Today we’ll discuss rookies, big play offense, and injuries. As usual, all quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department. And now for the Notebook:
As you may have noticed, and as many Steelers fans would agree, Bruce Arians has a certain affinity for the big play, or chunk play, as he likes to say – gaining yards, usually through the air, in large chunks. So great is his love for dramatic, downfield deep passes, that he has taken some criticism for being almost too aggressive. One of the positive aspects is how demoralizing these big plays, like T.Y. Hilton’s 61-yard touchdown catch last week, can be to an opposing defense – when they work. Still, it’s always a relief to see them just move the chains on third and short, and keep the offense on the field.
There were some short passes installed to combat the Texans’ relentless pass rush on Sunday, but Arians was still disappointed they didn’t land a few more knockout punches downfield. “We have to do what we’re capable of doing,” he said. “We had a bunch of short passes for that ballgame. The running game got going so good, it really wasn’t a necessity for them that often. We had some but what we missed offensively were chunk plays and there were chunk plays there. We had guys wide open down the field and didn’t have time to get it to them.”
As the rookies improve, and hopefully the pass protection improves, the Colts should be able to land a few more long bombs. In the meantime, just as Texans fans have had to come to terms with Gary Kubiak’s conservative style (hand-off up the middle on 3rd and long with a lead, anyone?), Colts fans, for better or worse, are becoming accustomed to the aggressive play calling of Bruce Arians.
Rookies Making Big Strides and Contributions
Coming in to the season, people expected a great deal from Andrew Luck. But how much did they expect from players like 3rd round TE Dwayne Allen (40 rec, 482 yds, 3 TDs), 3rd round WR T.Y. Hilton (44 rec, 716 yds, 16.3 avg, and 6 TDs), and 5th pick RB Vick Ballard (164 carries for 667 yards, 4.1 ypc), who had his first 100-yard rushing game on Sunday?
Despite a key special teams mistake that led to a blocked punt, Dwayne Allen has been a solid blocker on offense and a steady receiver, with a 71% catch rate through 14 games. Rookies at his position typically take some time to develop, which bodes well for Allen, who will almost certainly pass 500 yards this year and break Ken Dilger’s franchise record for receptions (42) by a rookie tight end.
The undersized T.Y. Hilton was expected to be a big contributor as a punt returner, which he has been, but he has also turned out to be an exciting, promising young receiver. He has improved steadily throughout the season, and his coaches are taking notice.
When asked about what has been key to Hilton’s improvement most recently, Bruce Arians said, “I think more than anything, confidence. He’s playing so much faster than he did earlier in the year. He’s seeing things. I think the game has slowed down for him a little bit. He’s been doing a great job practicing. He’s got good practice habits because he’s modeling himself after Reggie (Wayne) and he’s just going to continue to get better and better.”
Do the Colts expect more from him? Certainly. “I think catch those two balls on third down,” Arians said. “He doesn’t usually drop balls and both of those were catchable for him. Hopefully we’ll get that fixed.”
As for Ballard, he tends to play better as the game wears on (sounds like someone we’ve seen before). “Yeah, definitely,” Ballard said of his tendency to play stronger throughout the game. “I think I had 18 carries and somewhere after halftime, I started kind of getting into a groove and was able to make a couple defenders miss.”
Of course, his first 100-yard game wasn’t anything to get excited about from his point of view unless it had come during a win. “You couldn’t celebrate,” he said of his 105 yards on the ground. “I did an interview earlier and I said, ‘It was a team effort.’ As a team, we didn’t win so I couldn’t really celebrate my team accomplishments.”
Ballard’s humility, as much as it was the right attitude to have after a loss, was no deterrent to the praise from his teammates and coaches. “He’s been steady all year but I think he’s just getting stronger as the season’s gone on, more comfortable, more confident,” quarterback Andrew Luck said of Ballard’s progress. “He’s a heck of a back. He does a great job of making guys miss in confined spaces. He just keeps getting better.”
When he was asked if he had any doubts that Ballard could carry the load in the running game, Arians said, “Oh, there’s never been any doubt in my mind. I’ve always thought that from when we brought him in. I think everyone is starting to see it now that he’s a guy that can tote the ball the whole game.”
It’s rare for a team to find so many rookies who look like they will be long-term contributors, and continue to improve throughout the season as this 2012 class has. In fact, to expect the sort of production we have seen from these rookies might have easily been dismissed as unrealistic at the beginning of the season. Yet, here they are, a very strong, very promising draft class that fans should not take for granted. This sort of thing just doesn’t happen very often.
Arians’ Injury Update and Some Perspective from Redding
Bruce Arians on the status of injured players: “On the injury front, guys that were out last week, Kavell Conner, Tom Zbikowski, Samson Satele, and Delone Carter will not play again this week. Don’t know about the guys that played in this ball game, we’ll get some scans and MRIs and find out Wednesday who will be available this week.” Arians also said they should know on Wednesday how bad A.Q. Shipley’s injury is.
DE Cory Redding on not looking at the Kansas City Chiefs as a 2-12 team: “No, no, no. As long as you’re a pro in this league, you are a deadly weapon. You still have passion, you still have fire, and you love to compete. I don’t care what their record says. If it’s 2-14 or whatever, those guys are going to come out ready to play. They love their coach. They want to fight for a job. They’re playing at home. They’re playing amongst their peers, their family, and friends. They want to go out there and prove to themselves that they are a worthy team and to keep their head coach. You can’t look at that. You have to go and just prepare and get a victory.”
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"We had guys wide open down the field and didn’t have time to get it to them." Uhhh yeah. Because your QB was on his ass in the dirt.
I don't know what you guys think, but Luck is starting to look a little skittish to me and has been locking in on his first read rather than moving through his progressions. It makes me worry that if we don't protect him and BA keeps going for "chunks" Luck will regress and lose one of his best assets: his pocket presence.
@hankster Oh definitely. We get info from Colts PR, so I can't be too opinionated on these, but it's DRIVING ME CRAZY!!!
I hope he gets a HC job somewhere after the season, and they let a more responsible OC be the steward of our franchise qb. Arians is gonna get this kid killed.
@hankster Opposing defenses are ignoring the short and intermediate routes because they're only calling deep balls or bubble screens. I know they know more than I do about football, but opposing coaches have to be laughing to themselves a little when they prepare for this offense.