Time to Panic: How to Fix the Indianapolis Colts

Time to Panic: How to Fix the Indianapolis Colts

NFL

Time to Panic: How to Fix the Indianapolis Colts

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Jenna Watson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Indianapolis Colts are 0-3 for the first time since Curtis Painter was under center in the wake of Peyton Manning’s neck injury in 2011. The Tennessee Titans beat the Colts 25-16 behind Ryan Tannehill’s three touchdowns and Derrick Henry’s 113 yards on the ground. The team is coming undone at the seams as they continue to lose in brutal fashion.

Star linebacker, Darius Leonard, summed it up best: “This s*** sucks… This is a sick taste in my mouth. You talk about 1-0, 1-0… we gotta get 1-0.” So where do they go from here? How do they turn this ship around before it is too late? These are the questions Frank Reich is desperate to answer as the season unwinds. 

Protect the Franchise

The Indianapolis Colts failed to build a dominant offensive line around former franchise quarterback Andrew Luck and watched as he retired far too early. Chris Ballard took that to heart and began pushing the envelope in the offensive line rebuild. 

In 2018, Ballard drafted Quenton Nelson with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft and followed that up by drafting Braden Smith in the second round of the same draft. Both have been staples ever since. But the injury bug has taken a large bite out of the offensive line this season. Braden Smith missed both weeks two and three. Nelson was carted off in the week three loss after suffering a sprained ankle. The team is also relying on Eric Fisher at left tackle. Fisher is recovering from his own injury after tearing his Achilles in the AFC Championship game.  

Indianapolis is banking on Carson Wentz to take this roster to the next level, but to reach that potential, Wentz must have an above-average line. That clearly is not the case in Indy. Per PFF, Wentz is pressured on almost 48% of his drop backs. Wentz is also tied for sixth in the NFL with eight sacks taken. 

With the injuries continuing to pile up on the offensive line, the Colts should prioritize depth on the offensive line. Tyrell Crosby, Rick Wagner, and Russell Okung are still available on the free-agent market. They would all be upgrades at swing tackle and would provide immediate relief to allow both Smith and Nelson to heal up from injuries. 

Get back to your roots 

The Indianapolis Colts have never been known for stifling defenses, but they have had some freakish pass rushers over the years. Dwight Freeney and his spin move put fear into the eyes of even the best offensive tackles while Robert Mathis brought a variety of moves to get to the quarterback. Last season, the Colts relied heavily on Justin Houston who, even as he aged, delivered eight sacks. 

DeForest Buckner proved to be one of the best trades in franchise history as he had eight sacks in 2020 and continues to terrorize the pocket this season. But teams have begun to game plan for Buckner and the Colts’ defensive line has had no answer. 

Through three games, the Colts only have five sacks and 12 quarterback hits. Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus and defensive line coach Brian Baker need to scheme up more pressure because they cannot rely on individual players to win their one-on-one matchups. While Eberflus is not known for his blitz packages, using the athleticism and speed of Leonard, Bobby Okereke, and E.J. Speed could take this defense to a new level. 

If they continue to let quarterbacks sit back in the pocket, they will continue to lose games. The Indianapolis secondary is nowhere near strong enough to sit back and force a coverage sack. Eberflus and company must get creative or else their seat will certainly feel hotter. 

Let Jonathan Taylor Cook

Oftentimes you hear “Let so-and-so cook,” referring to letting a quarterback loose. But the Colts mindset should be “let Jonathan Taylor cook.” Taylor had a dynamic first year as a Colt in 2020 but has been off to a slow start in 2021. Through the first three games, Taylor has only had 42 touches in the run game for 171 yards. Against Tennessee, Taylor ran only 10 times but clipped off 64 yards on the ground. When your quarterback has bilateral sprained ankles, you may want to lean heavily on your powerhouse running back. Instead, the Colts’ offensive game plan forced Wentz to throw 37 times on two gimpy ankles. 

Taylor should be heavily utilized in this offense while Wentz continues to rehab. Taylor will also allow the Colts to take advantage of play-action passes and keep defensive linemen on their toes. 

The Indianapolis Colts are 2.5-point underdogs to the Miami Dolphins as they hope to bounce back from their 0-3 start. Wentz’s health will be the key to the game as they look to take down Jacoby Brissett and the Miami Dolphins.

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