We’re trying something a little different this week. I spoked with Chris Blystone from SB Nation Colts site Stampede Blue about the team he covers. The Colts are 2-1 and feeling pretty good about themselves. But they aren’t without cracks. Here’s Chris with more.
Any homer can give you a handful of reasons their team is destined for a win in their upcoming game, right? It is what you’ve come to expect from opposing writers, especially those who are also fans of the team about which they write.
I’m not here to give you optimistic musings, I’m here to get real with you. This Colts team is in trouble Sunday, and here are 3 reasons why.
The Colts have played a blend of man and zone coverage in 2019, far more of a mix than they did in 2018 where they predominantly ran a version of the old Tampa 2 zone coverage. They were able to do that because of the return to form of safety Malik Hooker who last year was still working to get all the way back from his ACL/MCL tear in his rookie season.
Hooker was lost for 4-6 weeks with a meniscus tear last week, which puts the back end of this defense in a tough spot. They haven’t exactly been a lock down defense in coverage as it is, but when you remove the best defensive back from the field and replace him with a rookie whose best fit is as a box safety, you’re bound to have problems.
Now the Colts will likely run more standard cover 2 looks like they did last season. Derek Carr proved last year that he could effectively move the ball against that coverage, and there’s little reason to think that will have changed with another year in Gruden’s offense.
With Hooker sidelined, the corners are going to have to step up, and rookie safety Khari Willis is going to have to shine, because otherwise Derek Carr is going to give them headaches.
Colts fans know this story well. We’ve spent years with fast, undersized defensive linemen who can quickly get to the quarterback. The problem is, they are too small to be major impacts against the running game, and when you also have small, fast linebackers trying to hit the gaps and stop backs from getting to the second level, you end up with problems.
Add in a dose of inexperience across the young front seven and the uncertainty about whether All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard will be able to play on Sunday due to his lingering concussion, and you’ve got a recipe for a big day on the ground. No one can get off their blocks, and you get backs running free for big gains and wearing down the defense.
The Colts haven’t proven capable of consistently stopping the run against teams who are committed to it, and it is entirely possible that they’ll be missing their best safety in Malik Hooker, their best linebacker in Darius Leonard, and their best defensive lineman in Jabaal Sheard for this game. That is a problem, and I’m not sure the Colts will be able to consistently contain Josh Jacobs.
The Colts rely very heavily on T.Y. Hilton at the receiver position. Hilton has gotten the lion’s share of the targets this season with 25. The next closest receiver is Deon Cain with 6. This is problematic, because Hilton has a quad injury that he aggravated last week and that may hamper his involvement in the game plan.
While the Colts like targeting their talented tight ends and running backs, being able to have a viable threat on the outsides is something they have struggled with outside of Hilton. The hope is that young guys like Deon Cain and Parris Campbell can be those things, but ultimately right now that is potential that has not yet manifested itself by way of results.
Additionally, for a new quarterback like Jacoby Brissett, there is a level of comfort with T.Y. Hilton that he simply doesn’t have with his other receivers. Their timing and understanding is just far better than he has with anyone else in the receiver room. If the Raiders can put the clamps on Hilton, or if he isn’t able to play due to injury, the passing game could be a struggle for the Colts, especially on the outside.