While the Colts dropped a game against the Jets that they desperately needed to keep their season alive, one area of their offense started show signs of life. In the second half in particular, the Colts were able to get the ball moving on the ground. Their yards per carry average of 5.5 and total yards of 127 both outpaced a Jets backfield that generated 323 yards and 8.5 yards per carry the week before against the Broncos.
If the Colts are able to get some consistency on the ground, the offensive struggles could start to disappear. Reich’s scheme requires the threat of the run to keep defenses off balance and open up the play action passing game.
What role did Quenton Nelson play in Indy’s running success? Let’s take a look.
Nelson (#56) seals Henry Anderson (#96) to the inside and allows a gaping hole to open up for Nyheim Hines (#21). Center Ryan Kelly (#78) pulls to the left and acts as lead blocker. If Mark Glowinski (#64) is able to get a better block at the second level, Hines has another 4-5 yards.
Nelson shoves Leonard Williams (#92) out of the hole and sticks with the block as Marlon Mack (#25) runs through the crease he helped create. Williams had no chance on the play. Anthony Castono (#74) and Kelly both won their blocks as well, leaving Mack free for a nice gain. The rest of the defense was cleared out by motion to the right from Zach Pascal (#14) and Eric Ebron (#85).
Similar to the previous play, Nelson simply out-muscles Williams one-on-one in the hole and is able to turn him to the outside. This opens up a crease behind him. Kelly’s well-time block at the second level allowed the run to go for extra yards.
Again, Nelson is able to win in the hole. This allows Kelly to quickly move to the second level and get a body on a linebacker. Nelson is matched up against nose tackle Steve McClendon (#99) and keeps him from impacting the play. Strangely, Nelson’s legs get caught up in the pile forming behind him and it looks like he is knocked off of his balance after the whistle.
Suffice to say, this is something he’ll need to work on. As noted in the comments of our pass blocking breakdown yesterday, these balance issues are an indictment of Nelson’s skill set and indicate that he has been unable to live up to his draft billing.
Nelson works with Castonzo to seal Jordan Jenkins (#48) and allow Marlon Mack to run through the A-gap without pressure from his left side. The most impressive blocks on the play were delivered by Kelly and Glowinski who both got a nice push and discarded the initial defender to get to the next level. It is even more encouraging that Mack had the vision and patience to work his way through the traffic for a nice gain.
Nelson takes a big blow from Jeremy Attaochu (#55) in an attempted bull rush. Needless to say, the attempt was ineffective. Nelson anchors and his feet never move as he forces Attaochu outside and away from the play. If Kelly and Glowinski were able to get a better block on McClendon and Braden Smith (#72) was able to seal Williams, Mack would have had even more running room.
Nelson blocks down on this goal line run and hits Mike Pennel (#98). He was teaming with Kelly at the snap but Kelly lost his footing (cut him, am I right?). Nelson drove Pennel back into the end zone and onto his back as he got caught up in the feet of linebacker Darron Lee (#58) (expect Pennel to get cut this week too).
While this run doesn’t go very far, Nelson and Castonzo drive Henry Anderson well out of the play. If Mack hadn’t hesitated and bounced the play to the outside, there was a chance for a few yards right up the middle of the field.
Nelson hits Anderson, passing him off to Kelly and gets out to the linebacker, Avery Williamson (#54). All three linemen to the left side of the field get strong seal blocks and open up a massing running lane for Mack behind them. If this is a sign of what to expect from a healthy Castonzo, Nelson and Kelly, the Colts should have some success running the ball moving forward.
Again, Nelson gets a monster push on the interior, aided by Castonzo. He releases to the second level gets a final push for Hines on an inside run.
Nelson had a strong performance blocking for Hines and Mack. He won match ups one-on-one against a variety of different defenders, effectively sealed in the trenches, and helped keep running lanes alive by getting to the second level. The combination of Castonzo, Nelson, and Kelly on the left side looked particularly effective on the ground and could signal more consistent running success moving forward.