It's been three weeks since the season began, and as the Colts take a week off for a much-needed bye week, we look back and review what's happened so far.
Sidebar: I hate early bye weeks.
Bye weeks are generally like a welcomed rest in the middle of the season that allows teams to recover from various midseason injuries. But early bye weeks are like having a holiday falling on your day off.
You can't really complain, but you sure aren't happy about the timing of things. So, actually, you can complain. And do.
When you have a bye week in the first four or five weeks, most of the midseason injuries and nicks haven't begun to show up yet, and the players who may need a week off later in the season don't really need it quite yet.
But, nevertheless, the Colts actually can use the early bye week this season. With starters like Joe Reitz and Pat Angerer scheduled to finally return after the bye week, and Cory Redding, VontaeDavis, and Justin King getting hurt in last week's loss to Jacksonville, it provides a timely boost for key players on both sides of the ball.
Anyway, back to the issue at hand. What's worked on offense over the last three weeks, what's been a steaming pile of doo-doo, and what needs to change moving forward?
While the rookie sensation had a rough start to the season against the Bears, he showed maturity beyond his years and potential to be an elite quarterback. He followed it up with two very good performances, which led him to have the 2nd overall highest Total QBR in the league after three weeks. Luck's impressed with his feet as well as his arm, showing elite pocket presence and the athleticism to avoid pressure and have the option to throw or run. His instincts tell him when to run and when to get rid of the ball, a reason why he's taken just five sacks behind an abysmal offensive line. Luck's been inaccurate at times, but he's also been rushed to throw the ball with the amount of pressure he's getting. Overall, there should be giddiness by Indianapolis fans at the prospect of having Luck as their quarterback for the long-term future after a very good start to the season.
To be clear, running the ball hasn't always been effective this season. In fact, more often than not, it's resulted in negative plays. However, that's not the fault of Brown, who's been playing pretty well despite little to no help from the men up front. Pro Football Focus loved Brown's performance last week, calling him "an all-around back of high quality that no one talks about." I've been preaching this for months, not that Brown is an All-Pro, but that he's much better than a lot of fans give him credit for. His performance last season was one of the few bright spots of the 2011 team, and this season he's off to a good start. Among backs with at least 40 attempts, Brown is first in Pro Football Focus' "Elusive Rating" which measures elusiveness based on yards after contact and missed tackles forced. If the offensive line can open up some holes for him, his production could quickly improve.
Wayne still has all the moves apparently. The steady veteran has been Luck's go-to receiver so far this season, getting targeted 39 times over the first few weeks. So far he's on pace to have over 120 catches and 1500+ yards. For an aging receiver who isn't surrounded by proven talent, it's been phenomenal. If anything, Wayne's been too good, causing Luck to zero in on him at times and try to force the throw.
The Offensive Line
We could talk about this every week for the Colts, because it doesn't look like there's going to be any relief for the unit any time soon. The line has failed to open holes in the running game, leaving the running backs with little to no room to run. Football Outsiders estimates that the offensive line only blocks well enough to earn 2.79 yards per carry, 29th in the league. The pass protection hasn't been much better. While they've only allowed five sacks, it's much more a function of Luck's mobility than it is the offensive line's proficiency. Anthony Castonzo has been decent, but the rest of the line has been inconsistent at best.
Mookie's had a few moments in the first few weeks where he's stood up an offensive lineman and taken down the runner at the line. But, those moments are few and far between. It's not that Johnson is just getting run over every play that is the problem, but the fact that the other team only needs one offensive lineman to block him. This clogs up lanes for the inside linebackers, which, as we saw last week, leads to a lot of yards for the opposing running back. Johnson's backup, Martin Tevaseu, has been playing much better than Johnson, but hasn't seen near the amount of snaps. If Johnson continues to struggle, don't be surprised to see him phased out .
The supposedly "tough, hard-nosed" safety was suppose to come from Baltimore to be a help in run support, but so far he's been invisible. He takes bad angles towards the ball carrier, doesn't get involved in pass coverage, and just looks lost overall. The Colts will need the support from their secondary at times in the run game, and Zbikowski was supposed to be that guy.
What will/needs to change
Second Half Execution
For the past two weeks, the Colts have allowed an inferior team climb back into the game after the Colts produced next to nothing in the second half. Part of this has been the coaches willingness to go ultra-conservative with a lead in the second half, trying to grind some of the time off of the clock. The other issue is that the Colts seem to get out adjusted at the halftime, leading to just 16second half points in the first three weeks. The defense is inconsistent, but that likely will stay the same, while the offense can be tweaked.
Positive shift on the OL
The offensive line will get a big boost when Joe Reitz, who's scheduled to come back after the bye week, returns and kicks fan whipping boy Seth Olsen out of the starting lineup. The Colts recently waived Trai Essex, someone who played better than Olsen, IMO. But, what's done is done. Reitz should take his rightful spot at left guard, further boosting the line and taking out the women. Of course, this just reinforces the idea that the Colts should ONLY run left, where they gain over four yards per carry. In contrast, the Colts gain less than two yards per carry on carries in the middle of the line or behind the right tackle, and get less than four yards per carry for runs around the right end.
There are plenty of things we could throw into these categories, but if I labeled every aspect of the team here, I would never sleep.
So, what are some of your highs, lows and hopeful changes?
Yes, we'll take some lumps this year. But we have to keep reminding ourselves that we our blessed to go from the GOAT QB to a guy who looks like he could possibly be in that conversation in years to come. We've got a head coach who wants to play hard nosed D and some young weapons to grow with our QB on O.
Life is good, no matter what our record this year. And it's going to be great in the future.
For me Tom Z. has been probably the biggest disappointment, I think the word "Invisible" really explained it all, not sure what is up with this guy, never really was an all star or anything but he always seemed to make his presence known when playing with the Ravens.
I mean even Seth Olsen has shown something at times.
@paulcareyjr Olsen has usually shown something very bad. To be honest, the best I can remember for him is just barely blocking his man enough to let Donald run around the left edge a few times.
@Payton I saw him pick up Peppers on a stunt play by the defense and hold him at bay, without holding that is, I was pretty impressed, he has had a bunch or lows though.
Great write up! Definitely in agreement on Mookie and Zib. We used to use words such as "serviceable" and "available" to describe Mookie. Now he is a flat out liability. Zibikowski does look lost out there. Too many times he is trailing a play or only flashes by on the screen because he took a bad angle.
I hate early bye weeks as well. I keep telling myself that an early bye this year will help the team reevaluate and regroup sooner. That's what I'm telling myself anyway. Hoping that Freeney, Angerer, and Davis come back healthy for the Packers game as well.
I'm sure he's truly a "tough, hard nosed" safety. If the NFL were merely half as fast as it is nowadays, he'd probably be all right. If it were a quarter the speed, he'd probably be a Pro Bowler!
I too hate early byes. (I guess someone has to have them, but it sure does seem like a huge disadvantage and I'm glad it is happening in a season I'm not expecting much.)
It is amazing to me how if you get labled early with something... it is almost impossible to negate it.
To a certain extent, Peyton still suffers from the totally erroneous "can't win the big one" that he was burdened with early in his career. (And Tom Brady is still coasting off his "clutchness" label given him because of the early successes of the Pats as a whole.)
Which brings me to Donald Brown. I'm not saying he is ever going to be confused with Jim Brown, but it seems there is nothing that he can do to shake the lable of being a "bust" because he was a first round pick and didn't immediately lead the league in rushing.
(One of my top five Colts mysteries... why Donald basically never played again in 2010 after his season saving effort against the Jags.)
I noted a couple of the same things that you did Kyle. Wayne is on track for his best season ever as is Robert Mathis. And while the Colts can't generally run the ball it's only effective behind Castonzo. The right side of the line has given up more negative plays and has been entirely ineffective.
I wonder why the Colts dont take a look at Jake Scott. Last time i checked he was still available. Not sure if he is hurt though. The offensive line could surely use a guy like him
@Ani The only linemen we've brought in either know Arians system from Pittsburgh or spent training camp with us. I imagine it would take him awhile to get up to speed.
Pains me to say it because I was so excited when we drafted him, but Coby Fleener has been a huge disappointment so far this season.
@Olly Dawes I know what you mean, but he is our 3rd leading receiver so it's not like he's out of the picture. I was hoping they'd use him like Dallas.
@Olly Dawes I largely felt the same way. However, I am beginning to realize that I might have been asking too much of him in the first place. Still, he has had some drops that just needed to be caught. I'm trying to chalk it up to rookie year jitters or something. Stay positive, right?