INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are saying Rock Ya-Sin wasn’t benched on Sunday, but the evidence says otherwise.
After playing 93 percent of the defensive snaps against the Packers in Week 11, Ya-Sin’s playing time plummeted to 38 percent against the Titans.
Following two third-down penalties on a critical Titans touchdown drive—which came after Ya-Sin had already lost in man coverage on A.J. Brown’s 69-yard touchdown earlier in the first half—the staff decided to sit the guy who played the most defensive snaps of any Colts player in 2019.
Ya-Sin finished Sunday playing just 27 defensive snaps, the fewest of his NFL career, playing sparingly after the woeful first half.
On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said the Colts were ‘rotating the guys’ and wanted to get veteran T.J. Carrie some more reps.
“Our plan was just to rotate those guys and sometimes based on how guys are playing we might increase or decrease a guy’s reps based on that,” Eberflus added.
Are Ya-Sin’s reps about to decrease even more?
That’s a fair question after recent struggles have showed up for the No. 34 overall pick in 2019.
While Ya-Sin has certainly had some better moments in coverage this season, his play of late has led to teams (and officials) targeting him frequently.
Ya-Sin is committing penalties at a much higher rate this season (6 in 413 snaps, compared to 9 in 851 snaps last season).
His numbers in coverage are slightly better from last year (96.9 rating allowed/109.2 last year, 68.6 completion percentage allowed/69.7 percent last year, 9.4 yards per target allowed/9.7 yards per target last year).
In 2019, Ya-Sin pointed to a technique flaw in his footwork breaking down early, which led to him being handsy and grabby as routes developed. He committed 5 penalties in one game against Denver last year.
According to Eberflus, the recent struggles for Ya-Sin come from a different fundamental issue.
“I think his technique has improved and I just think he needs to continue to work,” Eberflus says of Ya-Sin. “I think it’s way above where he was at this point during that time.
“We’re working on his fundamentals, technique and where he is in terms of the top of the routes. (We’re) making sure his hands are down and making sure he does a good job with his technique and his RPMs at the top of the route and early on. We always say if you’re good early, you’ll be good late in the down, and we’ll continue to work on that with him.”
Given the lack of outside cornerback depth for the Colts in 2020, outright benching Ya-Sin would thrust Carrie into a role that he wasn’t brought here to do. While Carrie has outside corner experience, the Colts would rather have him as insurance in the slot behind Kenny Moore.
Since Ya-Sin’s first days on an NFL field, the Colts have been worried about his grabby nature in playing the cornerback position.
As he approaches the end of his second NFL season, those concerns remain.
Until he fixes it, opposing quarterbacks and officials will continue to have their eyes glued to No. 26.
It’s obvious that Ya-Sin’s play the past two weeks is a reason why the Colts allowed 31 and 38 points defensively.
The Colts have always loved the work ethic of Ya-Sin and never doubted his willingness to improve.
But is the panic nature we are seeing again, along with a new technique flaw, correctable mid-season?
“Rock is like a lot of our players, there has been a lot of good moments on tape,” Frank Reich said earlier this week. “He had the two unfortunate penalties (against the Titans) and the one is a double move. It’s just continuing to work your technique and find ways.
“Especially when you’re a perimeter player as a corner, you’re just exposed out there as we well know, but that’s what corners love. They have that mindset. They have a confidence about themselves and Rock has confidence. What I have experienced in these kinds of situations is the truly great competitors, which we believe Rock is, shake it off. You have a day where you get a couple penalties – sure, they were called penalties so they’re penalties. Are they crazy penalties? No, it wasn’t terrible on his part. There was some contact, it’s going to get called, so you have to shake it off. You play that position, you have to be able to shake it off and line up the next week and show that you have the confidence to line up against the best and play winning football the next week.”