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Colts offensive lineman Quenton Nelson is pictured during a 2022 preseason game. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Colts)
Colts offensive lineman Quenton Nelson is pictured during a 2022 preseason game. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Colts)

The Colts need to change things quickly, but not as drastically as you might think

Poor offensive line play has plagued the team

2018: 1-5

2019: 2-2

2020: 3-2

2021: 1-4

2022: 1-2-1

Since 2018 the Colts have compiled a 8-15-1 record in their first few weeks of each season. The starting quarterbacks were Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett, Phillip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan.

I miss you Andrew, I am glad you’re doing well, but goodness do I miss you so badly.

Nonetheless, the Colts have a propensity to start off awful and then run a few off in a row and end up with a solid record.

2018: 10-6, Divisional round exit.

2019: 7-9, no playoffs.

2020: 11-5, Wild Card round exit.

2021: 9-8, found no record of Colts season finish.

Since head coach Frank Reich has been here he somehow comes back and saves seasons. As a quarterback, Reich led the largest comeback in NFL history as a member of the Buffalo Bills in the 1992 Wild Card round. Reich also completed a comeback in college as his Maryland Terrapins trailed 31-0 at halftime, before eventually beating the Miami Hurricanes 42-40.

So why does Reich always seem to be having to come behind?

I think it is a multitude of things: team chemistry, passion, training camp/preseason regimes, overconfidence in players.

So when Jim Irsay said, “All chips in” that must have not been in reference to the fast starts of the Manning days. 

Irsay also promised “some exciting days to come.” That must have also not been in reference to the upcoming 1-2-1 start to this 2022 season.

While what the chain of command starting at Irsay and down to Ballard and beyond does is not under my control, I can (and will) still give my two cents:

Offensive line

Frank Reich 1.JPG
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich. (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Colts)

One of the most expensive o-lines in the league is hanging around the $43 million level with the NFL salary cap sitting at $208 million. This same unit has given up 15 sacks, good for fifth in the league standings, while allowing the second most QB hits and second worst amount of clean pocket time. The run blocking hasn't been much better as this team is only averaging 3.5 yards per carry ranking them 27th in that category.

This unit has PFF rankings of:

Ryan Kelly - 15th

Quenton Nelson - 18th

Danny Pinter - 57th

Braden Smith - 31st

Matt Pryor - 47th

Forty-three million dollars and Indy can’t even place a guy in the top 10?

This has to change if Reich can pull off one of his patented come-from-behind seasons.

Play calling

The narrative coming into the season for Indy was that this team holstered the best running back in football, had upgraded from Carson Wentz to Matt Ryan at quarterback, Nyheim Hines was going to have an upgraded role, and this team has some inexperienced wide receivers and tight ends who seem to have a high ceiling with potential.

These aspects of an offense do not mean anything if you don’t call plays to get people in the correct spots to succeed. Coming into this season there was plenty of talk around a lack of playmakers, especially in the passing game, on this offense, but by no means should this team be 32nd in scoring across the league. The major concern for me in terms of play calling is the lack of success on fourth down and in the red zone. The team ranks 30th in fourth-down success with a conversion rate of 16.7% (1-for-6) and 26th in red-zone success with a touchdown rate of 46.2% (6-for-13).

Once again, this has to change if Reich can pull off one of his patented come-from-behind seasons.

If these two major things can change then the other problems that plague this team will resolve themselves. The issue of Matt Ryan leading the league with nine fumbles and Jonathon Taylor sitting at 33rd in yards per carry will both be resolved by improved offensive line play. The issues of slow starts and constantly having to come from behind can all be fixed if the Colts improve their game scripting and play calling. The Colts must get more opening-drive touchdowns, get some of their weapons more involved, and create chances for their perimeter superstars to have the ball in the open field.

If these things are fixed, then maybe, just maybe, Frank Reich and this Indianapolis Colts team can do what they do best — come from behind.

It all starts Thursday night when the Colts travel to Empower Field at Mile High Stadium to face the 2-2 Denver Broncos. This Colts team will be without its best defensive player in Shaquille Leonard due to a concussion, and its best offensive player Johnathon Taylor due to a high ankle sprain.

Looks bad, right? So did Dec. 25, 2021 against the Arizona Cardinals, but Frank Reich seems to always find a way, doesn’t he?

His job may depend on it.

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