The 2022 Indianapolis Colts season certainly had its ups and downs, but now is the time for reflection. Going into the campaign, this team was expected to compete deep in the postseason but those expectations fizzled out as quickly as they arrived.
While there were plenty of disappointments in the year, Indy still had its bright spots and surprises throughout its journey. From breakout performances to the worst stat of the team, here are some of the biggest surprises from the Colts’ 2022 season:
1. Choosing Jeff Saturday Over Bradley and Ventrone
The firing of Frank Reich as the Colts’ head coach may have been a surprise, but after an unsuccessful season, many were expecting his prompt departure. What nobody could have expected was Jim Irsay’s unprecedented hiring decision: appointing center Jeff Saturday as interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
With Gus Bradley and Bubba Ventrone open for the position, Irsay chooses an inexperienced coach to take over. He believes that Saturday will be the long-term answer to Colts’ struggle. This move was met with widespread disdain by many in the NFL community who believed that better opportunities should be made available to experienced coaching personnel.
Irsay may have looked to be a great planner after the Colts beat the Raiders with Reich at the helm. But this doesn’t last long as they finish the season with seven straight losses and blowing significant leads, including the 39-36 loss to Vikings, where they blew a 33-0 lead.
2. Moving Matt Ryan on the Bench
Over the past couple of years, the Indianapolis Colts have struggled to establish dominance in the AFC South. After finally being able to build some stability at the quarterback position, it came as a major shock when Matt Ryan was benched in a widely unpopular move by owner Jim Irsay. Despite this, this decision was not completely unjustifiable with Ryan having had one of the worst seasons in his long NFL career.
When Jeff Saturday took over, Ryan got his job back. Unfortunately, their excitement turned out to be short-lived. Once the team was officially out of playoff contention, Ryan got benched for the final three weeks of the season.
3. Other Linebackers Stepping Up
Zaire Franklin, Bobby Okereke, and E.J. Speed rose to the challenge and exceeded expectations all season long. The adaptability and resilience of these three shed some light on the dire 2022 season.
Franklin and Okereke had excellent seasons, each setting career highs. Franklin racked up 167 tackles, the most of his five-year career and the greatest total for the franchise since Leonard set the record season before him. He also nabbed 12 tackles for loss, six quarterback hits, three sacks, six pass deflections, and two forced fumbles.
Okereke achieved 151 tackles (99 solos), six tackles for loss, five pass deflections, two fumble recoveries, and two forced fumbles. In an inspiring performance under difficult conditions, these two players succeeded in putting together their finest personal performances yet.
Despite being overshadowed by the success of Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke, Zaire Speed quietly had his best season ever in 2022. He finished the year with 63 tackles (37 solos), seven TFLs, one QB hit, one sack, two pass deflections, and forced two fumbles. That really showed off what excellent defensive work Speed was able to produce when given the opportunity.
Unfortunately for him, Leonard and Okereke have garnered much of the recognition for that Colt’s defense this year so it is quite likely that the current trio of linebackers will not be together next season.
4. Rodney McLeod & Rodney Thomas II Duo
After months of preseason hype surrounding rookie safety Nick Cross, it became apparent that Rodney McLeod was the better choice in Week 2, taking over as the starter for the rest of the season and playing a key role in holding the Colts’ defense together. McLeod had a career year with 96 tackles (59 solos) and 8 tackles for loss, along with 8 pass deflections and two interceptions.
After receiving their final selection in the 2022 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts were arguably taken aback by the selection of Rodney Thomas II. Not pegged to start and expected to only see playing time on special teams, his role changed drastically when teammate Julian Blackmon suffered an injury. Thomas II took advantage of his new opportunity and performed admirably, proving to be an integral part of the defense.
He totaled 52 tackles (34 solos), six pass deflections, and four interceptions, as well as started 10 games in his rookie year. However, the Colts are not expected to keep this due as McLeod has an expiring contract, and the organization is leaning towards the young trio of Cross, Thomas II, and Blackmon for the next NFL 2023 season.
5. Worst Turnover Differential in the NFL
The Colts’ offensive woes in 2022 were abundantly clear, highlighted by the 34 total giveaways during the season and 20 of them being interceptions. Meanwhile, they only force a total of 21 forced turnovers which makes them the team with the worst turnover Differential in the NFL, -13.
This issue has to be an area of focus for their offseason. Although it was the worst turnover differential in the league at that time, it’s important to remember that what has been done can be undone.
Jacksonville experienced a similar situation in 2021 but with a -20 turnover differential and managed to successfully transform their situation, resulting in an AFC South championship a year later. A successful plan of attack this offseason will give the Colts a strong chance at success next year.