Colts down, but not out
After a loss as bad as Monday night’s, it’s easy to rant about how poorly the Colts played—and they were very bad—but let’s stop there.
Let’s not go for easy.
Instead, I’ll answer the more difficult exam question: “Why should we believe in the Colts?”
Let’s start with a few simple—but accurate—answers:
1. They are 0-2 after playing two out-of-division teams—exactly the same as they were last year when they made it to the AFC Championship game.
2. Despite good wins for the Titans and Jaguars, the AFC South looks like the weakest division in football.
However, in the face of such overwhelming evidence to the contrary—as provided on national television yesterday—we’ll need to go a lot further.
The Jets are better than advertised—for now.
It’s important to realize that, on a team that’s really only been missing a quarterback and a pass rush, Ryan Fitzpatrick is still in the honeymoon phase he goes through with almost every team he’s played for. With Todd Bowles generating pressure using smoke and mirrors (as he did in Arizona), it all falls to Fitzpatrick to not screw up. But there’s a reason he’s an itinerant, and I have a four-game rule with Fitzpatrick; this is around the time he goes from being a savior to a problem. The reason for that can be the topic of a longer article for another day, but suffice it to say, up until that point, his teams will be a threat to anyone. They could easily be 5-0 before they crash and burn in New England towards the end of October.
The Colts’ secondary issues are crippling the defense.
When your two corners, who had never played a regular season snap on defense before, combine for 65 snaps (40 in coverage) and aren’t your biggest issue, you know things are bad. Forced into service by pre-game injuries to the usual starters (Greg Toler and nickel Darius Butler, and then a potential concussion to the superb Vontae Davis 2013 UDFA), Sheldon Price and rookie UDFA Eric Patterson just about held their own. Much of this was to do with a conservative Jets offense not pushing their advantage; why bother, when the real problem was having fourth-string corner Jalil Brown start, and play, all game?
Whenever he’s been forced to start previously (for KC in 2012), it’s never gone well (-6.1 coverage grade in 218 snaps). In fact, it’s a surprise he’s still hanging around. Last night was no exception, as he allowed eight of nine balls thrown his way to be completed for an almost perfect QB rating of 153.7.
However, when they get the first-stringers back (none of the injuries look long-term), this is a very good group.
The defensive line now looks like it can play the run.
When a fifth-round rookie nose tackle controls a player of C Nick Mangold’s ability, especially in one-on-one situations, it makes things a lot easier; that’s exactly what Indianapolis’ David Parry did on MNF. After grading very well for us at Stanford last year (+26.4), he fell to the fifth round because of “concerns about lack of typical defensive interior length and height.”
Throw in third-round pick Henry Anderson (a player who nearly blew up our college grading scale with his all-round ability and non-stop motor), and you have a line that, for the first time in awhile, has what it takes to stop the run.
Andrew Luck isn’t really that bad.
I know, we got into a bit of hot water because our grading scale said the Colts signal caller was outside the top 10 players at his position. The Jets’ game was a good example of why as he eluded the top 10, with a -6.2 grade that resulted from three horrible interceptions and a fumble.
However, while we believe in our grades and how they measure production, we also recognize talent—it’s hard to miss, in Luck’s case. We just don’t factor it into the rating.
He’ll have games as bad as this again unfortunately—it’s his M.O., just as much as Fitzpatrick’s is to play well for a short period before falling off a cliff—but he’ll play brilliantly at times, too. That’s just as much a part of him as the odd bone-headed play.
He is an extremely good player that still makes too many errors, but the emphasis here should be on “extremely good player.” This was the very worst of Luck—not the standard.