INDIANAPOLIS – Frank Reich knows it is an issue.
And considering how the Colts run game has exploded in 2021, plus how the personnel in the pass catching department hasn’t changed from last season, is the fault for this the quarterback?
Reich isn’t going to go there.
But the head coach and play caller of the Colts knows that the passing game is holding the offense back.
It’s that question—with Carson Wentz the leader of the pass game—bubbling a bit with a ‘win and in’ game waiting on Sunday, followed by (hopefully) one and done football.
For Reich, a key passing game metric that he frequently examines is yards per pass attempt.
An acceptable number for the head coach hovers around 7.5 YPA.
Since Week 6, Wentz has a yards per attempt number of 6.55. That’s behind quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke, Justin Fields, Geno Smith and Colt McCoy.
Despite a healthier Wentz facing an easier schedule than the start of the season, it’s the efficiency of this passing offense that is still missing.
“I look at that number all the time because I know it’s an important number and I haven’t liked how it’s been trending,” Reich said earlier this week. “There used to be a time where that was the stat for me. Like if you win the yards per attempt thing – the win correlation with yards per attempt is pretty high when you start looking at individual stats.
“We’ve got to execute better, we’ve got to scheme it better, we’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities that we have to get that yards per attempt back up to where it needs to be.”
In the accuracy department, Wentz has completed 61 percent of passes in that span, which ranks 33rd in the NFL.
While Wentz’s personnel at wide receiver and tight end certainly limits what can be done in the passing game, that same personnel still found more success last season with Philip Rivers. That includes an ample amount of more yards after catch last year, along with more explosive plays, despite Rivers having nowhere near the same arm strength of Wentz.
Another key aspect to this that should be noted is it took Jonathan Taylor and the run game around half a season last year to establish themselves among the league’s best. In 2021, Taylor has provided Wentz the unquestioned top running back production in the league.
Yet, the passing game has not been able to take advantage of that to the point that’s needed for deep January success.
Now, Wentz has a terrific touchdown to interception ratio of 26 to 6. He’s not even close to the ‘broken’ turnover machine QB from last year who lost his starting job with the Eagles.
Wentz avoiding those turnovers is a big reason why the Colts are still in a position to get into the playoffs.
Still, the passing offense has not reached anywhere near the production or efficiency that Reich expects. Again, the personnel around Wentz at wideout/tight end isn’t among the league’s best, but it also shouldn’t put the Colts in the basement of the NFL when it comes to those metrics pointed out above.
No quarterback in the NFL has better support from a running back than Wentz.
Despite that, such a key evaluation point for Reich has Wentz and the Colts in the bottom of the NFL for the past couple of months.
Will that hold them back from making a January run?
Reich knows where the focal point of the Indy offense is, but he also acknowledges the need for better balance as the competition and stakes rise.
“We need to continue to ride (Taylor), he’s at the center of our offense,” Reich says.
“It doesn’t mean we don’t want to be dynamic. We talk about as an offense, being dynamic in the run and the pass game. We just have to get a little bit more of that dynamic back into the pass game.”
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