Is the Indianapolis Colts Offense Showing Improvement?
By Rob Voigt
Special to Pro Football Guru
“If teams can average three yards per carry, why don’t they just run it four straight times?”
I asked this question of my Dad when I was learning football. It was the 1970s, I was eight years old, and the running game was dominant. Run the ball and stop the run is no longer a formula for success. Fast forward to today’s NFL, and a similar question can be asked regarding pass attempts. (“If the worst team averages 4 yards per pass attempt…”).
The NFL is now a passing league. It has been for a couple of decades. As Ron Jaworski loves to say, “points come from the passing game.”
Offensive line issues can be found on every NFL team. This is mainly due to colleges not preparing their players to be able to step in and contribute early in their pro careers. Defensive lineman have a much easier transition into “get to the quarterback and if the running back gets the ball on your way- tackle him”.
Offensive line issues affect the running game and the deep passing game. Raise your hands if you can remember the last Colts’ unit that could repeatedly hold blocks while a wide receiver ran a 40-yard pass route.
Anthony Costanzo has been the Colts’ starting left tackle since he was drafted in first round by Bill Polian. He has yet to play this season. This has had a domino effect on both tackle positions. To keep quarterbacks from getting hit play after play, most teams implement quick passes to get ball out of quarterback’s hand before defensive linemen can even get close.
Looking at the Colts’ offense through three games of 2018, it is refreshing that their new coaching staff embraces this philosophy. Even in Andrew Luck’s rookie year of 2012, when Bruce Arians had to step in as acting head coach, the quick passes were few. After that, the offense turned into a load of “Pep” and a pile of “Chud” with results that made many want to up-Chuck.
The offensive system that head coach Frank Reich and his staff has the Colts running these days is a proven winning formula. Both of last year’s Super Bowl teams (Philadelphia and New England) primarily used shorter, quicker passes to move the ball and score points. Reich was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles. One of those teams has been doing this for almost two decades. That same team also has won five NFL championships doing so.
Can the new offense be just as “boring” as the old one? Yes, if you compare points scored averages. Having four or five receivers per play that can catch the ball is better odds for success than turning and handing the ball to one runner. That runner has to make it past at least five offensive players and typically four to nine defenders. For the quick pass game, after the receiver catches the ball there is usually only one player needed to beat for a first down gain. More often than not, if they can get past just two or three defenders, a touchdown is the result.
If you haven’t heard, Luck is coming back from throwing shoulder surgery. He has also been sacked and pressured throughout his career much too frequently. The offensive tackles are hurt or out of position. This past game vs. the Eagles, the Colts’ best blocking tight end Jack Doyle was also out. Getting the ball out of Luck’s hands before he gets hit can not be understated. Protect the franchise. Let him get arm strength fully back. Let him get his timing and throw placement back to form.
Colts’ fans must show some patience. Let this young team grow in the system. The run-after-catch yards and points scored will come. It is only September. The Colts have five divisional games AFTER an early November bye. Who knows, maybe they can “dink and dunk” their way to an NFL championship...or five.
Rob Voigt is a freelance football writer. Follow him on Twitter at @ColtsFnSnceBert.