Thus far into the 2017 season the Indianapolis Colts have gotten four solid games out of quarterback Jacoby Brissett. He hasn’t been perfect, as we’ve looked into previously, but he certainly hasn’t been bad overall.
He’s had to acclimate himself to the playbook and gain chemistry with his pass catchers, and has just recorded his first 300-yard passing game. Brissett has 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, a 60 percent completion rate and is nearing an average of 200 passing yards per game.
On the other side of things, Brissett has missed multiple touchdown opportunities with vision being an issue, he’s leaving clean pockets in haste and has a 9.9 percent sack rate. That’s nearly 3 percent higher than Andrew Luck’s highest yearly sack rate through his career to this point.
We are thankful for a young, capable and confident passer who has taken the reigns in a season in which we legitimately have no clue when Luck will return to action. However, there is a real issue in his efficiency inside the red zone. Brissett is posting 38.5 percent completion rate — second-worst only to Marcus Mariota strangely enough — has 1 touchdown and 1 interception, and has been sacked 4 times (second-most in NFL) to make matters worse.
The Colts as a whole have 8 touchdowns — on 43 plays (18.6%) — inside the red zone and are 25th in yards per play (2.42). The touchdown percentage isn’t awful in comparison to the rest of the league, but Brissett has to be better from a passer’s standpoint as he’s leaving a good amount of points on the field.
Let’s dig in to Brissett’s red zone passing from Week 5 against the San Francisco 49ers.
A Smart Throw
For all intents and purposes, this was a solid decision by Brissett. However, it shouldn’t have been forced upon him. Brandon Williams — who is circled at the pause — could have been open in the middle of the field had he gotten his head around earlier. Eventually the safety is in good position to make a play and it’ no longer an option.
Brissett makes a good throw into the end zone to where either Darell Daniels is going to catch it, or nobody is. The much bigger issue for me on this play is A) the route combinations, and B) Williams’ taking forever to get off of his coverage. Additionally, I think Williams‘ route, if designed as he ran it, is awful given the alignment of the defensive backs.
Here’s Brissett’s interception at the goal line in overtime last week. There’s really not much else to say other than this is a really bad throw from him. He begins well, looking off the safety, but as he works over towards Daniels — who ran a quality route — he throws directly into the underneath coverage.
Even a slight bit of loft on this pass is a sure touchdown and ends the game. Plain and simple, Brissett absolutely MUST complete this pass.
Broken Play + Missed Block = Sack
Again, it’s hard to blame Brissett on this one. He’s smart enough to see the defensive end stymie the original play call (shovel pass to Gore), and attempts to roll out to find an open receiver.
Initially, the problem is that all of the receivers are run blocking. With play immediately broken, the next issue is that Daniels makes a deplorable attempt at blocking the linebacker. Just as T.Y. Hilton gets into his scramble drill (you can’t see it, but Kamar Aiken never stops blocking outside of Hilton) the pressure is already in Brissett’s face.
Yes, a possible touchdown yielding play was stopped immediately, but Rob Chudzinski needs to be giving Brissett plays with more options than ‘shovel-or-scramble’ especially when he’s so very limited in his ability to change protections, etcetera, at the line of scrimmage.
Brissett Must Remain Patient in Clean Pockets
It’s pretty clear here that Brissett decided who his target would be before the snap. His footwork and timing is spot on for that first read, but we see a clean pocket and an opportunity to hit Daniels in the corner of the end zone only a split second later.
First of all the throw to Hilton was quite risky considering anything other than a perfect ball, which he does throw to his credit. But, if this ball is up it could be tipped to one of the three defenders surrounding Hilton.
He’s simply got to read that type of suffocating coverage and pop it over the top to Daniels who is all by himself, and would have been regardless of the reaction to the throw from any defender on the field — nobody could have defended that pass.
Brissett Rushes Another Pass, Misses TD Opportunity
Again, here we see a clean pocket and a quick throw into tight coverage with additional coverage help. Honestly, you can’t ask for better protection to make a second read.
Aiken does make a nice play on the ball here to get the Colts inside the 49ers’ 10-yard line. But, if you look up at Donte Moncrief, he immediately has his coverage turning his back to the passer, and swims underneath him with nobody between him and the end zone.
Aiken had man-coverage on him, so his defender wasn’t going to be peeling off to help on Moncrief, and Brissett would have had some wiggle room with his ball placement as well had he legitimately read Aiken’s coverage. This forces me to assume that Chud is not only dumbing down the playbook, but is oversimplifying his options within each play as well.
The Colts need growth from both Brissett and Chud in this regard.
Another Clean Pocket Wasted
Look, we’ve seen some clean pockets wasted already, but this one hurts just as bad. With the edge pressure coming Brissett chooses to attempt to escape the pocket, instead of climbing the pocket and buying himself another second to throw the ball.
If we’re just looking at it from the view that Brissett wanted to throw at his drop, then he misses Gore wide open underneath over the middle. No excuse to miss that. But, then he loses an additional second to go elsewhere by dropping his eyes and not stepping up just the slightest bit before a release.
In that second, Hilton comes free inside the 10-yard line with a clear path to the end zone in single coverage. Williams also gets free at the same time, but either runs a bad route (vertical instead of a corner route) or this is another case of bad play design from the OC.
Any way you choose to look at it, stepping up into a pocket with edge pressure has been an obvious shortcoming for Brissett and needs to be focused on in practice if he’s ever going to improve in these situations.
Brissett Takes Pointless Hit
This one is pretty egregious as well. Brissett largely has a clean pocket, but sees an opening that he just can’t resist. I have no problem with it namely because he’s not running himself into pressure. However, he has last year’s receiving yardage leader just hanging out along the boundary with no coverage at all, yet Brissett decides against it.
Brissett has an opportunity to redeem himself only a couple seconds later though. But, even as Brissett nears the line of scrimmage — and the linebacker closes on him — Brissett still doesn’t pass the ball to Hilton when he’s even more open that he was a moment ago.
In the end, the Colts get a few yards versus 10 or more and Brissett takes an unnecessary hit from a linebacker. This is all sorts of bad in so many ways. As I’ve said before, Brissett is filling in nicely. He isn’t scared, he has a great arm and has shown great precision at times. But, this and several other examples of his red zone play must be improved upon for the Colts to have a legitimate offense with him under center.