The Colts’ loss in Week 18 left them just shy of a playoff position, and struggles on defense were a constant throughout the season. Despite that, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley will be retained, general manager Chris Ballard confirmed in his end-of-year press conference.
“I know that’s been a hot topic for everybody, and it’s an area we need to improve,” Ballard said, via the Indy Star’s Joel A. Erickson. “But in a little bit of defense, the year before, [Bradley] comes in, and we kind of had, I don’t want to say a veteran team, but we had some veteran players, and I just said, ‘Look, we’re going to go young in some spots [in 2023], and we went young in the secondary.”
Indeed, Indianapolis turned to a number of inexperienced options at the corner and safety spots, enjoying mixed results along the way. The team ranked 16th in the league in terms of passing yards allowed per game, but breakdowns on the backend hindered the unit. Injuries to cornerbacks Julius Brents and Dallis Flowers also left the team shorthanded for long stretches of the season.
The Colts’ front seven had a strong campaign in terms of pass rush production, posting 51 sacks. That figure ranked fifth in the league, but the team struggled against the run in addition to its errors in the secondary. As a result, the Colts surrendered 350 yards per game (24th in the NFL) and 24.4 points per contest (28th). Improvements in both respects will be a top priority this offseason.
“The points do need to come down,” Ballard added. “We’ll continue to have long discussions about where we’re going and how we’ll get that done, but saying that, we had new starters on defense. We did do some good things, too.”
Bradley took over the Colts’ DC job in 2022 after Matt Eberflus was hired as the Bears’ head coach. Indianapolis posted middling numbers in several categories last year, but he received a vote of confidence following the campaign After a 2023 season which included the decision to move on from former All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard as part of the overall goal of getting younger (and healthier) at a number of positions, both Bradley and head coach Shane Steichen will remain in place.
The latter showed promise in his first year as a head coach, and prior to his season-ending injury, quarterback Anthony Richardson flashed potential as well. Those factors will lead to optimism on offense, but the team’s defense will be a unit to watch closely moving forward. Roster changes will no doubt be coming, but there will at least be stability on the sidelines.