INDIANAPOLIS – After consecutive weeks traveling to play road games, the Colts will play at home in Week 6 against the No. 1 overall pick.
Tuesday is the final day for corrections from the previous week’s game, with the coordinators meeting the media.
What did we learn about the Colts on Tuesday?
- Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone was doing some sprinting down the sidelines on Sunday when rookie Isaiah Rodgers took off for his 101-yard kick return. Ventrone loved the blocking from his unit on that return, with several of them making wise decisions on when to pull off blocks once Rodgers was gone. Why did the Colts put Rodgers back at kick returner after starting the year with other options like Nyheim Hines and Ashton Dulin? “(Rodgers) gives us the ability to score at any point,” Ventrone said on Tuesday.
- That was the highlight from the special teams unit on Sunday. The lowlight was Nyheim Hines fielding a punt at the 4-yard line, which turned into a brutal error when the Colts committed a safety on the next play. Ventrone stressed that Hines has been really solid for the Colts this season, but he can’t be fielding a punt inside the 5-yard line. “He knows and we know that it wasn’t the best play,” the special teams coordinator said on Tuesday. “(Hines) understands, we aren’t going to fair catch balls inside the 5-yard line. I’m not putting too much into that because I know that he’s a great player and he’s made a lot of good decisions for us. So I trust him.” For the Colts, they usually have a cut off around the 8-yard line of where to field a punt. “Depends on the situation, I guess you could say a general rule is you put your heels at the 8 and if you step back you are not going to field the football,” Ventrone said. “But if you feel the gunner right behind you, then there’s a chance you may step back to the 7 potentially. But we don’t want to field anything inside the 5.
- Sunday was the first significant action Le’Raven Clark has received in an NFL game since Week Five of the 2018 season. That afternoon Clark was facing J.J. Watt. This past Sunday it was Myles Garret. Offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni was pleased with how Clark looked. “Under the circumstances, on the road, against an elite pass rusher, maybe the best pass rusher in the NFL, I thought Le’Raven held his own and he played winning football for us,” Sirianni said. “I was pleased with Le’Raven’s performance.”
- Despite the Colts having issues in the run game this season, Nick Sirianni doesn’t think the Colts offensive line has taken a step back this season. Even though the pressure was ramped up against Philip Rivers last weekend, the pass protection has been pretty solid. But the run game struggles doesn’t seem to be equated to the play of the offensive line, according to Sirianni. The offensive coordinator, like Reich, thought Jonathan Taylor (12 carries for 57 yards) had his best game of the season on Sunday.
- A head scratching stat from Sunday’s loss was seeing Jack Doyle (34 snaps) and Mo Alie-Cox (21 snaps) not record a single catch. Those two were shutout in their 3 targets, while Trey Burton (25 snaps) had 5 catches for 33 yards. “We have to get all three of them involved,” Sirianni said. “They are all important parts of this offense, they all have different, unique abilities to be able to make plays and to be able to excel in different things. It’s always a plan to get them the football. You may have a plan to get them the football and the defense may not allow for that to happen. So we have to be smart. It’s a fine line. We have to be able to get our playmakers the football. We needed to get the ball more to Mo last week than we did. But when the defense takes things away, you have to react and throw to the open guy or to where the read is taking you.”
- One of the few individual bright spots from Sunday was the play of second-year linebacker Bobby Okereke. With a clubbed up broken thumb, Okereke played every single defensive snap and led the Colts with 10 tackles. That club didn’t appear to hinder him in making a diving grab for a second-half interception. You saw on Sunday why the Colts really like Okereke in coverage. Through 5 games, DeForest Buckner is the only DL/LB that has played more defensive snaps this season. “Bobby’s skillset, we saw that coming out of Stanford. His ability to cover ground and match receivers tight, being able to glove the football when he’s in tight coverage, that’s what he brings to the table. That’s his natural skillset. We try to enhance that with him just trying to coach him within the framework of the defense then letting him do his thing and that’s why Chris and the scouting department really liked him coming out and we did. He’s shown an ability to do that. Guys don’t fall from their college tape. What they do in college, you can enhance that and they are going to do that in the pro game too.”
- The Colts have had just two sacks in their last two games (80 pass attempts). After being one of the league’s top sack units early in the season, the Colts have struggled to finish those plays in recent weeks. Matt Eberflus says the Colts measure the successfulness of the pass rush more on pressures, and less on sacks, but knows that this part of the defense must improve. “We’ve played some mobile quarterbacks (3 of them) that have the ability to extend the down and we have to do a better job of keeping those guys in the well, when we do have good coverage, and don’t give them the ability to scramble and extend plays and then throw the ball down the field because of the extension of the play,” the DC said on Tuesday. “So we are looking at that. We believe and trust in our defensive line and we’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing, we just need to do it better. We need to continue to work on keeping the outside rush lane on the right and the inside rush lane on the right and so forth on the left, and there’s multiple ways to do that, you can do it my games (stunts), you can do it by straight rush, you can do it by putting people in different spots so we are always looking at evaluating that aspect.”
- It’s not often you see a starting defensive line bunch playing as much as the Colts have their guys play through 5 weeks. These are the percentage of defensive snaps DeForest Buckner, Justin Houston, Denico Autry and Grover Stewart have played this season: Buckner: 84 percent, highest for him since his 2016 rookie campaign, Houston: 66 percent, most for him since 2016, Stewart: 57 percent, most for him since 2017 rookie season, Autry: 76 percent, most for him of his 7-year career. While those guys have been outstanding against the run and decent in the pass rush, they are still playing a lot, with the likes of Ben Banogu and Tyquan Lewis barely seeing the field. Banogu has played 22 percent of defensive snaps (6 total tackles, no QB hits or tackles for loss). Lewis has also played 22 percent of defensive snaps (2 total tackles and 1 sack). Ideally, the Colts would have a tad more rotation up front, to keep those frontline guys spry in the final quarter, and also for the future outlook, too. “We are always trying to seek balance there and trying to take reps off the players like D-Buck and J-Houston and we are always trying keep them fresh for the pass rush downs,” Eberflus said on Tuesday. “We are certainly looking at that and it’s something we have to do a better job of. We have faith in all of our players and those guys are expected to play, it could be 8 plays, it could be 25 plays and that’s all relative to practice. Sometimes the rotation gets going and it doesn’t quite come out like we had planned it and we have to be mindful of that with our rep counts.”
- Justin Houston (hip) and Julian Blackmon (groin) both sound like they are good to go for Sunday. Along with that duo, the Colts are monitoring the injuries of TE-Mo Alie-Cox (knee), LT-Anthony Castonzo (ribs) and LB-Darius Leonard (groin).
- The Colts will return to practice on Wednesday, with one more game remaining before their bye week. That comes this Sunday against Joe Burrow and the Bengals (1-3-1) at Lucas Oil Stadium.