Eric Ebron has been hands down the Colts’ best offseason acquisition. While they don’t have a ton of talent at wide receiver, they’ve found a gem at tight end, and Colts fans owe the Lions for letting him get out of the building. Ebron has really put together a great season so far and might even challenge Marvin Harrison’s franchise best 15 receiving touchdowns in a season.
With all that success, I thought it made sense to take a look at those scores, if for no other reason than to appreciate how effective Eric Ebron has been this season. So let’s dive in!
This first touchdown is the result of a variation on the smash concept, which is designed to make the cornerback decide between covering the short underneath route or helping on the deep corner. With Nyheim Hines setting up with a smoke route at the bottom of the screen, Luck has an outlet if he needs to dump off a pass.
Hines has great speed and open field ability and Ebron is dragging the linebacker upfield with him as well as the safety who sees this is a matchup issue. The corner is watching Luck and a pass to Hines would have a huge cushion should he have needed to go that way.
Unfortunately by the time Ebron reaches the numbers, he has a step on the linebacker and the safety also has to help cover Doyle who is running pretty wide open toward the post. This is excellent play design to stress the defense to its breaking point. Luck could probably have thrown a touchdown to Doyle, or a dump off to Hines for big yards after the catch. Instead, he drops a pretty pass to Ebron for a score.
Here is another example of a pretty solid play design. Reich has T.Y. Hilton at the bottom of the screen and outside the numbers. Hilton runs a corner route and the backshoulder fade is definitely there if Luck wants to go for it. Ryan Grant and Chester Rogers are running crossing routes and it leaves Grant open and likely to score if Luck hits him just right.
On the other side, Nyheim Hines is motioned to just outside of Ebron and sits down while Ebron releases, which means D.J. Swearinger is along with Ebron is on an island. That is a matchup you take 100 times out of 100, and Luck simply lets Ebron go up and make a good play on the ball.
This play was nothing more or less than busted coverage. Ebron is lined up at the top of the screen outside the numbers and has a complete matchup over the guy the Texans put on him because… they don’t put anyone on him. A miscommunication leaves him alone out there and by the time they realize their mistake, it is too late. Nothing fancy here, just good old fashion routes on air.
The Patriots do a pretty good job of trying to knock Ebron off course here, getting a hit on him right at the line in an attempt to throw him off his rhythm. It just doesn’t matter. As soon as Luck sees that the corners on the outside are sticking to Pascal and Rogers, he knows he’s got Ebron in single coverage, and lets it go. By the time the ball arrives Ebron has easily beaten his man for the score.
Here the Colts are facing 1st and goal from the 1 yard line, and they line up in their heavy package, certainly looking as though they’ll try to pound the ball right up the middle for a score. Rather than blocking though, Ebron releases completely untouched and the Patriots’ defense smothers Ryan Hewitt and Robert Turbin. Unfortunately, that leaves Luck a very easy throw and catch to Ebron who finds himself wide open in the end zone yet again.
On this score the Colts are in the red zone on 2nd and 6. Both Ebron and Zach Pascal get upfield and open, forcing the safety to sit in limbo and decide who to cover. Luck could easily have thrown the ball to either man, but smartly chose the more reliable of the two and hits Ebron for the touchdown.
On this play Luck has Ebron running a corner and he gets in position and is able to simply box out the defender and go up and get the ball. This is a nice route by Ebron and a great use of his size here. Either he catches the ball or the defender has to climb all over him and draw a pass interference penalty, either way, it is a win for the Colts. Here, though, he makes a really nice catch and controls the ball to the ground while getting both feet in.
Okay, so I know Ebron had a rough time in Detroit, but why do people keep leaving him so wide open? Anyway, this play has already been credited by Doug Marrone as being a blown coverage by Jalen Ramsey. Ramsey sticks with T.Y. Hilton instead of dropping back with Ebron. As a result, there is nothing but green out in front of Ebron and he literally just has to catch the ball for a huge completion. He does more than that though, by finishing down the line and getting the ball in, he puts his mark on this blown coverage, making a really nice finish to an easy throw and catch.
I’ve broken this play down previously on Stampede Blue, but this is just a beautiful call by Frank Reich. He uses misdirection regularly, except this time the ball goes to Ebron on the end around. It is sold well and will likely pay dividends in the future, sowing doubt in the minds of defenders as they attempt to quickly identify who to pursue. In the meantime, it meant yet another touchdown for Ebron.
This is another example of totally messed up coverage. Telvin Smith plays Nyheim Hines here and totally releases Ebron with no one near him. They just don’t get a lot easier than this, but for some reason, teams have been giving them to him all season long.
It has been a complete joy to watch Eric Ebron this season, and he has a lot of football left to play. What is really surprising is that he typically doesn’t get more than 50% of the offensive snaps. As far as red zone threats go, there are few who have been as successful as him this season. It will be interesting to see if the Colts continue to use him situationally or begin to expand his role in the offense given his success.