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Film Room: Quenton Nelson and Team Highlights vs. Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

In our final film room feature from the Buffalo Bills game, we will take a look at a few plays that stood out for rookie left guard Quenton Nelson. Afterward, there is a nice goal line play for the offensive line, an impressive block laid by rookie running back Jordan Wilkins, and an aggressive run between the tackles by Marlon Mack.

Let’s take a look.

While the offensive line has had strong overall performances in the last two weeks, this is an example of a miscommunication between Ryan Kelly and Quenton Nelson. It looks like Kelly turns to his right to be aware of a stunt from the outside or a blitz up the middle. Nelson has Le’Raven Clark to his left and eyes the outside in case he needs help. They both ignore the defensive tackle who gladly takes the free run up the middle.

Quenton Nelson is a really good run blocking guard. It was his specialty entering the NFL after a strong career at Notre Dame. Even still, he gets fooled by the stunt on this play. His aggressive nature gets the best of him. He is way off-balance when the stunt comes and is lucky the defender doesn’t blow up the play in the backfield.

This play has two elements. The first is that Nelson does an excellent job staying in front of his man to give Andrew Luck plenty of space to step into his touchdown throw. He mirrors and anchors well.

The second is the bogus commentary from the broadcast announcers that led people to believe and to “see” that Andrew Luck “stared down” Erik Swoope the whole way. The commentary during the game was that the safety made a bad play because he needs to “read Luck’s eyes.”

Sorry, this is utter BS.

To be completely up front, we both were wrong at first glance. The camera angle from the end zone made me initially believe that Luck was actually looking at Eric Ebron as the outside receiver. This angle shows that is not the case at all. Luck is staring at the safety, as any quarterback should, to see what he does as the route develops. The safety is the read on this play and this play is designed to create a dilemma. When Luck sees the safety stay home at the second pause, he makes his decision.

If the safety read “Luck’s eyes,” he would have expected him to throw the ball right to him. Luck’s read was made well into Swoope’s route and told him to throw over the middle. The line on his helmet pretty clearly indicates that his “eyes” aren’t following one tight end over the other. Any suggestion otherwise is purely a guess, and one to fit the narrative.

This is another inside pass blocking rep by Nelson where he keeps his anchor, even after the defender’s hands go up into his face mask. He forces the defender through traffic and ends up shoving him into the ground.

Again, Nelson engages the defender and has to deny an inside move. This block is made more difficult because Nelson gets his weight moving too much to the outside, but he recovers and negates the second effort.

On one of Marlon Mack’s big runs to the left side of the line, Nelson pulls to the outside. It would have been better if he stayed on his feet but his block if effective and gets Mack a free trip into the secondary. If Mack could have made the safety miss, this could have gone a long way.

While individual efforts and analysis are nice to see, especially for rookies, this goal line effort is equally fun to watch. Nearly every offensive linemen ends up a yard or two into the end zone. Even as Mack crosses into the goal line, the Bills are falling back on their heels.

One of the primary skill sets missing for young NFL running backs is the ability to pass protect. Finding one who excels in this area can mean additional snaps and more opportunities. While Jordan Wilkins has taken a back seat to Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines, and even sat the whole game after Robert Turbin returned, plays like this will inspire confidence in his coaches.

This is a phenomenal cut block that wipes out Matt Milano as he tries to pressure Andrew Luck. Mark Glowinski is late to come over but Wilkins does a great job filling the spot.

Our final highlight is this run by Marlon Mack.

We point out balance at the beginning of the play. When working with a balanced offensive line, as the Colts are here, quarterback’s will often audible play direction to the side of the field where they have the advantage. In this case, Luck could have audibled the play to his right, giving the Colts four offensive lineman and a lead blocker against four defenders in the box. This is running to your strength.

Luck doesn’t audible so four offensive linemen and a lead blocker have to shut down five defensive linemen in the box to the left-hand side — play direction. While the offensive line does a reasonable job, the credit needs to go to Marlon Mack here. He does an incredible job cutting the run up into the small crease he is given. Once there, his spin move allows him additional room for a backbreaking run late in the game.

This bodes well for Marlon Mack’s future as the lead back in the Colts running back committee.


There is little disputing that the Colts offensive line is stringing together nice performances. Andrew Luck has not been sacked in consecutive weeks and the running game is starting to show signs of life. Rookies Braden Smith and Quenton Nelson have both played big roles in helping Indy find answers in 2018 and as the unit develops continuity and chemistry, it should help fuel an emerging offense.

It is equally encouraging to see the running backs making big plays. Rookie Jordan Wilkins had a nice block to go with strong runs against Buffalo, rookie Nyheim Hines has found an important third down role and been a bigger factor in the passing game, and second-year back Marlon Mack has put together 6 dominant quarters carrying the football.

We will see if the team can keep the mojo flowing on the rode against the Oakland Raiders tomorrow.