The Jacksonville Jaguars will be visiting the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday and A WINNING RECORD GOING INTO THE BYE WEEK is one the line. To get us ready for the game we sat down with Chris Blystone over at Stampede Blue.
1. I think the biggest matchup on Sunday will be Marlon Mack against our run defense. How is the Colts offensive line in the run game?
I agree completely that this should be the biggest matchup. Mack has been explosive when he has been given touches. That said, much of what he has accomplished has been in spite of somewhat inconsistent offensive line play. The Colts’ offensive line this season has been ravaged by injuries, and they were not a dominant unit to begin with. Having said that, run blocking is probably the area they are stronger, and Mack has the ability if he can get to the second level to make any run a big one. He is tied for fourth in the league in runs of 20-or-more yards on just 27 attempts.
With all that said, the Colts coaching staff has repeatedly failed to use him correctly in ways that play to his obvious strengths, so it may not make a great deal of difference how well the offensive line plays, although with the loss of Robert Turbin as the primary third down and short yardage back, we will almost certainly see Mack and Gore both get more carries.
2. How's Jacoby Brissett doing? I wanted to take a chance on him late in the preseason and was sad to see him go to y'all.
Brissett has been better than he has any right to be. He has been a total blessing for the Colts because those who watched Scott Tolzien know that if he had been starting this season we would be looking at the number one overall pick as a virtual lock. It is sometimes hard to remember that Brissett is actually a backup, because he plays so efficiently that he truly probably belongs as a starter somewhere. There is a certain amount of poise and movement in the pocket that just feels like an NFL starter, as well as his ability to make some truly impressive throws.
There are also some areas that need a good deal of improvement. He has trouble with awareness in the pocket, sometimes fleeing a clean pocket early, or not recognizing pressure quickly enough. Perhaps most frustrating is that he can miss open receivers because he locks on to a player and doesn’t get through his progressions. To be fair to him, he did that much better against Tennessee last week and for a guy who missed all of training camp and preseason with this team, he is still very much a guy trying to get things figured out and build chemistry with the receivers.
I think there is a real possibility that the Colts will have suitors for him in the offseason, and given some of the likely value he is generating in Andrew Luck’s absence, it may be hard for general manager Chris Ballard to say no.
3. If you were an opposing offensive and defensive coordinator, how would you attack the Colts?
That’s a great question. As an opposing offensive coordinator, I am doing two things. This is a young defense, so I’m using motion and misdirection to my advantage. Whether that means faking jet sweeps or just moving guys around pre-snap, this secondary is inexperienced and can have some miscommunications in those situations.
Next, I am using my tight end and slot receivers to eat up the middle of the field. The Colts play their best in Cover 1 with the cornerbacks locking down their man on the outside. Despite what the numbers show, this is a very competitive defense that has been hung out to dry because the offense tends not to come back from half time and leaves them on the field a ton in the second half, which is where much of the opposing offenses’ production has come from. That said, our linebackers are abysmal in coverage, and I am sending tight ends across the middle all day until the Colts do something to stop me.
Finally, this is a team that has played really well, but been susceptible to a couple big plays, typically later in the game. So If I am calling the plays, I am setting up the opportunity for some deep shots, probably midway through the third quarter. Giving the defense some plays that look nearly identical and then hitting them deep seems to be a way many offenses have found success later in games against this young defense.
On the defensive side, the key is to bring pressure and bring it often. Brissett struggles with getting quickly through progressions and the coaching staff has not done him any favors in their play calling. When Dick Lebeau began dialing up intense pressure in the second half of last week’s game against Tennessee, the Colts continued to call plays that required time to develop rather than giving Brissett good options for outlets. I would force the Colts offense to run through the middle with Jack Doyle, who has struggled lately, and key off on Brissett.
4. Is there a Jaguars player on the offensive side of the ball (other than Leonard Fournette) that you'd say, "If the Colts don't stop him, we're in trouble"?
Unfortunately it could be just about anyone. The Colts have given up big plays to fairly middle of the road players all season long. The tight end position could be a bit of a struggle for the Colts to defend, so Marcedes Lewis could have a field day, and if he does the Colts are in big trouble.
5. What's gonna happen on Sunday? Will the Jaguars get the divisional win on the road?
I don’t think this is a good matchup for the Colts. The strengths of the Jaguars’ defense are already areas of struggle for the Colts offense. While our defense is not as bad as the stat sheets show, they tend to struggle when the offense can’t get things going because they lack the depth to rotate players and begin to tire in the second half.
With that said, the defense is as opportunistic a defense as there is in the NFL. Rookie safety Malik Hooker has been foaming at the mouth to get a crack at Blake Bortles because he would love to get another pick to add to his total. Our pass rush has not been adequate but has been steadily improving, and as good as the Jaguars’ defense is, Bortles could keep the Colts in this and a lot closer than they should be. Having said all that, the Colts have yet to play a complete football game. Even in games they have won, they’ve allowed the opposing team to mount a comeback effort in the second half.
I’m not picking in their favor again this season until they prove they can put together a full game of consistent play. I think the Jaguars win 24-14.