Another week, another disappointing loss. The Colts now sit at 1-5, somehow not even nearly out of the divisional race, but also not providing much in the way of hope that they have what it takes to right the ship. Let’s take a look at some of the winners and losers from this week’s game against the New York Jets.
Let’s take a minute to appreciate how good Andrew Luck has been. The guy is back from what could have been a career ending shoulder injury, and he is absolutely slinging the ball. He has been working with a largely practice squad-quality wide receiver group, and has been operating behind a revolving door of offensive linemen, but he has still looked incredible.
No running game? Not a problem. Luck will just hoist the team on his surgically repaired shoulders and carry them downfield. He hasn’t been able to will them to wins this season, it’s is true. However, it isn’t hard to imagine what he could do with a decent or better skill position group on offense.
Luck finished this game 23 of 43 for 301 yards, no sacks, 3 interceptions, and 4 touchdowns. Of those three picks, Luck only deserves credit for 1, as two came off bobbled passes. As usual, his receivers dropped more than a handful of passes that would have further improved on those numbers. Andrew Luck is a treasure and Colts fans are fortunate to be able to watch such a long run of stellar quarterback play.
There have been a lot of questions about whether Malik Hooker is anywhere near getting back to his old self. So many in fact, that Zach Hicks did an entire breakdown of his production this year. Even without the benefit of the All-22 coaches film, you can see how impressive his first interception of the season is.
It comes on a deep ball from Darnold down the left sideline, and it is badly underthrown. However, Hooker has to cover a ton of ground to get to the ball. With many safeties, this pass likely goes incomplete. This kind of play is big because this defense will thrive down the stretch on the ability to create turnovers. It was good to see Hooker have that kind of impact early in the game.
Despite working through an ankle injury, Darius Leonard had another productive day, racking up 9 tackles and a forced fumble that was recovered by the Colts. Leonard missed against the Patriots, but even when he is likely playing at less than 100%, the rookie linebacker finds himself consistently making an impact on the field.
Any time the defense gives up 42 points they deserve to have any praise they’re given be taken with an extra-large grain of salt. The Jets rushed for more than 100 yards and passed for 280. The Colts defense wasn’t able to get off the field consistently, and Leonard deserves his share of blame for his part in the lopsided time of possession. However, on the whole he has been a positive part of the defense and continued to make a case that he deserves to be the front runner for the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
His first big contribution to this game was a bit of a black mark. The bobbled catch resulted in a pick for Luck, but he proved to be by far the most effective running weapon the Colts have had all season long. If he can continue to generate this kind of production on the ground and pair it with the abilities of guys like Nyheim Hines and Robert Turbin, it will give the Colts a big lift. All told, Mack had 89 yards on 12 attempts, despite the team trailing most of the game. That is the kind of production Frank Reich would be thrilled to get out of him going forward.
Honorable Mention: Eric Ebron, who has 6 TDs through 6 weeks, tied for best in the NFL in receiving TDs.
It seemed like every time the Colts had the ball at least one play involved a pass bouncing off Chester Rogers’ chest. It wasn’t quite as bad as that, but it was close. The Colts’ very first play was a Rogers drop which would have gotten them an immediate first down. There are simply too many instances of him missing on catches they have to have.
Contrary to Frank Reich’s assertion that these are taking place on “contested catches,” the ones I kept seeing were as open as you can hope to be in most NFL games. It seems like the catches being contested is less the problem, and Chester Rogers not being an NFL caliber talent is more the issue.
Is Rogers capable of making big and impressive plays? Sure. However, what makes you a good quality NFL receiver is the ability to be consistent. Running your routes well, getting separation, and making the catch are all things you have to do with consistency to succeed at this level, and Rogers so far has proven that he can only be expected to provide those things in flashes, not with any amount of consistency.
In his second game coming off suspension, many thought we might see an increase in involvement for Robert Turbin. Instead, we got 4 carries for 10 yards and a lost fumble. For a Colts offense that desperately needs to put a running game together, this was a problem.
They needed a spark from Turbin upon his return, but instead he coughed up a fumble. Even worse, his fumble came on a possession directly after the Colts had gotten a defensive stop and gave a short field to the Jets offense which lead to points.
The cornerbacks for the Colts looked outclassed all day by the Jets and Sam Darnold. He abused them with seam routes consistently and when they matched up in man coverage they got picked on. There were communication issues and simply a couple instances of blown coverage. The linebackers didn’t look much better. Seam routes and slants were very effective to move the Jets’ offense up and down the field.
Some of this is pretty common for this defensive scheme. The bend-don’t-break mentality is a familiar one to Colts fans. Even without the mental errors you have some tendency to give up yards. The problem is that this defense forgot about the not breaking part. Too many times they allowed the Jets to get into position to kick field goals—they had 7 on the day, 1 shy of the league record. That is a problem, and it started with the weakness against the pass.
Johnson is here as a loser for a different reason than many of the others on this list. He had 2 catches on 3 targets and 52 total yards. Unfortunately, one of those catches resulted in an egregious no-call in which the Jets defender clearly tackled him well out of bounds and the result was an injury that could damage his long-term prospects as a part of a team that needs anyone possible to step up at the wide receiver position. This killed me, because not only did it hurt the Colts in the moment, but the play resulted in Johnson’s injury. He was definitely a loser in this game, though it wasn’t his fault.