We’ve got a football game tomorrow, ladies and gentlemen, and we can’t get into that without first getting some info on the Minnesota Vikings’ opponent for this week. Yes, it’s once again time for Five Good Questions, and this week yours truly has gotten the opportunity to exchange some questions with Chris Shepherd from Stampede Blue, SB Nation’s home for everything relating to the Indianapolis Colts.
Once the folks over at Stampede Blue publish the questions that I answered for them, I’ll put them up here on our site. For now, here are the questions that they answered for our side.
1) The Colts made waves about a month ago when they fired head coach Frank Reich and replaced him with Jeff Saturday, who had never coached above the high school level. How has the Jeff Saturday era gone and do you think he can be the long-term coach for the Colts?
Jeff Saturday led Hebron Christian Academy to a 20-16 record in three seasons as their head coach. And it’s gone about as well as you would expect it to go if you gave an NFL head coaching job to a barely above .500 3A high school coach. It was mind-blowing when the team fired Reich and hired Saturday, it has gone as most predicted it would and now I am so detached from the reality of Jeff Saturday being the coach, I saw a picture of Shaq Leonard with his Walter Payton Man of the Year honor from the Colts and I was initially surprised by Saturday’s inclusion in the photo. After a confused second I reminded myself that Saturday is, in fact, the coach so it makes sense that he would be included.
The whole situation is so bizarre, if Jeff Saturday is given the job permanently, who’s he going to hire? What kind of a staff does Jim Irsay think he can build? He shouldn’t be the head coach beyond this year and if he is you can pencil in the Colts as reverting back to the late 80’s and early 90’s Indianapolis Colts who were the league’s doormat. It would be an unserious move of a newly unserious franchise.
2) Indianapolis comes into this week’s game with the third-best pass defense in the NFL in terms of yards allowed. Do you think the Colts will do something special to try to defend Justin Jefferson or are they confident enough in the defensive scheme to not do anything out of the norm?
Gus Bradley’s defense doesn’t really do “special” haha he will mix in some two high safety looks from time to time but he stays in a single high set, most of the time. And for the first 11 games of the season it worked out really well. Chris Ballard built a very good defense at all three levels, just good players everywhere. The defense, specifically the pass defense, was good enough that it lifted a terrible Colts offense to a win over the Kansas City Chiefs and within a point of the Philadelphia Eagles.
But something happened after the Eagles game, in week 12 against the Steelers that same Colts defense made Kenny Pickett look like Terry Bradshaw. But it was just one game, it was reasonable to think that maybe it was just a bad showing and the Colts defense we saw earlier in the season would show back up and keep games close. Instead they gave up 54 points to the Cowboys in primetime. Now it’s possible they played two rough games in a row and will bounce back in a big way against a good offense with very good playmakers but in my opinion, that’s just not going to happen. The defense was put in impossible situations all year long. Yet game after game they carried the team into the fourth quarter with a chance to win only to be let down by the offense time and time again. There’s only so much of that, that can happen before guys start looking around, pointing fingers and asking questions. Questions like “why am I killing myself when the offense can’t score more than 20 points?” or “will I make more money on another team next year if I’m healthy?” and eventually questions like this turn into things like giving up a 50-burger on Monday Night Football.
3) On the other hand, only one NFL team has scored fewer points than the Colts have this season. What has been the primary reason for the team’s struggles on offense, in your opinion?
This isn’t my opinion, it’s a fact: the Indianapolis Colts offensive line is the reason the offense is so bad. The only people who disagree with that are the mothers of the Colts offensive linemen.
Matt Ryan was promised a good offensive line and a strong running game. His job was supposed to include handing the ball off, taking easy stuff that defenses gave him and just keeping the offense on schedule- something he is more than capable of doing. Instead he got an offensive line unable to protect him and unable to open holes for Jonathan Taylor. As a result he has been tasked with overcoming that flaw and Matt Ryan five years ago probably could have. But Matt Ryan today, just can’t do it. The offense as designed was dependent upon having a good offensive line and everyone believed it was a good line until they actually started playing ball.
Bernhard Raimann, a third-round developmental rookie, is starting at left tackle because there were no better options. At right guard they’ve settled on Will Fries, a second-year former seventh-round pick because there were no better options. A long list of injuries seem to have caught up with career good-but-not-great center Ryan Kelly, who turned 29 this year. His play has fallen off a cliff. Next to him at left guard, Quenton Nelson is having his worst year probably since middle school and the most consistent offensive lineman the Colts have had this season is right tackle Braden Smith, who has been solid. If you want more names of guilty parties along the line you can look to Matt Pryor who the team benched at LT, RT and RG before deciding Will Fries wasn’t worse than him. Danny Pinter also spent some time at right guard before we figured out he wasn’t great at professional football. Dennis Kelly spent some time at left tackle too and he wasn’t better than Raimann, so obviously they’re starting the rookie.
It’s just been a mess.
4) Give us one “under the radar” player on each side of the ball for the Colts that you think will play a significant role in the outcome of Saturday’s game.
If the Colts get Jelani Woods involved in the passing game, the big rookie tight end has the ability to give anyone major problems. Because the offense has been such a mess he hasn’t really been able to have a consistent role from week to week but we’ve seen flashes of what he can do and if nothing else this season has shown us that Woods’ future looks bright.
On defense look no further than Grover Stewart. For most of the season he has been completely unblockable one-on-one. He’s a two-down player so he doesn’t get much love outside of Indy but Grover is a nightmare for offenses who have to worry about DeForest Bucker lined up next to him.
5) Our friends at the DraftKings Sportsbook have put the over/under on passing TDs for both Kirk Cousins and Matt Ryan at 1.5 for this one. If you were a betting man, would you bet on either of them hitting the “over?” Both of them? Neither of them?
I’ve given up betting on the Colts this season. Betting is unpredictable by nature but most seasons I’m at least in the ballpark when I make predictions about player production. This season the Colts offense has been completely impossible. So, no I wouldn’t bet on Matt Ryan to throw for more than 1.5 but I would bet on Cousins to hit the over on TD’s. I feel pretty good about that- though I wish I didn’t.
Once again, thanks to Chris for taking the opportunity to sit down and answer our questions about the Colts ahead of this week’s game.