The Indianapolis Colts have given up the most sacks and quarterback hits of any team in 2017. There is no doubt that a patchwork offensive line that will need some serious attention during the 2018 off-season is partially to blame. What has been hard to figure out each week is just how much of the responsibility lies with the offensive line? Maybe more important, which offensive linemen are the biggest culprits? How much of an influence does Jacoby Brissett have on these numbers? How much of it falls on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinksi?
No one game or one story can accurately answer these questions but we’ll do our best to take a look at these plays throughout the season and, using available film, we’ll try to assess how or where the team should focus to improve for 2018.
The first game is the home match-up against the Tennessee Titans in Week 12, following the Colts bye. They were credited with 8 sacks and we’re going to take a look at the end zone and sideline views of each play so we can get a full picture of where each play breaks down. We’ll limit each story to 8 videos to go more in depth on each play.
At first glance, it appears that Brissett has two primary reads on the play. The first is Chester Rogers releasing to the flat and the second is Donte Moncrief on a dig about 10 yards down the field.
Observation #1: The offensive line does a nice job with their assignments. The play is a designed rollout and the play-action and motion does a nice job freezing the defense on the left side. This sack is not on the line.
Observation #2: Either Jack Doyle or Chester Rogers misses a block on this play. If both are to free release, this is a bad scheme. The defensive end is untouched.
Observation #3: Jacoby Brissett faces a difficult situation with the free rusher in front of him. He does a nice job of juking the defender and getting a step to the inside but is not looking to pass the football first. If he steps with the intention to pass the football here he can hit Moncrief as he gets to the numbers.
A sideline view of the play shows where there is space in front of Moncrief for a pass. It might take some touch (which Brissett lacks) but that is the best option as there is not an immediate threat for a pass there to get picked off.
It is also worth noting that once the defense reacts and Brissett is forced back inside on the play, he could look back across the play to where he knows Gore is leaking out of the backfield. It seems like he is not very comfortable either going through his reads or making a decision that doesn’t include sliding before the line of scrimmage.
At worst he can throw the ball back to Gore’s side for an incompletion or throw the ball away toward the deep sideline receiver to not lose yards.
This play looks like a hot mess out of the gate. There two reasons to not like the scheme that is drawn up here.
Observation #1: Anthony Castonzo has no prayer of stopping both defenders. He chooses to keep the pressure from coming directly into Brissett’s face, which is the best decision he can make.
Observation #2: Brissett needs to make a pre-snap read here. Once the defender shows that he is coming he needs to either motion in a receiver to block or change the play. Additionally, he has to recognize that pressure from that side of the field is going to create an opening in the middle of the field. He can choose to hit Doyle who runs a drag (and who he never even looks at) or he should have a receiver filling the hole created by the blitzer.
Observation #3: The offensive line is not responsible for this sack.
Jacoby Brissett has to take the next step as a passer to recognize pressure and make necessary adjustments. If he knows the route tree on the play and sees the pressure coming, he needs to find the quickest route that is available to him. If Moncrief is supposed to delay off of the line and Brissett knows this, the best option is Doyle. He doesn’t look to Doyle at all.
Also, there is a failure in scheme and coaching here for Moncrief. He has to have the freedom and skill to recognize a hot read when he sees it. When the blitzer flashes to his right, he needs to know that he has a free route inside with the defensive back playing off coverage. If he makes this read and immediately runs to the open spot, he will be a big open target for Brissett. If he does this, the result is likely a touchdown.
This is another sack in the red zone. There are numerous reasons this sack happens.
Observation #1: Brissett again fails to show the ability to anticipate what is happening on the field. He has a free rusher about to come into his face and a running back releasing into the flat who is about to turn for the ball. If he releases the ball early and puts some air under it, he gives Gore a chance to catch the pass when he looks back.
Observation #2: This is another schematic issue where no one is assigned to block the edge rusher. Either Jack Doyle fails to pick up the block or chip as he slips out to the left or the play is drawn up to not hit the edge rusher.
Observation #3: The offensive line was not to blame for this sack.
The sideline view of the play gives us another look at how the play breaks down. This view also displays a situation where Moncrief should make a hot read and adjust his route. In this case, he is presented with an opening in the middle of the field. Instead, his route takes him further down the field and he curls back to the corner of the end zone. On what planet will this route ever present an option to the quarterback?
There is very little to like about the play design from this angle. This is a play-action fake where the line is blocking down for a designed roll out. There are numerous problems that pop out to me.
Observation #1: I feel like Jack Doyle should allow the defender to take himself out of the play. He has committed to the fake and doesn’t realize Brissett still has the ball until he is way passed him. Doyle needs to know the play design and timing and chuck the defender inside and release.
Observation #2: Any offensive pass scheme whose primary target is Kamar Aiken on a drag route 10 yards down the field is not a very good one. He is too far away from the line and too far behind the roll out laterally to run this play.
Observation #3: The offensive line is not responsible for this sack.
When we take a step back with the sideline view of the play we can still see the Jack Doyle engages and hand fights with the defender way too long behind Brissett’s motion. We can also see that there is room in front of Aiken where Brissett could zip the ball into a reasonable window but he does not let go and instead worries about juking the defender.
From a schematic perspective, Chester Rogers is on a horrible route. He is running over 25 yards down the field and never really presents a target for Brissett. He clearly has coverage over the top and could break toward the sideline in the direction of the play for space. He either fails to make this read or, more likely, has been instructed to run this “route.” Either way, it does nothing to help his quarterback.
Before we continue this series I want it to be clear that I have no intention to find something specific at the outset. No matter what I find here, I will likely have the opinion that our offensive scheme and play calling is bad. I will likely continue to believe that the offensive line needs meaningful attention in the off-season. I will also continue to believe that Brissett has shortcoming as a young quarterback that help make the offensive struggles look even worse than they otherwise might be.
All of that said, I’m going to call it as I see it. If the offensive line is or is not to blame on a play, I’m going to point it out. Let’s not get too tied up in thinking there is a narrative forming when my observations are as objective as I can make them and are play specific.