Hansen: Colts have to improve in every area of the game if they want to meet off-season expectations

Indianapolis Colts Head Coach, Frank Reich interviews Pro Football Focus Host, Mike Florio Feb. 28, 2020, in Indianapolis. Reich has been the Colts head coach since 2018. Jacob Musselman, DN
Indianapolis Colts Head Coach, Frank Reich interviews Pro Football Focus Host, Mike Florio Feb. 28, 2020, in Indianapolis. Reich has been the Colts head coach since 2018. Jacob Musselman, DN

Ian Hansen is a junior news journalism major. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Write to Ian at imhansen@bsu.edu

The Indianapolis Colts have Super Bowl aspirations and look good on paper. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who beat Indianapolis 27-20 on Sunday, Sep. 13, had expectations to be a contender for the number one pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

If Indianapolis had a game that looked like a given win, it was this one. Jacksonville lost multiple pieces in the offseason from their once elite defensive line such as Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell along with losing their star running back, Leonard Fournette on the offensive end. While Indianapolis has not won an opening day since 2013 or a game in Jacksonville since 2014, this year felt different.

Future hall of fame quarterback Philip Rivers made his debut in the horseshoe, and Indianapolis added All-Pro defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. These are two areas where the Colts have struggled in the last year. The expectations for Indianapolis, based on training camp performances and the rare lack of injuries made it seem as if the win was guaranteed. 

The complete opposite happened and after a great offensive start, everything went downhill. Every position group was to blame and the coaching staff had its fair share of issues. 

The main issue stemmed from the defense, as the Jaguars starting quarterback, Gardner Minshew completed 19 passes on 20 attempts and threw for three touchdown passes. The reason he was so efficient was because the Tampa 2 defensive system the Colts run prevents the cornerbacks from playing close to the line of scrimmage, and that left receivers wide-open. There were also many instances where the cornerbacks simply got beat.

While the pass rush was not awful, it did not meet the expectations from the offseason. Their main acquisition, Buckner, only put together six total tackles and the team only had four sacks. They gave Minshew way too much time to find his targets and was part of the reason he was so efficient. The defensive line also allowed Jacksonville to 91 total rushing yards.

Offensively, there was less to worry about outside of starting running back Marlon Mack tearing his Achilles tendon. While Philip Rivers threw two interceptions, he still threw for 363 yards and a touchdown. Without any preseason and the lack of game situations, Rivers held his own. A lot of it had to do with decision making from a coaching standpoint. Head coach Frank Reich went for a controversial fourth down where the offense was unable to convert, which shifted the momentum in favor of Jacksonville. He also abandoned the run in the second half which made their offensive way too predictable. 

With regard to special teams, it was much better than what we saw a year ago with Adam Vinatieri, but current kicker Rodrigo Blankenship still missed a field goal that could have shifted the tide. 

It is only the first game and there is no reason to panic if you are a Colts fan, but there are still reasons to be concerned, and there are many areas where Indianapolis needs to adjust. Again, the Colts have lost their first two games and still finished 11-5. They have also started a season 1-5 only to end it 10-6, so they are accustomed to slow starts. There is still plenty of time to improve and fight for the Super Bowl.

Contact Ian Hansen with comments at imhansen@bsu.edu or on Twitter @ianh_2.


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