Indianapolis Colts: 10 Things They Must Fix During Their Bye Week
The Indianapolis Colts are 0-10. They have scored 125 points this year, third fewest in the league, and they have given up 300 points, the worst mark in the league. They are in a pretty dark place and things might not be at their worst.
The Colts still have games on the road against New England and Baltimore in addition to home games against Tennessee and Houston. Compounding the issue, they are not alone in the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes (or are they now "sucking" for Robert Griffin III and Matt Barkley?).
When Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay calls team GM Bill Polian throughout the week, they must stay on the phone for hours. Unless they win three of their last six, their going to have the No. 1 pick and the No. 1 "uh oh" scenario on their hands involving their icon Peyton Manning.
The NFL draft is quite a ways away and for the players that are out there on the field on Sundays, it must seem like the end of the season is light years away. The silver lining to this big, dark, gray cloud is this coming week's matchup.
Here are the 10 things the Colts need to fix throughout the week to win at home Sunday against Carolina.
Limit Peyton Manning's Face Time While He Is on the Sidelines
This is of course more humorous than anything but I do think it is important. By this point in the season, somebody close to the Colts management and front office has to have seen all these shots of Peyton on the sidelines in his jeans or khakis.
If this "somebody" has seen the consistent shots of Manning then they are thinking exactly what every diehard or casual NFL fan is thinking: "Manning must be so angry." It cannot be easy for Peyton to step into Lucas Oil on Sundays given the flux of his situation.
He probably has more questions than the Colts have. From the possibility of a trade, to a mentor role, to maybe even losing his job as starting quarterback, Manning's head must be swirling all the time. If you look closely this Sunday when the camera fixes in on him, you can actually see it.
You may be thinking, "What does 'tackle less' mean?" The answer is quite simple: Through Week 11 of the NFL season, the Indianapolis Colts have a total of 794 tackles as a team. That's 76 more than the next team (New England at 718) and even more intriguing, that number is 253 more than the NFL's low mark (Houston at 541).
This number means one simple thin: The Colts defense is bad. Their secondary isn't checking receivers at the line of scrimmage and allow quarterbacks to pass on them all game long, forcing themselves to tackle the receivers that are now open. Not a lot of incomplete passes coming from opposing quarterbacks this season.
When a team runs the ball on the Colts, you could make the argument that they're doing a good job tackling and I would be inclined to agree with you (specifically linebacker Pat Angerer). However, if you consistently tackle the opposition after they pick up a first down you aren't exactly getting it done.
Make Curtis Painter Watch Film from His First Three Starts of the Season
Many will forget something what should be unforgettable—the Colts brought in Kerry Collins this offseason to be their man in the absence of their real man, Peyton Manning. The Collins era didn't last long unfortunately; he left a Week 3 game against Pittsburgh with a concussion and is not going to play again this season.
Enter Curtis Painter. In Painter's first start Week 4 against Tampa Bay, he was 13-of-30 passing the ball for 281 yards and threw two touchdowns with no interceptions. He followed that performance up with a 15-of-27 game the next week against the Chiefs in which those 15 completions went for 277 yards and another two touchdowns.
Overall, Painter's first three starts produced 746 passing yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions. His quarterback rating was an impressive 98.07. Since then, his quarterback rating in his last four starts has been a dismal 42.68.
Painter was doing quite a few things right early on in the season and the Colts need to help him remember.
Find a Creative Way To Secure Their Secondary
It's normally really tough when analyzing a team in as tough a spot as the Colts to point at certain players or certain spots on the field that have been specifically weak. In this case, it isn't as tough. The Colts secondary has been appalling.
They give up 8.3 yards per pass attempt, third worst in the league. Opposing quarterbacks have an average quarterback rating of 109.7, the highest in the league against any one team.
It would be one thing if they were playing a Green Bay Packers-style defense, giving up yard after yard after yard and then stopping the bleeding with a big turnover, but they aren't taking the ball away defensively either. They have five interceptions through 10 games, tied for second worst in the league.
It's one thing to get thrown all over if you make a big play in turn making a stop, but if you're doing neither thing well, you're in serious trouble. The Colts need to disguise their coverage against rookie quarterback Cam Newton this weekend.
Mix Up Their Blitz Packages
Similar to the issues with their secondary, defensive coordinator Larry Coyer needs to work on his team's ability to successfully rush the quarterback and pressure him effectively. More than just sacking Cam Newton, and quarterbacks to come this season, the Colts need to be creative and disguise their packages to catch opposing teams off guard.
The Colts, through 10 games, have a mere 15 sacks (once again, second worst in the league). One of the reasons I mentioned earlier how hard it is to point at one specific issue with the Colts is because of how bad they are across the board.
They are tied for worst in the league when it comes to passing touchdowns allowed and going beyond their minimal number of sacks they have only recorded 33 quarterback hits this season. Getting to the opposition three times a game is not going to cut it.
Tell Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis They Need To Wake Up
Colts star defensive ends Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney won't be slapping on Pro Bowl jerseys any time soon. Neither player has lived up to their name this season nor have they played up to the level expected of them.
Mathis and Freeney have a combined nine Pro Bowl selections and four first-team All Pro selections as well. Starting specifically with Mathis, he is on pace for his second-lowest sack total of his career (eclipsing only his rookie campaign). Freeney, on the other hand, has had a season high of 13.5 back in 2009 and he too is on pace for his second-lowest sack total of his career.
Mathis and Freeney are normally such dominant forces both on and off the field for this team they could in many ways be considered the Peyton Manning of the Colts defense. Mathis and Freeney set the tone every Sunday and their poor performance has rippled across the defensive line all year long.
Reintroduce Themselves to Dallas Clark
Dallas Clark has been Peyton Manning's safety blanket for years now. From 2003 to 2009, Clark played in at least 12 games every year catching an average of 53 passes a year for an average of 600 yards a season.
Clark had a tough 2010 battling injuries. He only played in six games last year, catching only 37 passes for 347 yards. Clark has been healthy this season and given the quarterback issues the team has faced on a weekly basis, his lack of production is not his fault. Nonetheless, it needs to be changed.
Through 10 games, Clark only has 28 catches for 287 yards and has only crossed the goal line twice. Despite the struggles Curtis Painter has faced the past four weeks, the Colts need to emphasize his importance in the offense and remind their young quarterback that a solid tight end can become his best friend.
Painter and Clark need to reintroduce themselves Sunday.
Clone Pat Angerer
Colts linebacker Pat Angerer has been one of the few bright spots on the team this season. The second-year player out of the University of Iowa leads the NFL in tackles with 101.
Given the earlier discussion about how the Colts' number of tackles is inflated and a sign of their defense issues, that does apply here. Angerer has not been getting to the quarterback, nor has he been forcing fumbles, picking off passes or making the big play.
What he does do, is tackle. In a new NFL full of defensive restrictions regarding what can and cannot be done (more of the "don't do"), Angerer is reminding us all that an underrated skill in the NFL is the ability to tackle. His presence in the middle layer of the Colts defense is a strong one and the Colts should try and teach the rest of their guys how to get it done the way he does.
Utilize Both of Their Young Running Backs
Unfortunately for the Colts, their tough season's issues have been compounded over and over again with injuries. They lost running back Joseph Addai to a hamstring injury several weeks ago. The silver lining is the emergence of Delone Carter and Donald Brown.
Carter is a rookie out of Syracuse and Brown is a third-year back out of the University of Connecticut. Both backs have done an above-average job of carrying Addai's weight and handling their business on a regular basis.
Since Addai went down, Carter has rushed the ball 84 times for 327 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and Brown has run it 62 times for 276 yards (4.5 yards per carry). Both guys have found the end zone twice.
Interestingly however, the Colts are tied for last in the NFL with just 224 carries yet they are 11th in the league in terms of yards per carry. They are doing a good job running the ball, yet they aren't doing it enough. If they want to win some games, they need to win them on the ground.
Run the Ball More Often Than They Pass the Ball
This slide goes hand in hand with the prior one. Given the positive run game they have going and the strides that are being made by their two young backs (something we've seen work as of late, i.e. Ben Tate and Arian Foster in Houston) the Colts need to bite the bullet, save Curtis Painter and run the rock.
Going into this weekend's action, the Colts have thrown the ball 333 times and have only run the ball 224 times. This ratio cannot be explained if you're the Colts. Who are they kidding? They do not have a good quarterback, often times they do not have a competent one.
On passing plays they gain an average of 5.8 yards and on running plays, they run the ball for 4.3 yards on average. Running the ball in the NFL wears out opposing defenses, rests your defense and controls the clock.
The passing game hasn't quite been cutting it yet they continue to pass the ball far too often (in nine of the 10 games this year they have passed more than they have run). They need to pound the rock consistently if they hope to win Sunday and down the road.