The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-27 on Sunday in London, dropping them to 1-3 on the year and to last place in the AFC South at the quarter mark of the season.
The game was an ugly one for the Colts, but let's still take some time to look at the snap counts to see who played, how much, and what we can learn from it.
- As you've probably heard by now, the Colts started three rookies along their offensive line on Sunday: Ryan Kelly at center, Austin Blythe at right guard, and Joe Haeg at right tackle. While Kelly and Haeg had both started at least one game before and look to be able to provide solid play even as rookies, Blythe really struggled on Sunday. But, with that said, that shouldn't be overly surprising for a seventh round center forced to play guard in week four of his rookie season. The bigger problem is injuries, as the Colts were without Denzelle Good, Joe Reitz, and Jonotthan Harrison on Sunday. If the Colts can get even one of them back, Blythe will resume his depth role, which is where he should be right now.
- Chester Rogers has seen his snaps skyrocket in Donte Moncrief's absence, as the undrafted rookie was fourth in snaps among skill position players (behind only T.Y. Hilton, Phillip Dorsett, and Dwayne Allen). Rogers caught two passes for 39 yards (and dropped another pass), but he's the unquestioned number three receiver for the Colts in Moncrief's absence. That's not ideal in the short-term, but there's reason to be optimistic based on Rogers's talent level, and this experience could help him in the long run.
- Along those lines, the Colts also used less two tight end formations this week, as Jack Doyle played just 51% of the snaps. With his decreased snaps and with only one target this was by far the lowest workload he's had this season, though he still was in the game quite a bit. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Colts ramp his snaps back up next week with Moncrief still out, but we'll have to wait and see.
- It seems like Josh Ferguson is pretty clearly the Colts' number two running back right now. On Sunday that was as obvious as it's been all season, as Ferguson played 30 snaps (behind only Frank Gore's 34), with Robert Turbin a distant third with 14. There are many who question why the Colts keep playing Ferguson so much, but at the same time he is third on the team in receptions (17), second on the team in targets (21), fifth on the team in receiving yards (117), and second on the team in yards after the catch (86). He's dropped two passes in the past two weeks, but the Colts clearly want to use him as a check-down option for Andrew Luck - and that's exactly the role he's filled in the first four weeks.
- The two players who played 100% of the snaps, Mike Adams and Clayton Geathers, have both been having quietly good seasons (Adams much more quietly than Geathers). Both safeties have done a very good job, and I think that's worth pointing out. With Geathers now healthy the Colts can use their two best safeties as their starters (and on Sunday they both played every snap), which makes the defense much better.
- It is interesting to look at the snap distribution at cornerback. Obviously Vontae Davis is in a whole different category than anyone else when it comes to his play, and he sees the most snaps too (69 of them). After Davis, it was Patrick Robinson on Sunday playing the majority of the reps (62) with Antonio Cromartie and Rashaan Melvin (both seeing 32 snaps) a distant third and fourth guys. That's interesting because Cromartie seemed to be the number two cornerback for the first half but saw less as the game went on. Cromartie struggled, but he had played well in the first three weeks and was matched up with Allen Robinson on Sunday (instead of Vontae Davis, which turned out to be as much of a problem as most could have expected entering the game). I wouldn't overreact to Cromartie's performance quite yet, but it's clear that Cromartie was the third cornerback on Sunday behind Davis and Robinson.
- With Trent Cole now on injured reserve, Robert Mathis is being asked to carry even more of the pass rush than he was before (which I didn't think was possible). Mathis played 51 snaps on Sunday and the other outside linebacker, Erik Walden, played 54. Other than that, Curt Maggitt (21) and Akeem Ayers (19) were the linebackers. Fortunately for the Colts, Walden has really upped his game as a pass rusher (he leads the team with four sacks and five quarterback hits), while defensive lineman Zach Kerr (1.5 sacks and four quarterback hits) has also contributed. And then on Sunday we also saw Akeem Ayers make a difference, as he recorded a sack and a quarterback hit on just 19 snaps. Mathis, meanwhile, has done next to nothing so far this season: through four games, he has recorded five tackles, no sacks, two quarterback hits, and a tackle for loss. That, for your primary pass rusher who you're paying $5 million to this year, isn't going to cut it.
- Josh McNary and Matthias Farley, as they've been all year, are at the top of the list of special teams snap counts for the Colts.
- The Colts' specialists had good games on Sunday. Adam Vinatieri was once again automatic, hitting both field goal tries (from 53 and 49 yards out). Pat McAfee continued to do a nice job punting, averaging 49.7 yards per punt. And Quan Bray had his best game as a returner this year, averaging nine yards per punt return (on two tries) and adding a 39-yard kick return (while also being smart about when to take touchbacks).