Perhaps no fact about the 2017 Indianapolis Colts has been more discussed than the beating backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett has taken throughout his second season in the NFL. The Colts have given up more sacks than any other team in the NFL and the team’s fan base has been desperately waiting to see improvement along the offensive line. Now that Andrew Luckhas missed games in three consecutive seasons, including all of this year, nothing could be more front and center as the fan base looks toward the future.
While it will take focusing in on individual offensive linemen throughout the season to get a better read on where the line stands overall, breaking down the film on each of the offense’s allowed sacks should give fans a decent idea of what is causing this historically bad season. Each sack will be broken down by analyzing the end zone camera and sideline camera view of each plays. This allows us to focus in on the line and get a bigger picture of what else is going on for each play.
In the end, the goal of this feature is not to prove any narrative right or wrong. The goal is to objectively determine where the blame should be placed on each play. It should come as no surprise that there is plenty of blame to go around and often shared responsibility on each snap.
This story will focus on the sacks allowed against the Houston Texans in Week 9.
In my live viewing of this play back in Week 9, I placed a lot of the blame on Jacoby Brissett for holding onto the ball for too long. The Colts offense had found ways to completely blow the momentum in games so many times by that point that it was a gut reaction. Looking at this play again, I’m not sure there was a lot Brissett could have done to get rid of the ball here.
He doesn’t have enough time to escape the pocket for a throw away and by the time he realizes that Jack Doyle won’t make it out of his break, he gets smoked by Benardrick McKinney (#55). It seems like when he glances to his left he should have seen the free rusher coming and done more to protect the ball though. The sack is caused by the Texans rushing six and out-numbering the offensive line with no chip from Kamar Aiken at the line of scrimmage, McKinney gets a free shot. The fumble is on Brissett.
There are only two potential receiving options on the play when the sack occurs. Jack Doyle is the best option but trying to throw to him before he gets his feet back under him would be very risky. Aiken has a free release off of the line to the flat but coming his way would only be possible if he was his first read. Given that McKinney hides tight on the outside, I’m not sure Brissett saw him.
If there is any additional blame to go around on this play it is that the offensive line needs to communicate with each other and their quarterback. McKinney was unaccounted for and someone up front needs to know that.
Unlike the last play, this one is really easy to see. Rookie running back Marlon Mack is in the backfield with his head on a swivel looking to pick up the blitz. He immediately identifies the blitz coming from the left edge but completely whiffs on his block. The matador philosophy works in bull fighting but won’t work in pass protection.
While this play is somewhat similar to the previous one in that Brissett would have needed to check down early on to find the open receiver, this feels a little different. When Brissett sees Mack cross in front of his face he has to know that a blitz is coming from his left.
As we’ve discussed numerous times in these breakdowns, the quarterback needs to at least give a quick look to the blitzing side because there is often an open wide receiver wherever the blitzing player just came from. In this case Jack Doyle is in space to make an easy reception with one player in front of him.
It is clear on this play that Jeremy Vujnovich (#67) doesn’t have a prayer against Jadeveon Clowney (#90). Clowney slants inside off of the snaps and drives Vujnovich seven yards into the backfield and right into Jacoby Brissett’s face.
I do think that Brissett shows a very strange hesitation when he sees the pressure coming though. Rather than escape to his left and create some space, he hops around within reach of Clowney. I feel like he could have kept the play alive longer if he moved his feet to escape the pocket and at least thrown the ball away.
This view shows that Brissett hesitated on the throw to T.Y. Hilton because the safety was sitting on his route. If he releases the ball here it may get picked off by the crashing defender. It was a smart decision to pull the ball back down on this play. Doyle didn’t win in the middle of the field, Hilton wasn’t open at the top of his curl, and the other receivers were non-factors.
This is another example of weakness shown on the left interior of the offensive line. Jeremy Vujnovich begins his backpedal and opens his shoulders to the outside. He is preparing to wall Bernardrick McKinney off to the outside. The problem is that McKinney isn’t going to the outside. In fact, Brennan Scarlett (#57) is slanting to his right to turn the center outside as well. This allows McKinney to abuse Vujnovich with a stunt inside into Jacoby Brissett’s face.
There is another player who is trying to figure out what to do with the mess on the left side of the offensive line. Frank Gore tries to help on Scarlett only to see that McKinney is coming up the middle. By the time he releases and gets a hand on McKinney, it is too late.
I drew the red line on this play to show the line of scrimmage. I did this because the pause for the red line pops up when the ball is already in Jacoby Brissett’s hands. The only offensive player who gets a decent jump on the snap is Donte Moncrief. Everyone else is slow off of the line.
What makes matters worse is that Jack Doyle stumbles and falls to the ground as he releases. This leaves no option on the left side of the field at all.
While there were opportunities for Jacoby Brissett in the first match-up against the Houston Texans, including at least once or twice that he may have been able to keep the play alive a little long or avoided the sack by getting the ball out of his hands, much of the blame for these sacks belongs with Jeremy Vujnovich, Marlon Mack, and poor scheming or communication pre-snap.