Many fans are blaming the performance of the offensive line for the Indianapolis Colts‘ struggles. Others are pointing to general manager Chris Ballard and the front office’s offseason decisions that led to this makeshift unit taking the field for the start of the season.
Nobody would disagree that those two factors play a paramount role in why the Colts are 0-2. The players up front need to be better. Those in charge of making personnel decisions probably shouldn’t have been so frugal when trying to solve arguably the biggest offseason need.
But then again … the coaching staff very much knew what they were working with. Ballard and Co. made it clear they were not making overarching additions to cope with the loss of Anthony Castonzo. Everyone knew since the beginning of August that Quenton Nelson wouldn’t be 100% back to his normal self until about a month into the regular season.
So why hasn’t the offense been catered to addressing poor offensive line play over the first two games of the season, especially against fast defensive teams like the Seahawks and Rams?
The Colts’ coaching staff is partially to blame for poor offensive line play.
In Week 1, Julién Davenport was the starting left tackle. How confident could Frank Reich have been in a guy who’s made 28 career starts in four seasons before arriving in Indy? Nelson was playing in his first game just five weeks after undergoing foot surgery. There’s no way anybody could’ve expected the All-Pro version of the former Notre Dame star from the jump.
Fast forward to Week 2, and Braden Smith is out with an injury. Eric Fisher is playing in his first game since his long recovery from an Achilles injury. Davenport has been shifted to the other side of the line. Nelson, obviously, still needs some time to regain his footing because there won’t be any sort of reprieve going up against the NFL’s best in defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
On the first drive of Sunday’s game against the Rams, it seemed as if the gameplan was predicated on quick passes, getting quarterback Carson Wentz out of the pocket, and delayed rushes to help give the O-line more time to get their push. Indy got down to the goal line, but couldn’t punch it in.
Though it didn’t result in points, where was this offensive philosophy in Week 1? Why even have Wentz spend more time in the pocket than he needs to? The Colts didn’t abandon that philosophy vs LA, but Wentz, again, was hit 11 times and sacked three times. It seems there wasn’t enough urgency to make sure the ball was out of Wentz’s hands as soon as possible.
You don’t necessarily need the stats to back it up. If you watched Sunday’s game it was clear the Colts found offensive success on faster-developing plays and ones that got their best skill position players in open space.
For the time being, this should be the primary approach, especially if Fisher can’t remain on the field for every possession as he continues to work his way back to full strength.
But perhaps it’s now too late, because Wentz, after being under extreme duress for the second straight week despite being on a surgically-repaired foot that was operated on in early August, is dealing with TWO ankle injuries.
Week 1 may have taken the team by surprise because the Seahawks’ defense typically possesses a lot of flaws that are exposed quickly and effectively. But Week 2? The Colts’ coaching staff should’ve known they was little room for error against arguably the best defense in the NFL.