Colts defense has been bad, and they’re really struggling in one specific category

The Indianapolis Colts have not been good defensively, and their struggles in an important category is a big reason why.
Cleveland Browns v Indianapolis Colts
Cleveland Browns v Indianapolis Colts / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

The Indianapolis Colts have dropped three games in a row and will visit Frank Reich and the Carolina Panthers for their Week 9 matchup on Sunday. Although the Panthers boast the league’s worst record through 8 weeks, Head Coach Shane Steichen and DC Gus Bradley will have their hands full with a Frank Reich revenge game on the horizon.

Reich is well-known for his game-opening 10-15 play scripts that more often than not ended with points during his tenure as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Bradley and company will need to establish themselves early and often as, despite an uninspiring season thus far for Carolina, Frank Reich’s offensive genius is not to be overlooked.

While Gardner Minshew and the rest of the Indy offense has struggled at limiting turnovers as of late, they have consistently put up points. So far this season, through eight weeks that is, the Indianapolis Colts are the only team to score 20+ points in every single game. The phase they’re lacking the most in is that of the defense.

Going into Week 9, the Indianapolis Colts defense has allowed the most explosive plays in the entire NFL with 53 — these plays are rushes of 10+ yds & passes of 20+ yds. 

Colts have allowed the most explosive plays in the NFL

This Colts defense has allowed the second-most explosive passes (31) and is T-4th in most explosive runs allowed (22). Combine those and no other defense across the NFL has allowed more explosive plays.

Defensively, the Colts' woes are a product of a predictable scheme and unsatisfactory personnel. Going into the 2023 season, it was obvious on paper that the achilles heel of this team would be its defensive backfield as it was the youngest and most inexperienced group in the NFL. Injuries and poor play have only shed light on this philosophy, though the scheme and choosing of who plays where is just as big of an issue.

In Bradley’s defense, the culmination of the Colts defensive woes have really only started to reveal themselves in recent weeks. The loss of DT Grover Stewart to suspension as well as rookie starting CB JuJu Brents has only made matters worse for the defense as a whole.

It cannot be overstated just how important Stewart’s presence in the run game is. Not to mention, JuJu Brents, in a short time, has already proven to be a quality starting cornerback. This isn’t to provide an excuse for Gus Bradley and Co., but to shed light on the fact their presence is deeply missed.

The team's overall trajectory was hurt by QB Anthony Richardson's trip to the season-ending IR, however, complacency is not an option for any NFL team. The Indianapolis Colts will still play all 17 games in the 2023 season, regardless of who is trotted out onto the field donning the horseshoe. Gus Bradley may not have the legion of boom to work with anymore, but continuing to get torched up and down the field at the worst rate of any defense in the NFL just won't cut it moving forward.