By mike johnson >>
- Two franchises with big preseason aspirations are now spiraling into dysfunction and obscurity.
- The Colts experiment with Sam Ehlinger at quarterback has backfired miserably. They have arguably the worst offense in the NFL.
- Conservative approaches on both sides of the ball limit the ceiling of this game’s expectations.
- Josh Jacobs and Davante Adams account for a huge amount of the Raiders offense but this also makes them predictable for opponents.
How Indianapolis Will Try To Win ::
As I write this, Jim Irsay just announced that he will be hiring the winner of this week’s Milly Maker as the General Manager of the Colts effective Monday. In all seriousness, what is going on in Indianapolis is nothing short of mesmerizing. During Frank Reich’s tenure as the Colts head coach, they had been consistently competitive and always “in the mix” with three winning seasons in four years and their only losing season being the 2019 season when Andrew Luck surprisingly retired a couple of weeks before the season started. Once again, the Colts were having a competitive season with a couple of big wins over the Chiefs and Broncos when owner Jim Irsay reportedly forced the team to move to former 6th-round pick Sam Ehlinger at quarterback, despite the team having a 3-3-1 record. The last two weeks have been ugly for the Colts. Irsay fired Reich early this week for reasons unknown but it is probably safe to assume that Reich was ready to be done with the Ehlinger experiment and Irsay’s ego wasn’t about to admit defeat. Now the Colts have former Pro Bowl center and high school football coach Jeff Saturday as their Interim head coach; while Parks Frazier, a 30-year-old who was the assistant quarterbacks coach until a few months ago will now be calling the plays. Life comes at you fast, Colts fans.
The Colts offense with Sam Ehlinger under center has averaged 9.5 points, 3.9 yards per play, and 223 total yards from scrimmage through two weeks. Those averages would all rank dead last in the NFL over a full season. Ehlinger has taken 11 sacks and averaged only 5.8 yards per pass attempt, which ranks dead last in the NFL, during that time. The good news for the Colts offense is that the Raiders defense generates significantly less pressure on the quarterback than either of the Colts last two opponents, the Commanders and Patriots. Hopefully, the Colts can translate that into better protection and some improved efficiency for their passing game. The other area of hope for the Colts lies in the health of Jonathan Taylor, the heart and soul of the Colts offense. Taylor re-injured his ankle in the first half against the Commanders and missed last week’s game against the Patriots. If he were able to return this week, he could provide a spark and some consistency for an offensive unit that desperately needs it.
While we can’t really know what kind of tendencies to expect from the Colts due to their new coach and play caller, we can make some educated guesses on what the approach will be. If Taylor is able to play, we should expect a very run-heavy game plan, as the Colts called run plays on the majority of their first downs over the last two weeks while games were close, and would likely do so to an even greater extent if they can lean on their all-pro running back. Saturday’s background as an offensive lineman would also lead us to believe that a run-oriented approach would be likely. The other caveat here is that against a Raiders pass defense that ranks dead last in DVOA, maybe the Colts could try to make Ehlinger more comfortable by going to more spread looks and letting him attack the short areas of the field with time to throw against a less imposing pass rush. We really can’t know at this point, although the way things have gone down for the Colts over the past month, I would think the owner’s desire to run the ball more will win out in the end. In any regard, the Colts will once again struggle to score 20 points and will play at a slow pace while relying on their defense to give them a chance to win.