why they lose games, which has been the case at times. If he cuts down the turnovers and plays more decisive after the bye then they should be able to win more games with him in the lineup. 

Grade: C

Running Backs

(Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

This position group has done a great job throughout the season since Week 1. Despite not playing in the first game and splitting work since Jonathan Taylor returned to the lineup, Zack Moss has the fifth-most rushing yards (617) in the NFL. Moss also has the fourth-most big play rushes (10+ yards) with 15 this season. 

Because of the emergence of Moss, Shane Steichen has a great one-two punch at running back with him and JT. Both players are the strength of this offense and who they can lean on to help close out games after the bye week. 

It will be interesting to watch how Steichen utilizes his backs for the rest of this season.

Grade: A+

Wide Receivers

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

For this position group, the focus has been on the trio of Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs, and Alec Pierce. 

Pittman Jr. has been the leader of the group. He has the sixth-most receptions (66) and 12th-most receiving yards (677) across the league. His YAC yards (312) are the 10th best as well and he leads the NFL with the most receptions (13) inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. 

Downs has been very impressive in the first half of his Year 1 and has made a reputation for himself on his ability to pick up first downs for the offense, especially in third-down situations. He’s tied for fourth-most first-down catches (12) on third downs. 

Year 2 has been relatively quiet for Pierce but that has mostly been in part due to his role in the offense and Anthony Richardson not being in the offense. He should have been the deep threat in the passing attack, which Shane Steichen was building to but with Gardner Minshew at the helm, Pierce just hasn’t been allowed to shine this season. 

Overall as a unit, the receivers have been solid this season. They’ve had their moments but also have some room for improvement. Especially getting open early in their routes for Minshew who can struggle if nobody is open after his first read. In comparison to 2022, this part of the offense is performing much better than where it was at this point a year ago. 

Grade: B

Tight Ends

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The tight end room hasn’t had a breakout game from one of their players but they all have been solid contributors to the offense this season. One thing that doesn’t show in the box score is that the Indy tight ends have done a solid job in blocking. Shane Steichen likes to use them in his rushing attack and they’ve done a good job at opening up rushing lanes for the backs. 

There hasn’t been a breakout game by a player in the tight end room but there were some games where Kylen Granson and Drew Ogletree were key contributors to the passing attack. Granson leads the position group with 175 receiving yards and also has a touchdown. 

Ogletree is right behind Granson with 147 receiving yards and is tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns (two) on the team. For the rest of the group, Mo Alie-Cox has 72 receiving yards and a touchdown while Will Mallory has picked up 62 receiving yards in his limited action. 

Grade: C+

Offensive Line

Jenna Watson/IndyStar

Entering the season, the one thing that this franchise needed to see was their offensive line getting back to their dominating ways. Tony Sparano Jr. has righted the ship for his unit in his first season as the offensive line coach despite having his full starting five in limited action. The Week 10 matchup against the New England Patriots was the first time all five played together since Week 2. 

Which was short-lived when Ryan Kelly exited with a concussion. The factors in the turnaround for this position group come from the bounce-back season from veterans Quenton Nelson and Kelly. As well as Bernhard Raimann taking the next step in Year 2 to supplant himself as this team’s left tackle of the future. 

There also has to be credit for how well Will Fries has played this season despite analysts including myself who thought there should have been a veteran guard added in the preseason. Sparano Jr. should not only for getting things right with the starters but also for rookie Blake Freeland having to play both tackle spots in a long stretch of the schedule. 

Freeland wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t like he was a detriment to the offense like this team saw from backup tackles in the past. According to PFF, the Indy offensive line is the third-ranked unit across the NFL heading into Week 11.

Grade: A


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite inconsistent play from the quarterback position, the Colts have been one of the better offenses in the league in Shane Steichen’s first year as the head coach. Entering Week 11 they are averaging the eighth most PPG (24.2), the 10th most rushing YPG (118.0), and the 13th most total YPG (336.1).

As I alluded to, the offense needs more out of Gardner Minshew and the passing attack. Their passing YPG (218.1) is in the bottom half (18th) of the NFL. This offense has taken a tremendous step from how it looked in 2022 and if Steichen can get more of his offense when they take the ball to the air, then they can help make a strong push for a playoff spot. 

Grade: B

Edge Rushers

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Kwity Paye and Samson Ebukam are the starters but entering the bye week it is Dayo Odeyingbo that is the darling of this position group. The versatile defensive lineman is coming off his breakout game with three sacks against the Patriots and now leads the defense with six sacks on the season. Which is also tied for the ninth most across the NFL. 

Odeyingbo is also tied for the most TFLs (seven) for the Indy defense. As for the starters, Ebukam has collected six TFLs, nine QB hits, and four sacks, and has forced a fumble so far this season. If he can get two more sacks then that would be a career-high for him. 

This has been a relatively quiet Year 3 for Paye, who was expected to have a breakout season. He’s been great in run defense but hasn’t been as effective as a pass rusher. So far this year he has five TFLs, six QB hits, and four-and-a-half sacks. 

This group also has gotten help from veteran Tyquan Lewis who has four TFLs, seven QB hits, and two sacks. Two players to watch for the remainder of the season are Jake Martin and Isaiah Land. Both have flashed in the last two weeks as situational pass rushers. 

Overall, the edge rushers have been solid but not great, they’ve had their moments but haven’t had dominant stretches so far this season. 

Grade: B

Interior Defensive Linemen

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

If this grade for the interior defensive lineman was just for DeForest Buckner’s play then it would be an easy A+. But Grover Stewart’s six-game suspension has put the spotlight on the depth of the group, which has been exposed in recent weeks. As far as Buckner, he’s tied for the most TFLs (seven) on the team and is second in sacks (five). Which he was leading prior to Dayo Odeyingbo’s three-sack breakout game in Week 10.

Buck also has 11 QB hits, two forced fumbles, and recovered a fumble for a touchdown this season. As far as the rest of the group, to no surprise, Stewart was playing great prior to his suspension. The trio of Taven Bryan, Eric Johnson II, and Adetomiwa Adebawore have struggled in their own right trying to replace Stewart but to be fair, it’s not easy to be as great in run defense as Stewart is.

I do believe Johnson II and Adebawore have shown some good things as young players. Especially Adebawore over the last two weeks prior to the bye week. He’s looking like he could make an impact for the remainder of the season.

If Big Grove was in this lineup all season, this grade would be much higher but the depth players weigh it down while Buckner is the star of not only this position group but the whole defense.

Grade: B+


(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

The linebacker group has been an interesting one for the Colts. They’ve been led by Zaire Franklin who was leading the NFL for the most total tackles (117) entering Week 11 despite missing one game due to an injury.

Franklin also has two TFLs, three QB hits, and one-and-a-half sacks, and has forced two fumbles this season. This hasn’t been the season of redemption for his counterpart Shaquille Leonard. Despite making his frustrations known over his lack of consistent playing time, Leonard just hasn’t looked like his old self. He’s been missing tackles and has yet to force a turnover this season. 

He’s sitting at 65 tackles (34 solo) and two TFLs at the bye week. Part of the reason why Leonard doesn’t see the playing time he would like is because E.J. Speed has been more of an impact player when he gets his chance on the field. Speed has 41 tackles (30 solo), six TFLs, two QB hits, a sack, and has forced two fumbles.

If Speed can get two more TFLs and one more sack then he would have career-highs in those categories. Overall the linebackers have been great this season but Leonard does weigh this grade down slightly entering the bye week. 

Grade: A-


(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

The cornerback group is headlined by the bounce-back season from veteran Kenny Moore II. Moore II not only is tied for the most TFLs (seven) on the team but he also has the most TFLs for all defensive backs across the league. On top of that, he’s tied for the most interceptions (three) on the Colts while also having five pass defenses and one-and-a-half sacks. 

According to Next Gen Stats, Moore II is the top slot defender entering Week 11. The rest of the corner group has been marred by injuries and poor play at times this season. Dallis Flowers was playing good ball before he suffered his season-ending Achilles injury. This and the bad performances by Darrell Baker Jr. led to rookies JuJu Brents and Jaylon Jones being the starting boundary cornerbacks. 

Brents was starting to get comfortable in his role and was playing very well before he got injured, which has caused him to miss the last three games. Jones has looked solid as a seventh-round rookie who has been thrust into a full-time role. He’s been a nice find by Chris Ballard. 

If Brents and Jones can continue their growth in their development then the Colts got a nice trio with the rookies and Moore II to finish out the 2023 season.

Grade: B


Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Things got off to a slow start for starting safeties Julian Blackmon and Rodney Thomas II but over the past month or so, both players have come to form a solid safety tandem for the Colts. In Blackmon’s first season transitioning to the strong safety position, he already has reached a career-high in tackles (66), TFLs (five), and interceptions (three). 

He’s just two pass defenses away from a career-high in that category as well. For Thomas II, he has 28 tackles (24 solo), four pass defenses, and two interceptions. If he can get three more pass defenses and interceptions then he will set a career-high in those marks in his Year 2. 

One player I thought we would see more from is Nick Cross. He’s just been a special team contributor again in Year 2 but I do hope to see Gus Bradley find a way to get him in the rotation to help his development for Year 3. 

This grade was saved by the play from Blackmon and Thomas II over the past four weeks. Indianapolis just needs to see this type of consistent play from their safeties to end the season. 

Grade: B-


Jenna Watson/IndyStar

It’s been a bend but don’t break season for the Indy defense. They’ve given up 358.5 total YPG, which is the seventh most allowed in the NFL. They’re tied for the 14th most passing YPG (228.8) allowed and the ninth most rushing YPG (129.7) allowed this season. 

They are also allowing the seventh most PPG (24.8) but I also do believe that number would be a tad bit lower if the offense didn’t put them in an unfavorable field position with turnovers. The strength of this defense has been their ability to take the ball away. They are tied for the third-most takeaways (16) this season.

Which is just five away from the total (21) that they had in the 2022 season. With JuJu Brents getting back into the lineup from his injury and Grover Stewart’s return from his suspension around the corner, I expect this unit to finish on a strong note after their rough start to the 2023 season. 

Grade: B-

Special Teams

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

After getting a record-breaking deal in the offseason, Matt Gay has delivered for the Colts in his first season with the franchise. He’s made all his PAT attempts and has yet to miss a field goal under 40 yards. He’s 3/4 on 40-49 yard attempts and 7/9 on 50+ yard attempts with a season-long of 57 yards. 

Gay’s kickoff average (64.4 yards) is on pace to be a career-high for him. 

Rigoberto Sanchez has gotten back to his ways after missing 2022 with a torn Achilles. His yards per punt (47.2) is on pace to be a career-high. He has yet to have a touchback this season and has pinned 16 punts inside the 20-yard line. 

If he is able to keep up that pace for the remainder of the year then he would set a career-high with punts pin inside the 20-yard line. He had 28 in his first season of the league and is on track to finish with 29. But for the Colts, hopefully, he doesn’t get to that mark because that would mean the offense is finishing more drives with points to end the year.  

The one area that the Indy special teams need to improve on is coverage on punts and kicks. They’ve allowed the second-most punt return yards (78) and the eighth-most kick return yards (57) this season. 

Grade: B+


Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite losing Anthony Richardson and having players in and out of the lineup throughout the first 10 games, Shane Steichen has his team at 5-5 and in position to make a push for a playoff spot coming out of the bye. Winning raises the level of expectation but it was just in the preseason when the Colts weren’t expected to be in this position with a young roster in a season that was viewed as a rebuild year for the franchise. 

There is much to improve upon for this team going forward. The passing attack has to be better and the defense needs to cut down the yardage they have allowed entering the bye week. Steichen’s culture is growing on this team and they are headed in the right direction. Now they just need to have all three phases of the game perform together in more games and learn how to close out games in the fourth quarter. 

The franchise appears to be headed in the right direction in Steichen’s first season as the head coach. 

Grade: B

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