[caption id="" align="alignright" width="298" caption="Drake Nevis lands a hit on Colt McCoy | AJ Macht"]Drake Nevis
This game was pretty ugly. There were bright spots, but between double teams on Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney nearly every snap, incompetence from Kerry Collins, and cushions from Jacob Lacey, Jerraud Powers, and Justin Tryon, it can be difficult to focus on the positives.
Despite that difficulty, there were some promising performances in each phase of the game. The Colts have limited rushing yardage per attempt, improved their own rushing yardage average, added pressure up the middle on defense, the offensive line is actually considerably better, and Pat McAfee may actually have the strongest leg in the NFL.
* Collins is horrid. While some will say, 'give him time to learn the offense,' the game review and his statistics paint a bleak picture. Since Week 1 Collins has averaged 2.58 seconds per snap to get rid of the football -- up from Manning's 2.4 seconds last year. Unlike Manning, Collins has actually had more time than his snap time indicates because he's throwing the ball before his pocket breaks down.
The average snap time for Collins' completions, is just 2.38 seconds while his average for incompletions is 2.75 seconds. The more time he gets, the worse he is.
Collins has had 8 passes defended through 2 games, which puts him on pace for 64 total on the year. That is 25% higher than what Manning tallied in 2010 while playing without superior pass-catchers like Austin Collie and Dallas Clark, and while also not having a ground game to distract defenses.
Most troubling is his inconsistency -- something a 17-year veteran should not have problems with. While there is some effect from a lack of familiarity with the way receivers run a specific route tree, Collins is simply displaying an inability to accurately deliver a football.
Austin Collie is one of the most reliable pass-catchers in the NFL. He was targeted 10 times on Sunday. He only had 3 completions.
Of the 7 incompletions? 2 were overthrown by Collins, 3 were defended, and 2 were drops -- with one of the drops being thrown behind Collie, but just close enough Collie could reach back and get a couple fingers on it. When he was open, Collins was unable to deliver the ball, whether Collie was stationary, or in stride.
Collins is showing why his career completion percentage is only in the mid-50's. It is clear that Collins has difficulty reading coverage and has an inconsistent delivery. Maybe he will get more comfortable with the ways Colts WRs run their routes. But at this point it looks doubtful that Collins will be able to deliver the ball consistently, even when they are wide open.
* The offensive line continues to be a bright spot, even though right tackle Jeff Linkenbach continues to take a lot of grief. On a snap-by-snap basis, Linkenbach wasn't bad until late in the second half. Linkenbach had a stretch of half a dozen plays where he was unable to do anything right which brought down his numbers.
At halftime he was blocking at around 80% good blocks and 10% bad blocks, but by the end of the game his average had dropped to a mediocre 75% good and 18.8% bad. Again, compared to Ryan Diem's perpetual 60% good 25% bad, Linkenbach is stellar. But when you look across the line you find out the difference between, 'OK,' and 'really good.'
Anthony Castonzo has won a fan in me. I was originally higher on Nate Solder in the draft and felt that Castonzo had peaked, but to be honest, if this is his peak, I can live happy with him at left tackle.
In his second regular season start, Castonzo recorded just 1 negative play in the first half and ended up having the best blocking percentage on the team with a final result of 87.5% good blocks and 6.3% bad blocks. He may not be a Pro Bowler, but if he stays anywhere close to this production, Manning's blindside protection will be solid for the rest of his career.
The remaining offensive linemen had varying results. Left guard Joe Reitz was generally positive (87.5%/9.4%) but allowed a hit on one of his few mistakes in the game. Center Jeff Saturday continues to play below his average from last year and allowed a sack and 2 pressures to add to his 4 pressure from last week. On a good/bad note, Mike Pollak came into the line and had a number of good blocks (76%) but still struggled limiting his negative blocks (16%). Ryan Diem's numbers were largely unchanged from last week and similar to the results that Pollak put up.
* Colts running backs are one of the best parts of the team at the moment. Addai is averaging 4.55 YPC and second back Delone Carter has just 2 stuffs on 18 attempts (11%). Addai dominates the snap count with 97 snaps to Carter's 29, but that is likely more a result of Addai's superior pass-blocking skills. Carter accounted for one of the hits on Collins in Week 2, but has not been overly disappointing when asked to throw blocks on pass rushers.
* If fans wonder why the Colts didn't get much pressure on Colt McCoy -- his average snap time was a miniscule 2.25 seconds. A perfect unblocked rush takes roughly two seconds when the QB takes a 5-step drop. Still, it is going to be a long day when a defense has two perennial Pro Bowl defensive ends turned into bystanders for much of the day.
For the second straight game rookie DT Drake Nevis was a standout on the defensive line. He recorded 5 assists and 1 tackle and laid a big hit and a pressure on QB Colt McCoy. He produced all of this in 38 snaps, and significant production boost over fellow DT Mookie Johnson who tallied 1 assist, 2 tackles, and a pressure in 37 snaps.
* The linebackers improved as a group. Angerer had 5 assists and 4 tackles with 2 hits while Conner added 10 tackles and 2 assists with a forced fumble.
In terms of total production the linebackers totaled 182 snaps with only 2 broken tackles (down from 5 missed tackles and 2 broken tackles in 194 snaps in week 1). The linebackers also produced a defended pass, 3 quarterback hits, and 2 forced fumbles.
Overall, they kept to their gap assignments and made tackles more efficiently.
* The Colts secondary was another story. With such a short snap time for McCoy, all the secondary had to do was tighten up their coverage and the Brown's offense would have sputtered to a halt -- especially since their running game was essentially shut down.
Instead, the cushion plague that has made Jacob Lacey the sheep of the week on a regular basis has infected the rest of the secondary. The entire secondary played off of their man for much of the game and allowed a weak Browns receiving corps to have as many receptions as they wanted. Powers looked like he had Pro Bowl potential last year, but even he has begun giving cushions. Tryon, who is loved for his highlight reel hits, is playing off his man too.
Tackling is still an issue. Powers had 2 broken tackles. Safety Melvin Bullitt had 1 missed tackle and 3 broken tackles.
While Lacey was very a consistent tacker, and made some impressive stops, he was taken to task in the air. No matter who receives the great portion of criticism, it is obvious that the front 7 and secondary are playing two completely different games. This is correctable and needs to be addressed.
Pat McAfee has a monster leg. His punts have averaged over 57 yards from the spot he kicks it to the spot it is caught by the returner with an average hang time of 4.6 seconds. The only issue with his booming kicks may be with the gunners, who have struggled to get down the field to cover. Even with his superb hang time, he may be focusing on distance too much.
While not every team will be able to return his kicks the way the Browns and Texans did, it could be better for McAfee to sacrifice 5 yards of distance for another half second of hang time.
How does McAfee compares to his competition? In the first two weeks, opposing punters have averaged just 50.3 yards with a 4.48 second hang time. McAfee is kicking longer punts for greater hang times. If punt coverage can improve, the Colts can routinely pin opposing teams inside the 20 even when they're punting from their own 25.