GAME OVERVIEW ::
By hILOW >>
- The Colts would struggle to cover an elephant on the perimeter this season – it’s been baaaaad.
- Baltimore saw JK Dobbins suffer a season-ending injury and now could be without Justice Hill as well, who emerged from Week 2 with a toe injury. The team signed veteran back Kenyan Drake on Wednesday.
- Odell Beckham Jr. did not practice Wednesday after aggravating an ankle injury.
- Anthony Richardson self-reported concussion symptoms during the Colts’ Week 2 win over the Texans and did not practice Wednesday.
How indianapolis Will Try To Win ::
The Colts continue to play with pace (second-ranked seconds per play at 24.7, interestingly enough, second only to the Patriots) and elevated pass rates (fourth-highest pass rate over expectation (PROE) value through two weeks), carrying forward tendencies we saw during the preseason. A lot of their offensive game plan is likely to revolve around the availability of quarterback Anthony Richardson. While Gardner Minshew is one of the better backups in the league, he doesn’t bring the same per-play upside to the table as a guy like Richardson does, relegating the offense to a more game-management mindset should Minshew start. New head coach and offensive mastermind Shane Steichen has turned some heads (just mine, maybe?) early in the season for the way he has managed his offense with a rookie quarterback, mostly from the sense that he is throwing Richardson directly into the fire to run an offense he wants to run as opposed to starting him off easy and building up to his vision. We should view that as an overwhelming positive for this offense and for the development of Richardson.
Deon Jackson went from lead back with a 71 percent snap share in Week 1 to the bench with zero offensive snaps in the blink of an eye with the return of Zack Moss in Week 2. Moss returned from a broken arm to immediately play 98 percent of the team’s offensive snaps and handle 100 percent of the team’s available running back opportunities, putting to rest any uncertainty regarding how this backfield will operate in the absence of Jonathan Taylor (PUP-ankle). Similar to other spots covered this week, the problem isn’t matchup or workload expectation; the problem for Moss resides in a matchup with a Ravens team that has been one of the better rush defenses in the league over the previous five seasons (and beyond). I’ll keep bringing this up when we talk about the Ravens, but nose tackle Michael Pierce is one of the true interior cloggers left in the game, giving the Ravens a lot of flexibility behind knowing he can be so effective up front.
While the pace and pass rates have been pluses, both Richardson and Minshew currently hold two of the bottom four values in average intended air yards, meaning this offense has largely been confined to the short areas of the field (4.9 for Richardson and 5.9 for Minshew). That said, this entire offense is one of the more concentrated units in the league through two weeks, playing league-average rates of 11- and 12-personnel and really only showcasing one back (previously discussed), three wide receivers (Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce are true every-down receivers and slot-man Josh Downs has a stranglehold on the slot snaps), and three tight ends (Kylen Granson, Mo Alie-Cox, and either Drew Ogletree or Will Mallory) for what amounts to a very average 20 percent 12-personnel rate. Because the downfield shots have been so infrequent, the Indianapolis offense has largely been called on to march the field and string together drives to this point in the season. Richardson’s mobility and extreme athleticism has aided that design, making it more difficult with Minshew. A lot of the expectations from this game environment (and not just the effectiveness of the Colts offense) is likely to come down the presence or absence of Richardson. Pittman is the true alpha of this offense but has largely been confined to the same short-area role that restricts the offense as a whole.