Colts’ young secondary showed weaknesses against Denver

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - OCTOBER 27: Courtland Sutton #14 of the Denver Broncos is tackled by Marvell Tell III #39 of the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - OCTOBER 27: Courtland Sutton #14 of the Denver Broncos is tackled by Marvell Tell III #39 of the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

The Indianapolis Colts are coming off a close win against a sub par team where they played sloppy football.

The Colts came away with a win Sunday in a 13-15 victory where the Colts didn’t play their best football. Still riding high on the victories against the Texans and Chiefs, the Colts nearly fell flat against an opponent they should’ve easily beat.

The biggest hole was the young secondary which seemed to struggle against a much lesser foe. Last week, the Broncos shipped Emmanual Sanders to the San Francisco 49ers effectively getting rid of their best offensive player. However, the entire week all the Broncos heard was how awful they played in the 30-6 beatdown by the Kansas City Chiefs. Still, the Colts should have easily handled this team.

Normally, the Colts are the least penalized team in the NFL. Their penalty count since the Raiders game has been #1 in the league:

Raiders: 5 penalties for 39 yards

Chiefs: 7 penalties for 35 yards

Texans: 6 penalties for 50 yards

Broncos: 10 penalties for 103 yards

Even with the high penalty count, the Colts still remain in the top 5 for overall penalties in the 2018 season. But it was the defense that struggled and had a hard time.

Here are some things the Colts did right and what they need to work on.

The rookie, Rock Ya-SIn, had a tough game as he was thrown into the starting role against Courtland Sutton. With Pierre Desir out, he showed his weaknesses in his starting debut. The aggressive corner got a little too “handsy” with the opposing receivers and committed a ton of penalties at crucial times.

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Ya-Sin had 5 penalties called on him with 1 declined, but the defense, in general, had 7 throughout the day. Khari Willis had a bad holding call in the redzone giving the Broncos a first down inside the 5, and Denico Autry had a personal foul call where the lined up on the center during a field goal which gave the Broncos a first down inside the redzone.

More importantly, Ya-Sin showed he’s not NFL ready quite yet. I like the aggressive nature, but you can’t hold receivers and wrap them up in a “hug” during a route; those will get called all day against you and lead to big penalties at bad times.

The Broncos had 5 first-downs off of penalty due to the young corner. This isn’t to say he’s a bust yet, I’ve seen Colts fan calling for Ballard to be fired and Ya-Sin to be traded – to be clear, I asked them what kind of drugs they were on. While that’s the nuclear option, the other option is Ya-SIn is a great player who needs time to develop against NFL receivers.

Cornerback is one of the hardest positions to play in the NFL besides quarterback, especially in Matt Eberflus’ defense. Most of the time the Colts are in a Tampa 2 defense, which is just a simple cover 2, but they played a lot of man-to-man coverage against the Broncos due to their passing playability being so low and Joe Flacco being below average. In doing so, you have to play aggressive defense and force receivers off of their routes but still allowing space to catch the ball to not interfere with them.

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In the game, Ya-Sin had a decent day in coverage in all honesty if you take away his penalties. He allowed 4 catches on 6 targets for 75 yards with 35 yards after the catch and no touchdowns, and when targeting him, Flacco’s QB rating was 109.7. Those numbers were also on 42 coverage snaps out of 73 he was on the field. Those aren’t bad numbers, it was just the penalties which killed him.

The margin for error in the NFL is much smaller than in college, and Ya-Sin just played a bad game. I have full faith in the coaching staff that will help Ya-Sin develop into a great corner in the future.

If Ya-Sin played a bad game, Marvel Tell III played a fantastic game. The fifth-round pick last year stepped up on a big way Sunday and had himself a game. I liked him when he came out of USC in the 2019 NFL Draft due to his size. He’s 6’2″ 198 pounds and makes good use of his body. His strong upper body and shoulders hold receivers at the line and yesterday, he was thrust into the starting role and made the best of it.

He shut down the left side receiver yesterday with 20 yards allowed on 1 reception with 2 targets his way, 10 yards after the catch and an 85.4 passer rating. The young corner really stepped up in a big way Sunday and helped the Colts get a win late in the 4th quarter. Of the 37 snaps he was on the field he played 26 in pass-coverage.

Malik Hooker also played great in his first game back since the Atlanta game due to a knee injury. Hooker makes this defense much better due to his range. In a Tampa 2 defense, you need your free-safety to be fast and cover a lot of ground quickly.

Hooker has also been working on his tackling ability and it’s starting to show. In last week’s game, the safety only allowed 1 catch for -4 yards on a screen which he bottled up quickly. On the season, the safety has been playing some incredible football.

He’s allowed 3 receptions on 5 targets for 27 yards and 23 after the catch. He’s also logged 12 tackles and logged an interception on a one-handed catch in the end-zone against the Chargers in week 1. The best stat of his, however, is the 35 passer rating on the season when quarterbacks target him.

As you can see, the Colts defense didn’t play a “bad” game, they just gave up penalties which gave Flacco and the Denver offense crucial first-downs when they should’ve been off the field. If it’s one thing this team does well, it’s fixing mistakes.

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The Colts handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season, at Arrowhead nonetheless, and held that offense to 13 points – something no other team has been able to do for an entire season at that point. I have full faith this team and the coaching staff will get back to great football this week against the Steelers.