The Indianapolis Colts are starting the 2017 season in a very familiar way, slow, sluggish, and injured. In this segment I will break down what I saw from a perspective on Sunday, as well as what turned up in the film study I did a day later (sometimes it’s good to let it soak in, then study later). I will take you through what I think the Colts need to improve upon, as well as what went well for them in their beat down from the Lions.
From the get go, I liked what I saw from the Colts defensive line on Sunday. There was immediately penetration up the middle from Al Woods and especially Hassan Ridgeway. Right out of the gates, Ridgeway was finding his way into the backfield and disrupting the very first run play. Hassan Ridgeway’s strong play continued throughout his play time, constantly winning match ups and getting into the backfield.
Vontae Davis made a great play on his only opportunity, timing a hit and jumping the route from Matthew Stafford very well which led to a John Simon interception.
Edwin Jackson had a great game as well when he was in the game, and looked the part of a starting inside linebacker. Early on he shot through a hole and met the ball carrier in the backfield, as well as making a couple nice tackles in open field. He and Antonio Morrison will continue to battle for that starting spot.
It’s becoming very clear that Malik Hooker is going to take over the starting job in a matter of time. Mathias Farley was lost each time he was asked to cover a ball carrier or tight end, and aside from chasing the play from behind, he was nowhere to be found. Malik Hooker on the other hand found the ball a couple times to break up a pass play, and also made some very good open field tackles. He also showed a physicality I didn’t know he had, bringing the hammer on one particular play after the corner was beaten. He flat out looks like a ball hawking NFL safety and should have the job, if not this coming week, the week after.
Anthony Walker Jr. had a very shaky start, missing a couple open field tackles, as well as losing containment on a big run play for the Lions. He will need to get better at reading the offense and playing free rather than hesitating. For now, he looked like the stage was a bit big for him on Sunday. I’m not selling out on him though because he appears to be a quick learner who can adjust and with time can develop into a starting linebacker for the team.
Tevin Mitchell had a really tough go of it against the Lions. I counted 3 whiffs on tackles, as well as simply getting shoved to the side when going against the opposing wide receiver. He lacks the physicality to jam a receiver on the line, and doesn’t have the quickness to make up for mistakes. His open field tackling was atrocious, and can not be accepted.
Quincy Wilson caught my eye in person, and absolutely popped off the tape when watching film. He was beaten twice, and both times were because of tremendous ball placement and great catches by the wide receiver ( sometimes you just get beat). What made me impressed with Wilson however was that he kept coming regardless of what happened the play before. He was always in really good position to make a play, now its just a matter of breaking up that pass and intercepting the football. He is going to have a tremendous opportunity to do so. His tackling was also impressive on Sunday against wr’s as well as running backs.
T.J. Green had a very nice day when playing in the box. They used him much more there than I anticipated, which almost leads me to believe maybe they want him alongside Malik Hooker. Several times he brought the hammer when filling into a hole in run defense. In person he’s a blur when running, and it’s good to see him develop after a heavily scrutinized rookie campaign.
Those are all the defensive performances which stood out to me. The defense however seemed to still struggle with defending screens and crossing patterns by running backs and tight ends. Like I said, Mathias Farley was lost several times, and Anthony Walker didn’t look like he knew where to be on those plays. Dallas plays a similar style with quick, short rhythm throws to running backs and tight ends. I’d love to see Walker take a step forward this week in defending that. Also, Antonio Morrison should be back this week which will give us a good indication of his development from year 1 to year 2. In practice, he looked slimmer and more athletic than the year before.
There really wasn’t a whole lot of good to say about the offense, but here’s what stood out.
JoJo Natson looks the part, and can play the part of the return man. Natson has a burst to him that not a lot of guys have, and also has great feel for where holes are opening. He also runs some really solid routes when out there with the offense. I would not be surprised to see Natson get more work in week 2 from the get go.
The offensive line wasn’t… horrible early. Without 2 starters, I was almost expecting to see Scott Tolzien get crushed each time he dropped back. That wasn’t the case. He had a decent pocked when passing, he just couldn’t find a receiver, or throw it to them. The run blocking however left a lot to be desired. Without Ryan Kelly, there was virtually no push up front, and L’Raven Clark was beat right off the line from the word go. Clark needs to be better if he wants to hold on to that starting spot because Zac Banner had himself a solid game. Banner showed much better footwork and speed (why he fell to the Colts) than I was expecting. In the running game Banner is a road grater moving anything in his way. I’m still concerned that against a speed rusher he’s going to struggle to get out in space and protect the qb, but time will tell as the Colts haven’t seen one yet.
Troymaine Pope might find himself as the 4th running back, especially if Josh Ferguson doesn’t get healthy. If there as a hole on Sunday, Pope found it. Running for 31 yards on just 7 carries, Pope slashed through the line and showed good burst getting through holes. He also has great vision on screen plays in the passing game. More than once, I also saw Pope take on a linebacker in pass blocking, and knocking the rusher back a yard or two. I was impressed with Pope, and want to see him play even more.
The quarterback situation is something I was hoping would have much more momentum following the game on Sunday. Instead we all have a bad taste in our mouths, and are even more eagerly awaiting Andrew Luck’s return. I’m not even sure that what we saw Sunday even resembled NFL quarterbacking, so I’m just going to give it one more week until I write up anything else on the situation. I will say this though, If the Colts aren’t going to bring in another qb, that speaks very well for Luck’s return to full healthy (otherwise they aren’t doing there job and Ballard needs some heat on him)
Some things I’m looking for the Colts to improve on would be coverage in open space by the linebackers and safeties (particularly Farley and Walker/Morrison). On offense I want to see them get into a groove. Whoever the quarterback is, no offense can play without rhythm. They need to find that and the play calls need to allow them to be successful. If Andrew isn’t back, don’t ask these quarterbacks to do the things he does. It needs tailored to their strengths. I also want to see the run blocking improve a great deal. There was nothing there for Turbin with the starters on Sunday. That has to get better and get better now. There is no time for an o line to come together when the Rams d line is awaiting them week 1.
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