6 Questions Left Unanswerered for the Indianapolis Colts After Week 1
Andrew Luck had a rough outing but still showed signs of encouragement. The offensive line woes continued, the defense had a rough outing and the Colts couldn't stick with the run, even though it was generally effective.
We learned quite a few things, but there are many unanswered questions still burning in my mind.
What Is Bruce Arians Thinking?
Like Greg Cowan of ColtsAuthority.com, the first and most pressing concern in my mind is whether or not Bruce Arians understands the weapons in his offensive arsenal. More pointedly, I worry that Arians doesn't understand the lack of talent from which the team currently suffers. The offensive line clearly can't protect Andrew Luck. The receivers, aside from Reggie Wayne, were not very effective. Worse, Donald Brown averaged more than five yards per carry, but the team only ran 15 times.
What in the world is Bruce Arians thinking by asking a rookie quarterback to throw 45 times, many of which were five or seven-step drops behind a shaky offensive line?
In the case of both Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, their teams selected plays that were conducive to their development. While Andrew Luck is completely capable of digesting the entire playbook, the team around him simply can't live up to that requirement.
Arians needs to adjust the playbook to give the rookie a fighting chance this year.
Can the Colts Keep Andrew Luck Healthy?
If you didn't watch the game and only saw the box score you'd think Luck had the typical rookie outing. While he made some rookie mistakes, it wasn't what you'd hope a rookie faced in his first NFL game. Rather than taking small, productive steps, Luck spent the day running for his life. If the team planned on putting their quarterback behind an offensive line this bad they should have drafted Usain Bolt.
While only sacked three times, Luck spent too much time on the ground. At the rate he was hit and pressured on Sunday, I have doubts that the Colts can prevent injury to Luck.
This week's moves to solidify the offensive line will help. Trai Essex is an offensive line Swiss Army knife capable of playing multiple positions. Given the potential loss of Winston Justice to injury, Essex could see playing time very quickly.
When Will the Defense Improve?
The Colts defense gave up 333 yards to Jay Cutler and the suddenly high-flying Bears offense. They also let the Bears' rushing attack eclipse the century mark.
Didn't the Colts hire Chuck Pagano, a former defensive coach, to help shore up the spotty defense?
At this moment, the Colts lack two critical elements for a consistent, successful defense: depth of talent and time in the system.
Against the Bears, the team clearly lacked the ability to rush the passer aside from their early success. Robert Mathis came up with two sacks, but other than those moments, Cutler had plenty of time to throw. The defensive line struggled at the point of attack and it showed. Without a pass rush, the weak Colts secondary fought an uphill battle all day and lost.
Yet this should be expected from a team short on talent and working through a defensive scheme change. Provided GM Ryan Grigson addresses this shortcoming in next year's draft and through free agency, there are brighter times ahead. Just don't get your hopes up about this season.
Will Coby Fleener Repeat His Performance?
Coby Fleener didn't have a good preseason. He was barely visible and only noticed when he dropped the ball.
Things changed on Sunday when he and fellow Stanford alum Andrew Luck finally got on the same page. He had six catches for 82 yards, a virtual boondoggle given his struggles in the preseason.
Was it fleeting success or a sign of things to come?
It's unrealistic to expect much of Andrew Luck, let alone a rookie tight end, yet I think instinct is taking over. At this moment, Fleener, along with Reggie Wayne, are clearly the two targets Luck trusts the most. Bruce Arians would be wise to work in as many plays as he can targeting both. Once teams start keying on Fleener and Wayne, the other receivers and the rushing game will improve.
Can Donald Brown Keep Up the Pace?
Aside from dropping two easy passes, Donald Brown had a very good day. He averaged more than five yards per carry and was solid in pass protection. He was hit in the backfield too often but made up for the lost yards with a couple of solid gains. Despite not getting enough carries, he had a very good day.
Can he keep up the pace?
Four of his nine attempts were losses or no gain. Five of the nine attempts were run to the right side of the offensive line for an average of 3.2 yards per carry. When running left Brown did much better averaging eight yards per carry.
I sincerely doubt Brown is incapable of running to the right. It's clearly an offensive line problem the Colts must address. Until then, run left!
How Many Wins Can Fans Expect?
Through the preseason, some, including myself, felt their hopes rising. Andrew Luck looked very good, the defense looked passable at times, special teams were improved and the receiving corps looked well-stocked.
After removing my Speed Blue goggles and watching the film, I see quite a few things that simply don't add up to a remarkable turnaround this year. The tape shows a team short on talent along the defensive line, in the secondary and offensive line. It also shows a team that is still learning to play together. While there are flashes of greatness, the sloppy play tells me we're watching a team that won't put it all together as quickly as fans hope.
In reality this will be a learning year. Their goal should be to play competitively and learn. They're going to win more games than last year. How many?
Predictions are tough, but we'll have a good idea after they play the Vikings and Jaguars in the next two weeks. Both are winnable games and should be a good indicator of what to expect. Can they beat less-talented competitors or are the Colts headed for another top-10 draft pick in 2013?