Avoid Colts tight ends
On Wednesday, Indianapolis Colts beat reporter George Bremer of The Herald Bulletin stopped by the Pro Football Focus show hosted by Mike Clay on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio (10 a.m. ET weekdays – Sirius 210 & XM 87). Bremer talked about Frank Gore’s role in the offense, a surprise contributor on offense, and more. You can follow Bremer on Twitter @gbremer.
A Semblance Of Balance
The Colts were the pass-heaviest team in the NFL in 2014. In the offseason, they sent mixed signals by investing big free agent money in Andre Johnson and a first-round pick in Phillip Dorsett, while also investing in Frank Gore. With Gore in the picture, do they balance it out or stick with a pass-heavy approach?
“They’re going to throw it a lot,” Bremer said. “They took a receiver in the first round of the draft, and that tips their hand a little bit. However, this offense was better before Ahmad Bradshaw got hurt. When they have the threat of that running game, it makes the passing game that much better. With Gore, they know they have someone they can lean on. When you look at the AFC Championship game, New England was daring them to run and they couldn’t. They will try to establish the run early on.”
In 2013, the Colts made it a point to stick to a balanced offensive approach and it limited their offensive production. Last season, they scrapped this idea and allowed Andrew Luck to spread the defense out and take advantage of his weapons. While it makes sense to establish balance and control the clock, the Colts will only stick with this plan if it’s working.
The Colts finished in the bottom half of the league in run blocking in 2014, and now they will try to kick right guard Jack Mewhort out to right tackle after bringing in Todd Herremans. This is a new alignment that has struggled in the preseason. If the run game can’t get going and the defense has its struggles again, I would take Bremer’s first point to heart – the Colts will remain one of, if not the most, pass-happy teams in the NFL.
A True Workhorse … For Now
In 2014, the Colts used a committee at running back featuring Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson until Bradshaw went down with an injury. Before his injury, Bradshaw handled a noticeable majority of snaps and most of the red zone work. Heading into the 2015 regular season, the Colts may not have a veteran option healthy behind Gore. They released Dan Herron before the season and veteran Vick Ballard is dealing with a hamstring injury. The No. 2 and 3 backs behind Gore right now are rookies Josh Robinson and Tyler Varga, respectively.
Bremer gave his take on Gore’s workload for Week 1 and beyond.
“Going into Week 1, you may see more of Gore than you might later in the year,” Bremer said. “He’s got two rookies behind him. They feel like he’s a three-down guy. He’s as good of a blocking back as they have had here. What will be interesting is his involvement in the passing game in the red zone. Bradshaw had six receiving touchdowns in eight games. It’s something Gore didn’t do under Greg Roman in San Francisco but it will be interesting to see how Pep Hamilton uses him in the red zone.
“If you look at the history since Pagano got here, this isn’t a running-back-by-committee team. Usually the top guy is out there for most of the game. That’s not going to change a lot this year.”
Later on Wednesday, Zach Keefer of the Indianapolis Star reported that head coach Chuck Pagano told him that Gore will be on a pitch count to keep him fresh. Having said that, it’s difficult to see the Colts trusting either rookie in pass protection in Week 1, especially in the red zone. I wouldn’t take Pagano’s comments as anything more than coach-speak.
No. 2 On The Depth Chart
On the Colts’ first official depth chart, Ballard was listed as the team’s No. 2 running back in spite of his hamstring injury. When Ballard is healthy, will he leapfrog Robinson?
“I think eventually when Vick Ballard gets healthy, he’s going to have a real role here,” Bremer said. “He’s still dealing with a hamstring. I think so. Ballard is the No. 2 on the depth chart. They obviously have a lot of faith to keep him around through the injuries. They know what he can do when he’s healthy. He’s the last guy who had a 100-yard rushing game for this team, back in 2012.
Ballard led the Colts in snaps during the 2012 season before a couple back-to-back injury-plagued campaigns. If he can get and stay healthy, he provides the Colts with the safest option behind Gore.
He Throws To The Open Receiver
Luck has more options to throw to this year than in any season since joining the NFL. At wide receiver, the Colts go four deep with Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett and Donte Moncrief. They also have two talented tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener. Will anyone stand out as Luck’s go-to target?
“Andrew Luck’s favorite receiver has been the open receiver,” Bremer said. “That’s going to be even more true this year. They will mix and match their personnel to stretch defenses to figure out who is on the field and where. That 32-yard touchdown pass Andre Johnson caught against the Rams had him in the slot. We’ve seen him in the slot a lot in practice. He’s a difficult matchup for defenses in that spot. Moncrief is their best blocking receiver, so there will be situations where they want him on the field. I think they also think Dorsett might be a step quicker than Hilton. Luck will try to get everyone involved.”
Outside of Johnson and Hilton, the Colts will mix and match personnel far too often to make Dorsett or Moncrief anything more than an option in best ball formats and keeper leagues. There has been a lot of coach-speak about Dorsett this offseason, and Bremer’s note is an interesting one.
Avoid The Tight Ends
Will Dwayne Allen be more involved in the passing game or continue to work primarily as a blocker?
“He’s a victim of the problems they’ve had on the offensive line,” Bremer said. “They need to keep him in. I don’t see that changing. They haven’t upgraded the line significantly. They will need him to help pass protect.”
Allen was used as a blocker on 331 of his 633 total snaps in 2014. With only just greater than 300 snaps in route, Allen made for an extremely inconsistent fantasy option at tight end. It’s a strong bet that he will remain that way in 2014.
Will Coby Fleener see fewer snaps due to the depth and talent at wide receiver?
“I think that’s what’s going to happen,” Bremer said. “It will be interesting to see in Week 1 if we get more four-wide-receiver sets. It’s not something we saw in the preseason, but it’s something the team should be interested in doing based on the personnel.”
Four-wide-receiver sets are not often used in the NFL, but they don’t need to be for Fleener to lose playing time. If the Colts go to their 11 personnel package, featuring three wide receivers and a tight end, Fleener could lose snaps to Allen. Although he flashed at times in 2014, Fleener will be an inconsistent fantasy tight end in 2015.
Dan Schneier is a staff writer at PFF Fantasy and he covers the NFC East beat for FOX Sports. You can find him on Twitter @DanSchneierNFL. You can also add him to your network on Google+ to find all of his past material.