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Colts Film Room: What’s Wrong with the Colts Running Game?

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Cleveland Browns v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts have had some notable injuries to their roster over the past couple months. Naturally, the largest issue is that Andrew Luck has been out since his surgery after the 2016 season, but with guys like Vontae Davis, Erik Swoope, Clayton Geathers and Edwin Jackson being out, it hasn’t exactly helped get the season off to a hot start.

The offensive line has taken a hit as well. Denzelle Good and Ryan Kelly have taken away two big pieces to the puzzle, and the uncertainty that surrounds Jack Mewhort’s health isn’t a real confidence booster either. Deyshawn Bond and Jeremy Vujnovich have been starting along the line and there isn’t an easy way to say that the Colts running game is a dumpster fire right now.

The Colts are dead last in the league in rush yards per carry (2.7 ypc), and are 25th in rush yards per game (81 ypg). Last season the Colts were second in the league in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards formula, and were tops in the league when running behind the interior of the offensive line.

So far with this unit up front, they have been struggling mightily in getting the running game going in any form or fashion. Given their rushing stats, and just eyeballing the games, I wanted to look at the ground game to see just why they haven’t been able to put any solid games together yet. Is it the backs, or is it the line — or is it maybe even the scheme itself? I didn’t know, but I wanted to, so now we both will. Let’s dig in.

Now, this won’t be the first clip that you’ll hear this from me, but for the life of me I have no clue what the line is trying to pull of here. Jack Mewhort and Joe Haeg double the defensive end initially, and Bond is tasked with taking on two defensive linemen. As Haeg peals off, you can see that his assignment is to get to the second level and put a hat on a linebacker, but there’s literally nothing resembling a running lane over the right tackle.

Either there is a lack of Bond’s abilities to call out line adjustments, or this group simply isn’t seeing what’s in front of them pre-snap. Why doesn’t Mewhort at least chip the nose tackle? Why would you ever expect Bond to get both of those defensive linemen? As a result the nose tackle virtually walks into the Colts backfield and stops Frank Gore before he ever gets started.

Here we see Bond get himself out of position by chipping on the defensive tackle, which he is likely supposed to do. But, he really struggles to get to the second level efficiently and by the time he’s looking to pick up the linebacker, it’s already way too late. The linebacker runs free, while the majority of the line is moving their assignments.

Haeg on the other hand gets completely manhandled and pushed into the small lane that still exists despite Bond’s assignment getting into position. Ultimately, both of these defenders collapse the hole and Gore can only get a minimal gain.

Here it’s a similar trend we’re seeing. Bond takes too long to pass off the to Mewhort, gets to the linebacker late, and Gore is already being forced to attempt to dodge the linebacker Bond should have been getting his hands on. Additionally, Mewhort is never really able to get dug in and is moved right into Gore’s path as well.

Bond has to get out of that initial block and get to the second level much better if he’s going to do anything about the Seattle Seahawks lining up to take advantage of him .

In this clip I’m a little unsure which direction Gore is intended to go. By the looks of Anthony Castonzo’s initial block (pushing the defensive tackle into Vujnovich and slides off to pick up the linebacker), as well as the lack of defenders to Gore’s left makes me feel as though it may have been designed to the left side of the formation.

Then again, Bond gets off his initial block and indeed gets to the second level effectively, but because Vujnovich and Castonzo can’t maintain their blocks the hole closes up very quickly and once Gore commits he gets swallowed up.

Large parts of this game featured everyone along the line of scrimmage in a major pile around the ball with very few solid holes being created at the snap. There’s just not much Gore can do with what he’s being given.

This clip truly is a testament to Gore’s vision and patience allowing things to develop, not to mention his ability to squeeze through the tightest of running lanes. The blocking here doesn’t hold up for long in a couple places (Vujnovich, mainly), but it is long enough for Gore to get through what is there and get up to speed as he cuts back into open field for a big gain.

Here you can at least understand the blocking scheme and see that it has some promise. Doyle does a good job of taking on the linebacker in the hole, but Vujnovich simply cannot hold his block for more than a second and just like that the hole is gone.

Despite the fact that Gore is a disciplined runner and typically hits the lane he’s designed to, popping out onto the perimeter looks like it could have been extremely beneficial. You can make the case that Vujnovich doesn’t execute, and that the play had the potential as it’s drawn up and I wouldn’t argue with you.

However, Gore has seen enough of what Vujnovich can do versus how well Castonzo can hold down a block in the run game to ad lib and attempt to break off a big run outside.

Here’s a play that I simply don’t understand the design of. And to be fair, it’s either one of two things. Either Haeg made the wrong decision, or the blocking scheme is terrible and needs to be discussed with Joe Philbin and the players.

At any rate we’re going to assume that it was blocked as designed for now. First off, why does Haeg block down doubling the defensive end when he slants? He has Mewhort there and Doyle is in the backfield if something were to go wrong. There obviously was a linebacker to target and not only does that make more sense for Haeg, but it would have allowed Doyle to take out the trailing linebacker — instead of picking up the first — who ended up making the tackle.

The numbers game would have added up, but the way it’s actually blocked makes no sense to me at all. It’s also possible, however, that Bond simply doesn’t have the understanding and ability to assist in changing the line’s responsibilities according to what he sees out of the defense quite yet. Any way you look at it, this won’t be successful against anybody in the NFL.

The hole for Turbin is there before the ball is even snapped, and it opens up initially as the play begins, but the Colts offensive line simply gets overpowered by the Browns’ front with 8 defenders in the box.

The group initiates correctly, but they aren’t able to hold their blocks long enough, and they certainly can’t out-muscle who’s across from them. Quite honestly, there’s very little else to say about this clip.

Despite this play feeling like it’s a play that’s designed solely to keep the clock moving and to not lose yardage, it truly had the potential — and the Colts had the numbers — to get close to earning first down yardage. It’s a 3rd-and-16 situation and the only reason that I can see that it doesn’t work, is because of an untimely case of clumsiness.

Castonzo is supposed to do exactly what he does at the snap, double with Vujnovich to push the defensive end inside, but then he is supposed to peel off and get to the second level. As Castonzo attempts to, he trips over Vujnovich’s left foot and stumbles just long enough to miss out on picking up the linebacker.

Look who Doyle picks up, and look at the rest of the defense getting picked up. Had Castonzo not stumbled, this play could have been one of the better runs of the game for the Colts. However, like most run plays in this game, it was not to be.

I felt as though I needed to share this one, if for no other reason than to show the lack of experience and how it affects the decisions a young lineman. There is no reason that this play didn’t go for a big gain, except for the ridiculous decision to go for the defender furthest away from the ball.

I wish I’d never seen this, quite honestly, because it makes me lose all hope for Vujnovich’s future. There’s literally one guy to get in this particular situation in order to spring Turbin for a 15-20 yard gain. Instead, he virtually blocks nobody and Turbin gets a measly 5 yards out of it.

Let’s hope that Philbin and the youngsters on this line are in the film room several hours this week trying to clean this up. It’s not just Bond and Vujnovich who are lacking in their play, but their inexperience and limited abilities are a large part of it from where I’m sitting.