Perhaps no fact about the 2017 Indianapolis Colts has been more discussed than the beating that 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 league and the team’s fan base has been desperately waiting to see improvement along the offensive line. Now that Andrew Luck has 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 play. This allows us to focus in on the line and still see the big picture.
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 Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8.
Bengals outside linebacker Carl Lawson (#58) is lined up in the wide-9 against Colts left tackle Anthony Castonzo (#74). Lawson uses the space between he and Castonzo to get leverage and take an inside track to the quarterback. It is worth noting that Marlon Mack (#25) releases from the backfield and is wide open in the flat but he does not chip Lawson. On this play, even a quick punch as Mack passed Castonzo could have kept Brissett clean long enough to make the play.
You will see that Brissett turns to get the ball to Mack during the last pause but it is too late. Lawson already has an arm on him and is ready to take him down. The primary responsibility here is on Castonzo but you have to wonder what a veteran back like Frank Gore or Robert Turbin might have done differently in the same situation.
The sideline view makes it clear that there was nowhere else for Brissett to go with the football. There is no separation for any Colts receiver and only Mack has a chance to make a play through the air.
This is a display of one-on-one abuse against guard Kyle Kalis (#68), where Bengals defensive lineman Geno Atkins (#97) blows by and gets into Brissett’s face. Once again, Mack is in a position to get a body on Atkins to redirect and help Kalis out. For some reason Mack fails to see that Atkins has Kalis beat until it is too late.
One thing that I have noticed with Mack is that he does not have a good feel for when he needs to escape and make himself an emergency outlet. He should be taught that if he knows pressure is coming in the quarterback’s face, he needs to do his best to face the quarterback. Coming back inside to try to hit Atkins late accomplishes nothing but taking himself entirely out of the play.
The sideline view again displays that there are not open receivers who can serve as other options for Brissett. The most “open” route is run by Chester Rogers (#80) and he has a defensive back breaking on his route when he crosses to the inside. When Mack bails inside to try to make up for the missed block by Kalis, the play is effectively over.
This is another example of a one-on-one thrashing that leaves Brissett with nowhere to go. Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap (#96) embarrasses Colts right tackle Joe Haeg (#73). Dunlap gains outside leverage almost immediately and is behind Haeg before he has a chance to do anything about it.
It is also worth noting that Atkins gets the best of Le’Raven Clark (#62) to cut off any escape route Brissett might have to step up into the pocket.
As has become a theme in this film breakdown, the sideline view shows that there was no legitimate receiving option available for Brissett to get rid of the football. This is all offensive line.
This is a prime example of the type of sacks that Brissett took numerous times throughout the season that should never happen. A lot went wrong on this play and none of it had anything to do with the offensive line.
First, tight end Brandon Williams (#85) is running a route into a ton of space and would have likely been the primary target for Brissett. As Williams tries to get through the linebackers, he falls to the ground. This puts him behind Brissett as he rolls out to his right.
Second, Williams manages to get back to his feet and has a step on the trailing linebacker. A touch pass that led Williams could have resulted in a completion and some positive yards.
Finally, Brissett is well outside the tackle box here and clearly struggling to find any options. He has the ball down at his side and is not ready to make a pass as he scrambles. Rather than throw the ball out of bounds, he takes a sack.
The sideline view confirms all we discussed before. Williams would have had plenty of space if he didn’t fall to the ground as he crossed through the middle of the field. This view also makes it clear that receiver Kamar Aiken (#17) had no idea what to do once he got to the top of his route. It appears he was satisfied with standing in one spot, staring back at Brissett as he rolled out of the pocket, and remaining entirely useless during the key moments of the play.
Bottom line, Brissett needs to either make the touch pass to Williams for a few positive yards on this play by keeping himself under control after he survives the sack or he needs to throw the ball away. Taking a sack here is entirely on him.
Jacoby Brissett was a victim of poor blocking on three of the four sacks he took against the Bengals. Anthony Castonzo got beat inside by Carl Lawson, and Marlon Mack didn’t chip Lawson on his way into the flat; Kyle Kalis got completely abused by Geno Atkins, and Mack didn’t notice that he could use some help until it was too late; and Joe Haeg was embarrassed by Carlos Dunlap while Le’Raven Clark lost his battle with Atkins to take away his opportunity to step up into the pocket.
Wide receivers were not available as legitimate options on all three of those plays and there was no way to escape the tackle box to throw the ball away. One has to wonder why it was so difficult for the Colts offensive coordinator to put together route combinations on these plays to have at least one player schemed open.
The final sack occurred on a play were Brissett’s primary receiver lost his footing and went to the ground early in his route. However, Brissett had opportunities to still get a completion to his tight end or throw the ball away and he failed to do either taking an unnecessary sack.