Colts at Jaguars: What to Watch For


Somewhere, Indianapolis Colts (0-2) fans are sharpening their pitchforks and gathering torches in anticipation of a mind numbingly bad 0-3 start to the season. Or at least they should be.

Losing to a Jaguars (0-2) team that looks completely inept on both sides of the ball would be a tragedy. Literally the only advantage this team will have on Sunday is being at home.

This week, we have been treated to stories about Andrew Luck needing to be better, Pep Hamilton shrugging off the fan hate, and a recap of the Trent Richardson trade from last year.

What we are not seeing is criticism of Chuck Pagano for his archaic coaching philosophies or horrid defensive showings. No one is taking GM Ryan Grigson to task for this dumpster fire of a roster.

And here’s the problem, it won’t get better. The Colts could easily in three of their next four games and be back at the top of the AFC South. They’ll likely win the South, making the playoffs, and the coaches and front office will believe that validates their method, process, and philosophy.

This has become a must win for a team that looks to be reeling. They have zero leadership on defense and a lack of identity on offense. Starting 0-3 might end the season before it really begins,

It is a golden opportunity to right the ship. They can execute a more dynamic offense and get Luck into a rhythm. The Colts can also give the defense a little confidence against an offense that has scored just 27 points through two games.

Here’s what you should be on the lookout for:

  • Lockdown. The Jags are bad on offense. Really bad. They’re worst in the league in DVOA, worst in rushing yards, and 28th in passing. Unfortunately, the Colts are 32nd on defense in DVOA, 29th in passing yards allowed, and 17th against the run. Luckily, Chad Henne is hardly Peyton Manning and his coach isn’t Chip Kelly. Also, no Darren Sproles. This should be a tune up game. I’m not saying the Colts will do to the Jags what the Falcons did to the Bucs last night (seriously, 56-14?!) but it should be a one sided game. The Jags have the fewest first downs in the NFL and convert on third down just 18-percent of the time. The Colts defense will finally catch a break and put in something resembling a dominant performance.
  • Henne’s Jersey. Last week, Henne was sacked 10 times. The Colts have just one sack through two games. The Jaguars are starting a painfully inexperienced offensive line and if the Colts can’t generate any pressure, it’s time to panic. Henne has been pressured on over 44-percent of his dropbacks. This would be a good time for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky to put a few new wrinkles into the blitz schemes. If Henne walks off the field with a clean jersey, the Colts need to start questioning the coaching and players they’re putting on the field.
  • The Starter. It will be interesting to see who starts at running back. There is no question it should be Ahmad Bradshaw, but the coaches are stubborn. Richardson fumbled twice last week and averaged 3.9 yards per carry, while his backup was at a 5.4 per touch clip. If the coaches really are studying film, there is no reason Richardson should start and honestly, Dan Herron should steal a few touches (might as well let him try against an inferior opponent).
    • While we’re talking about Richardson, trading for him was the worst move Grigson has ever made. An absolutely horrible trade that cost a first round pick in an incredibly deep draft. There’s a reason a running back hasn’t been taken in the first round of the last two drafts, they aren’t that valuable anymore. Nothing about Richardson’s NFL career suggests he’s worth one, let alone two, first round picks (considering he was the third pick in the 2012 draft and the Colts traded a number one for him). It is awfully easy to run the football when your entire offensive line creates freeway sized holes and gets drafted into the NFL.
  • Luck’s Accuracy. It is no secret that Luck has struggled through two weeks. He’s been off target and let some passes sail. If he is sharp early on, then the Colts will run away with this one. If he keeps making rushed decisions, bad pre-snap reads, and doesn’t find the open man this will be another long game.
  • The Game Plan. We get that the coaches want to run the ball, but doing so doesn’t help this team develop in a meaningful way. The Colts have to find a way to get receivers open down field, and that means coming out in more spread passing sets. The success against the Eagles isn’t going to help Pagano’s run first mentality, and what he should take away from that game is that they ran the ball, won time of possession and still lost. Wins are wins, but a blowout builds this team’s confidence and goes a long way towards calming the fan base.