Indianapolis Colts training camp storylines: Does Matt Ryan still have it?

Matt Ryan's addition and Quenton Nelson's contract are among the key storylines in Indianapolis as the Colts begin training camp.

The Indianapolis Colts had seen more than enough from Carson Wentz and unloaded the disappointing quarterback in a trade to the Washington Commanders. As the Colts launch training camp after a disappointing end to last season — largely attributed to Wentz’s shortcomings — the AFC South franchise has changed quarterbacks for the fifth year in a row.

Unlike Wentz, the Colts expect reliable, consistent play and leadership from new signal-caller Matt Ryan. Colts general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich are counting on him as they try to unseat the division champion Tennessee Titans.

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5 storylines for Indianapolis Colts training camp

The Colts finished second in the AFC South last season despite the presence of star running back Jonathan Taylor, who combines power with elite speed. Now, Taylor is joined in the backfield by a former NFL MVP. Having missed only three games in 14 years, Ryan, 37, is as steady as anyone.

Ballard was able to smoothly move on from Wentz and acquire Ryan for a third-round draft pick after the Houston Texans told the Colts “no” when they inquired about a possible trade for Deshaun Watson.

What do the Colts have in Matt Ryan?

Ryan checks boxes for leadership and accuracy. He doesn’t make the kind of maddening decisions that led to Wentz falling out of favor and being discarded like the shells for the world-famous shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo’s. If Ryan is able to stabilize the offense while working in tandem with Taylor, this could become a much more competitive football team in a hurry.

Indianapolis must find a balance on offense

The Colts could create more balance on offense with Ryan and cut down on relying on Taylor so heavily. It’s a fine line to walk. In 2021, Taylor rushed for 1,811 yards and scored 20 total touchdowns. He topped Edgerrin James’ single-season franchise record for rushing yards by 102 yards. Nyheim Hines also provides quality depth as an all-purpose back.

While Taylor is elite, the Colts must mix up the run well. His presence should allow Ryan to have plenty of play-action opportunities. Ryan is excellent at carrying out fakes, too.

Will the Colts’ investment on defense pay off?

Ballard realized that one of the reasons the Colts finished 9-8 and skidded at the end of the season was the defense. Now, the Colts will find out if his investments were prudent ones.

Indianapolis’ biggest move: signing former Defensive Player of the Year CB Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore is a proven coverage specialist capable of shutting down opponents’ top wide receivers. The Colts also traded for pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue. That should help new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley — the replacement for Matt Eberflus — to operate more freely and implement his scheme.

The Colts are upbeat about their defensive line, led by disruptive Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, with Kwity Paye regarded as an emerging young pass rusher. Paye had four sacks and 10 quarterback hits as a rookie.

Darius “The Maniac” Leonard is a three-time Pro Bowl selection who plays the game in a perpetually bad mood. He’s complemented well by Bobby Okereke and Zaire Franklin.

What’s going on at wide receiver?

The Colts have drafted a wide receiver in the second round in 2019, 2020, and 2022. The latest is former Cincinnati standout, Alec Pierce. Michael Pittman Jr. had a breakthrough season in 2021, with 88 receptions for 1,082 yards, but the talented rookie could push him for opportunities.

The Colts needed Pierce since Zach Pascal caught just 38 passes last season, second-most among the team’s WRs. T.Y. Hilton remains a free agent, and there’s been no movement toward bringing him back.

Parris Campbell is heading into a contract year after missing 11 games last year due to foot surgery. He’s missed 34 games in three seasons due to injuries. Furthermore, since entering the NFL in 2019 as a second-round pick out of Ohio State, Campbell has undergone five surgeries and scored just two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, rookie tight end Jelani Woods could be a good red-zone threat.

How much will Quenton Nelson get paid?

Arguably the nastiest offensive guard in the NFL, Nelson is an elite run and pass blocker. He plays the game with a mean streak and is elite at getting to the second level and finishing off blocks.

Whenever the Colts reward Nelson for his handiwork, he’s expected to reset the position’s market as the highest-paid guard in the NFL.

Aaron Wilson is the NFL Insider for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL.

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