1. At this point in his career, how does Andrew Luck compare to the player you all expected you'd get to watch when he was drafted?
For the most part, I think Andrew Luck is the player many expected the Colts would get - though I'm sure almost everyone would agree that they thought the team would be further along overall in year five. Luck is an incredibly talented player who has everything you'd want in a quarterback, but he does struggle some with consistency. He's shown plenty of times that he's capable of elite play and he's put the Colts on his back and carried them more times than not, and I think most Colts fans realize that he's a special player.
Those who expected him to be Peyton Manning might be disappointed, but that was an unrealistic expectation to place on a young quarterback - to be just like one of the all-time greats (and some would say the all-time great). Those who expected him to be a very good quarterback, however, are probably pretty satisfied with his performance. Again, he's struggled with inconsistency at times, but I think the biggest complaint Colts fans have is not about their quarterback but about the team that's been put around him.
2. The Colts were without Davis, Robinson, and Green against Denver. Do you expect they'll be ready to play against the Chargers? And how big of a difference do they make?
We should find out more definitively as we get closer to the game and when the injury report comes out on Friday, but there's definitely reason for optimism that the Colts might get some key defenders back. Vontae Davis has been limited in practice this week, but the very fact that he's been on the practice field is an improvement. T.J. Green has also been limited this week, while Patrick Robinson was limited on Wednesday in a non-contact jersey but was full on Thursday. That's a clear sign that he's passed the concussion protocol, in which he should be back for Sunday's game.
So at the very least, it sounds like the Colts could get their number two cornerback, and there's a possibility of getting their top corner and a key safety back as well. A healthy secondary (primarily a healthy Davis) would be a big addition to the Colts' defense and would certainly help them improve, especially against a quarterback like Philip Rivers. I don't think this Colts defense can be a top unit even if everyone's healthy, but I think they could be average - which is a lot better than terrible, which is what they have been so far this year.
3. Chuck Pagano is notorious for slow starts at this point; can we expect that the Colts are still in their early season doldrums this week or do you think they'll be up to speed in week 3?
There's nothing to suggest that the Colts will suddenly have the slow start issue resolved by this Sunday, as it's an issue that has come up off and on for the past few seasons. So there's a chance that the Colts could come out firing and get off to a fast start, but it's more likely that we'll see the trend continue. The Colts keep talking about the need to start faster in games, but we haven't really seen results yet. The offense normally takes a little bit to get going, but by the time they do the defense has already put the team in a hole. So that forces Andrew Luck and the offense to make a comeback. In week one they did so only to see the defense blow it at the end, while in week two they made a comeback but it fell short of coming all the way back.
The first half of Sunday's game will be huge for the Colts, as they can't afford to fall too far behind given their defense and the opposing quarterback. Since the Colts are 0-2 I have no doubt that they'll be especially motivated to get their first victory of the season, which could result in a faster start. But so far this year we've yet to see it, and the issue goes back a couple of seasons. So until we see them able to do so consistently instead of having to play catchup all the time, I don't have much confidence in a fast start.
4. Chargers GM Tom Telesco loves to sign former Colts. How much do you "miss" the likes of Dwight Lowery and Griff Whalen?
In the short-term, the Colts might miss Dwight Lowery and Griff Whalen some, but it wasn't a bad decision to let either walk in favor of younger players with upside. Lowery played very well for the Colts last year, but the team had taken Clayton Geathers in the draft in 2015 as the eventual replacement. Geathers started two games alongside Lowery last year and played well, and so the Colts were confident in him being able to step up into a full-time starting role. They also drafted T.J. Green in the second round of this year's draft, and he likely will be the eventual replacement to Mike Adams. Geathers missed some time this year with an injury and Green stepped in (until he too was hurt), so with the injuries, the Colts could have certainly used Lowery. But overall, I think it was the wise move to try to give Geathers (and Green) more playing time so that they could develop and potentially become the long-term fits at safety (that's the hope, at least).
As for Whalen, the Colts could certainly use him right now to help their wide receiver depth, as he would easily be the number three wide receiver right now with Donte Moncrief out. Whalen proved to be a reliable depth possession receiver for Indy, but he was never anything special. So the Colts let him walk, instead bringing in plenty of undrafted guys this offseason and keeping Chester Rogers (on the active roster) and Tevaun Smith (on the practice squad). Both players have more upside than Whalen, so while they're not proven and while Whalen might have been a better immediate option this year, I think there's reason for the Colts to be optimistic about the depth receivers they have. So to sum it all up, both Dwight Lowery and Griff Whalen could have helped the Colts right now, but the team has some nice young players they are hoping to develop that made moving on from both players very understandable decisions.
5. Who's a player we may be unfamiliar with that we should be keeping an eye out for this week?
Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett could have an especially big role this week. He's probably most well-known for being the receiver general manager Ryan Grigson drafted in the first round in 2014 when the team had bigger needs, but Dorsett is a good, talented player. He's the team's third receiver and already has three catches of 30+ yards this year, but number two wideout Donte Moncrief is out 4-6 weeks with a fractured scapula (which is a big loss for Indy). That leaves Dorsett as the clear-cut number two for the time being, and he could be a key factor in this Sunday's game. It will be very interesting to see how he steps up and handles more responsibilities and a larger role in the offense.