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.
This is a play action screen pass intended for Jack Doyle. He crosses the formation in the flat. Numerous things happen on this play that have an impact on it resulting in a sack.
Observation #1: Either Anthony Catonzo should have at least chipped Erik Walden or the play is designed to leave the end unblocked. It is a screen play so it is possible that the play action is the way the offensive coordinator intends to freeze the pass rush. It works for a second or two.
Observation #2: There is really only one potential target on the play. Brissett can either recognize the small window and lead Doyle to the flat or he is toast. Once he decides to hold onto the ball, the play is over.
I get the feeling that the biggest reason for the result of this play is that Brissett is not comfortable making a touch pass to Doyle. He can’t zip the pass to him because a linebacker flashes in his throwing lane. By this time it is too late and Brissett has to take the sack.
It is worth mentioning that there is nothing to get excited about from a play-call or schematic perspective here. If Brissett doesn’t feel comfortable hitting Doyle here, the play is dead.
From the end zone angle, it is clear that Jack Doyle does not adjust well to the slant and stunt by the linebacker who blitzes around the edge. He gets crossed up and ends up whiffing on the blitz. Outside of Doyle’s mistake, the offensive line does a nice job.
The sideline view exposes another important observation. Brissett Chester Rogers wide open on a crossing route. He has to make one read with the route combination to his left. If the defensive back is in man on Hilton and following him down the field, Rogers is wide open underneath.
This highlights one of the biggest weaknesses in Brissett’s game to this point. You get the feeling that he is comfortable throwing to open receivers but is not comfortable throwing receivers open. In the NFL, things happen too fast to wait. When you make your read, you have to fire. Rogers could have had a first down here.
In this case, the primary responsibility lies with Doyle whiffing on the blitz and Brissett failing to identify the open receiver and get rid of the ball.
The end zone view on this play shows that Dick Lebeau was busy doing Lebeau things. He send a linebacker to attack on an inside blitz. This required someone to pick up the block. Frank Gore picks it up, though he doesn’t stonewall it and it allows pressure on Brissett. The other observation is on the interior offensive line.
Left guard Jeremy Vujnovich sells out to his outside with no one there to potentially help Anthony Castonzo. I can’t help but think he would be better off not committing in this way. If he keeps his shoulders a bit more square and his head on a swivel he can help redirect the stunting defensive lineman.
While there is clearly responsibility to be placed on the offensive line on this play, it is fair to point out Brissett’s motions on the play as well. First, he needs to read where pressure is coming on the play. Doyle intentionally allow the defender by him and releases in the flat. This is by play design. Knowing this, if Brissett recognizes that the right side is crashing and that the linebacker on that side of the field is blitzing, he could immediately identify that Doyle is open.
Instead, you see Doyle stare down T.Y. Hilton on the play, who is blanketed. As I mentioned previously, he will need to continue recognizing when receivers are open and potentially throw them open. When he sees Hilton covered he can get the ball up over the top of Moncrief as an alternative to simply taking a sack. Throw it where only he can make a play on the ball.
These kinds of things may take time for a young quarterback to develop but it plays a part in taking the sack.
For a second time, the end zone view on this play shows that Jack Doyle gets beat one-on-one versus Derrick Morgan around the edge. It is pressure that Morgan that ultimately forces Brissett up into the pocket. It is also worth noting that the offensive line otherwise does a pretty solid job of keeping the pocket clean.
This is another play whose story cannot be fully told without the sideline perspective. This is a travesty schematically. With 9 players in the box and one-on-one coverage on the outside with Hilton against press man and Moncrief with off-coverage, the route tree calls for both receivers to run 15 yards down the field without even looking for the ball.
On what planet does it make any sense for the offensive coordinator to dial up a play with 0 receivers available within 15 yards of the play? This had no chance. Now, it is also fair to recognize that Brissett knew this was the play when he took the snap. Did he have a chance to make a pre-snap change to the play? There isn’t a way to know for sure but if his option was to take the snap here or to made a pre-snap adjustment, he chose wrong.
In what is a relatively interesting observation in the 8 recorded sacks against the TItans, the offensive line was not the primary culprit for the pressure. Jack Doyle was primarily responsible for two sacks, the offensive line had no legitimate culpability on at least 6 of the sacks, and the offensive schemes were a train wreck. Jacoby Brissett has some limitations to his game, including touch passes, anticipating receivers finding space, and recognizing where pressure is coming from to change his reads. He may have some responsibility in failing to make pre-snap adjustments that could benefit his offensive line and better protect himself.
We will continue breaking down pressures and sacks on Brissett and try to see if there are patterns or if the culpability fluctuates from game to game.