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Deep Trouble: Will the Colts’ Struggles With Big Plays Strike Again?

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Indianapolis Colts v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

On Sunday the Cleveland Browns are coming to Indianapolis in a battle to determine who will remain winless. It is not the sexiest matchup on the week three schedule, but for Colts fans it is another hope for a win while we wait impatiently for Andrew Luck to return to action. While there was a lot to like in the Colts week two performance, there was plenty to be frustrated by. One of the things I wanted to examine was an area where I think we can almost guarantee the Browns will challenge this Colts defense.

According to Dawgs By Nature, DeShone Kizer leads the league in deep ball attempt percentage. 31.15% of his passes have traveled more than 15 yards through the air. That could be a problem for the Colts. Over the past several days I have watched a lot of film on the cornerbacks and safeties. What I have seen has been largely positive, but I noticed a frustrating trend.

Our safeties have a tendency to play forward too far and get beat deep. Here are some examples.

In this play against the Rams, we see Darius Butler and Malik Hooker back deep with Green and Melvin also giving a good amount of space. Cooper Kupp runs a simple post route and splits Green and Butler. Wholly apart from Green’s poor play which has been discussed at length on Stampede Blue, Butler completely lets Kupp go and makes this a very easy touchdown for Jared Goff.

Next, we have this play where Hooker bites on a play action. I broke it down thoroughly in my breakdown of Quincy Wilson’s game against the Cardinals, but needless to say, if it isn’t for Wilson’s excellent play on the ball, this one goes for a big gain.

Then there is this play which looks frustratingly similar to the Kupp touchdown all the way down to the defensive formation. Instead of Butler, we have Farley who lets J.J. Nelson get behind him and even with great cornerback play by Wilson, a good pass and catch results in a touchdown.

You can bet that Hue Jackson has noticed those trends as well and will be looking to exploit them. With Quincy Wilson and Darius Butler both dealing with minor injuries, they may see limited practice time if they are able to go at all Sunday. That is not great after Wilson’s solid performance and could spell big trouble if Kizer is able to connect with his receivers downfield.

However, there is plenty of reason for hope. While Kizer takes a lot of deep shots, his total completion percentage is just 57.4%. Many of his deep passes were off the mark or overthrown. That spells a big opportunity for a center fielder like Malik Hooker to have a huge game. So long as he keeps himself in good position on the field and doesn’t let guys get behind him, we could see more plays like this one.

It is easy to forget how inexperienced this group of safeties is. We don’t think of Darius Butler as being inexperienced because he has been a reliable player at the cornerback position for many years for the Colts. However, this is just his first year starting at safety. Matthias Farley is only in his second year and is the most experienced safety on the roster, excluding Clayton Geathers.

They are bound to make mistakes, but for our purposes, we have to hope that they have watched the film and learned from them. Otherwise, we may see a repeat performance this week. In a game that will likely come down to one score, the Colts cannot afford to give up big plays.