A lot has been made of the Colts passing attack this season - and for good reason. With Jacoby Brissett playing in Frank Reich’s scheme for the first time, it’s been hotly debated whether or not Indy would change their approach without Andrew Luck at the helm. Through 4 games, that simply hasn’t been the case.
All off-season the Colts remained steadfast in their confidence in Brissett, and that faith has been exemplified out on the football field, even with the win column remaining a work in progress. To the casual observer, it may seem like Brissett is taking an abnormal amount of check-downs and quick passes - a natural occurrence for a back-up QB filling in for a starting role. However, with Frank Reich this isn’t abnormal, it’s simply the standard.
.@colts @NFL #FrankReich WOW! I love this play. Love it. And the key is when it’s called. When they needed it most. I would steal this play in a “NY MINUTE”. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/z6rcvYk6pC— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) September 24, 2019
Under Reich and Luck last season, 66% of Indy’s passes had an average depth of 10 yards or less. Through 4 games this season, Brissett and company are almost identical to that mark, currently operating at 65.9%. Going back to Reich’s years under Doug Pederson in Philadelphia, Carson Wentz had rates of 66% and 57% respectively - proving this isn’t just a Colt thing - it’s a Reich thing. Now that’s not to say that a strategy centered around a short passing attack is a bad thing. It’s simply a different approach - and one that fans are likely to find more fault in if the team isn’t executing.
First 4 games in Frank Reich's system:— Jim Ayello (@jimayello) October 1, 2019
Jacoby Brissett: 911 yards, 65.2%, 6.6 YPA 10-2 TD/INT, 6 sacks,
Andrew Luck: 1,126 yards, 67.2%, 6.0 YPA, 9-3 TD/INT, 9 sacks
At the end of the day, that’s what it comes down to - execution. The margin for error when you’re playing methodical and rhythmic football is low, and we saw last weekend - as well as in Week 1 - what can happen when miscues come to fruition. Poor defense, dropped passes, missed kicks, and sub-par line play have led Brissett out of the comfortable confines of the system, and that’s where we see the biggest difference between him and Luck. He can’t counteract the poor execution like Luck was able to - and that’s not the fault of Brissett or Reich. The offense is still generating good looks, it just isn’t helmed by one of the best quarterbacks of the generation.
Now Brissett has had his lumps, but the point remains - the passing identity hasn’t changed. Hopefully, Reich and company can unleash more deep concepts as the year goes on, but this isn’t a wildly different scheme. The Colts current yards per attempt mark is 6.2, good for 28th in the league. This is direct proof that Reich often compensates for depth of target with after-catch ability - something we’ve also seen in previous seasons. In his two years in Philadelphia, the Eagles average depth of target was 6.5, which is right around Indy’s current mark. Last year the Colts were an improved 6.8 yards per attempt (good for 16th in the NFL), but that mark was 6.2 - the exact same as this year - through October of 2018.
HC Frank Reich on play calls: “We want to be prudently aggressive.” pic.twitter.com/s5afaG7Ea2— JoJo Gentry (@jojogentrytv) September 27, 2019
There’s a multitude of reasons why that mark increased as the year went along - Luck’s rehabbing shoulder being a big part of that - but the point remains. We need to stay patient and have faith in Reich and his offensive vision.
He’s been in this exact situation before and succeeded. He’s doing all the same things. He just doesn’t have a Hall of Fame talent alongside him anymore.