The Jacksonville Jaguars have dropped two-straight games and currently sit at 2-3 on the 2022 season. The Jaguars hit the road this week to take on the Indianapolis Colts (2-2-1) at Lucas Oil Stadium. The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday and will be broadcast on CBS in local markets.
This weekend, the Jaguars and Colts will already meet for the second time this season, with Jacksonville getting the better of Indianapolis on Sept. 18. However, now playing at home where the Colts seem to fare much better against Jacksonville, will Indianapolis get some revenge this week? Can the Colts make a run at the AFC South title? Is Jonathan Taylor going to play for Indy?
We re-connected with Chris Shepherd from Stampede Blue — SB Nation’s Indianapolis Colts website — to get answers to these questions and more.
1. The Colts currently sit at 2-2-1 on the year. Through five games, what has this team done well and what does it need to improve upon throughout the rest of the season?
Chris: The Colts defense has been good. Chris Ballard has invested a ton of resources on the defensive side of the ball and it shows. Even without Shaquille Leonard, the defense has been playing really well. I don’t love Gus Bradley’s system, but so far the talent has made up for the flaws I believe are inherent in his system.
What do the Colts need to do better? They have to find an offensive line that can block. No one up front has been good. Quenton Nelson has made three first-team All-Pro teams and one, second-team All-Pro, and he’s giving up sacks and pressure like never before. Granted his “bad” is still better than most guys at the position, but it’s still telling that the best player on the line hasn’t been anywhere near his standard. The Colts have been moving linemen around and trying out free agents. In a lot of ways it’s reminiscent of 2018 when they shuffled the line until they found five guys that would play nearly every snap together for the next 2.5 years.
On the other hand, I’m not exactly counting on them catching lightning in a bottle twice.
2. In Week Two, the Jaguars dominated the Colts 24-0. What does Indianapolis need to do differently this time around, and how do you see this game playing out?
Chris: Yeah, that game was a disaster. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but the Colts have to block better. The offensive line hasn’t just been bad, it’s been awful. Protect Matt Ryan and see what he can do. It sounds crazy but we don’t really have any idea what this offense can be because the quarterback keeps getting killed. Ryan does need to hold on to the ball and quit fumbling the thing, but he shouldn’t be taking so many hits.
In Week Two the defense started out poorly, but rebounded in the second half forcing four punts and a turnover on downs, while allowing one (really long) touchdown drive. Ultimately it didn’t matter what the defense did and who knows how different the game might have been had the offense bothered to score, so while I’m not saying the defense was great in Week Two, the unit is the least of my concerns this week.
As far as how I see this one playing out, I truly don’t know. The Colts have at least acknowledged they have a problem up front and are working to fix it. I have no idea if or when they’ll be able to do it. If they find a combination up front that works, they might look like a completely different team. If they don’t find a serviceable line, the Jags looking to bounce back after a rough game last week, might blow them out again this time in Indy.
3. Jonathan Taylor missed last week’s game against the Colts. Are you expecting him to play against the Jaguars on Sunday? If not, who do the Colts turn to at running back?
Chris: JT missed practice on Wednesday, which is concerning. Before his ankle injury he had never in his football playing life (back to high school) even missed a practice. The fact that he didn’t play on a short week wasn’t that surprising, but the fact that he wasn’t at least a limited participant in pratice is concerning. If he can’t go again this week, it will depend on how Nyheim Hines recovers from his concussion. If he can play I expect to see Hines and Deon Jackson rotating most of the day.
4. Who have been the surprise players on offense this year? How about on defense (guys who have made an impact even if they weren’t expected to or have played better than anticipated)?
Chris: Surprise players on offense...the offensive line has been surprisingly bad. Deon Jackson looked good running the ball last Thursday after Taylor didn’t play and Hines was lost on the first series. Alec Pierce looks like he might develop into a good receiver...but nobody has been truly surprising in a positive way on offense.
On defense, before Week Two, I told you about the young rookie safety Nick Cross. Cross won a starting role in camp and the preseason and was drawing rave reviews. Turns out, he was the wrong rookie safety to tell you about. I should have told you about Rodney Thomas II, a seventh-round pick from Yale. Thomas has started in each of the last two games and played more than 80 percent of the team’s snaps in Week Three as well.
Coming from Yale, this shouldn’t be surprising, but it seems that Thomas is processing the game at a very high level (dude is smart) and has brought communication to the defensive backfield that was sorely lacking before.
5. Are the Colts true contenders in the AFC South? How do you see the division shaking out at this point in the season?
Chris: The Colts are contenders because the AFC South is an absolute mess. If they figure out the offensive line, then the Colts can absolutely compete. If not, then no, they are absolutely not contenders, but lucky for them, they play in the South.
The Colts have the statistically worst offense in the league and they find themselves second in the division. The Titans aren’t great. The Jags looked awful last week and the Texans...well, we can all make fun of the Texans and not worry about the consequences this year. So it’s a three-team race that anyone can win, but if I’m being honest, the Colts have looked like the third best team thus far.
Bonus: The Colts are currently two-point favorites over the Jaguars and the over/under is set at 42, according to the DraftKings Sportsbook. Does Indianapolis cover, are you taking the over or the under and what is your final score prediction?
Chris: First, I’m taking the under all day, every day until the Colts show that they have anything resembling an offense. Maybe I’m just discouraged from having to watch every snap of that awful Thursday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos, but I don’t have any idea how the Colts are favored in this game. I’m never going to bet against the Colts and because I don’t want to lose money, I’m sitting this one out.
With that said I have a reputation to uphold so take that into consideration when you see my prediction:
Colts 17. Jags 16
See, if the Colts lose, Colts fans aren’t going to give me a hard time for this prediction. But if I predict the Jags to win and the Colts pull off a win, then I could take some heat. The reality is the Colts are volatile and I have no idea what team will take the field on Sunday, so I’m just trying to answer this question in the safest way possible. That said, I hope Doug Pederson gets lost on his way to the stadium and I hope Trevor Lawrence stubs his toe on Sunday morning. Go Colts.
Thank you to Chris for once again providing insights and thoughts regarding Indianapolis. To keep up with news regarding Colts, be sure to follow Chris on Twitter, and make sure to follow Stampede Blue as well.