Much is being made of the test the Indianapolis Colts’ offense will be taking on ever since the Andrew Luck retirement news hit the airwaves. Jacoby Brissett will be ‘the guy’ leading a much improved offense than the one he ran in 2017.
The scheme is significantly better than that of Rob Chudzinski’s version, the playmakers have improved with a much deeper receiver corps, running back room, as well as a much more effective offensive line. This much we know to be true.
But, is that where the real test for this roster will be throughout the season?
Quite honestly, it seems very apparent that the team’s defense will be taking on a much more daunting task in 2019, and it starts right from the jump in Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Yes, the Chargers are currently without Melvin Gordan as he hunkers down into contract disputes with the team, they have some missing pieces along the offensive line and the receiving corps is a little banged up as well. However, the mainstay in that offense isn’t any less dangerous.
Philip Rivers, a Hall-of-Fame sure shot, is ready to go and has been a real thorn in the side of the Colts for more than a decade now. With or without his entire arsenal on the field along side him, Rivers will be deadly every snap he takes and the Colts’ defense has an immediate challenge to kick of this season.
And this is going to sound familiar this season as the Colts move through the year with the hopes of regaining the AFC South title and a playoff berth. The Colts’ defense will also have to match up with the likes of Matt Ryan in Week 3, Patrick Mahomes in Week 5, Deshaun Watson in Weeks 7 and 12, Ben Roethlisberger in Week 9, Drew Brees in Week 15, and Cam Newton in Week 16.
Combined, playoffs included, the Colts are 4-7 against the above quarterbacks since 2015 with two of those wins coming against Watson and the Houston Texans last season. It’s hard to love those numbers.
Colts’ defensive coordinator, Matt Eberflus, spoke on the subject earlier in the week. When asked about the ‘elite’ quarterbacks his unit will be facing off against this season, Eberflus had this to say.
“I think they all know that with the way that it is nowadays. I think they all see that and feel that and they’ve prepared that way in terms of their preparation during training camp and before that. They’re excited about the challenge. We’ve got to face them one at a time. We don’t have to face them all at once. We just have to face them one at a time and execute.”
The natural follow-up question to this was in the form of asking for what Eberflus feels his unit’s strengths are as they head into the season. He danced around a real answer a little bit, but it largely redirects the answer back to the staff’s insistence of the ‘team mentality.’
“It’s the second year for us and we have everybody back and we’ve added a couple players. I think the guys are starting to work on their attention to detail of the fundamentals at each position. You can see that starting to come into play where guys know, and know they know, what they’re supposed to do. They’re teaching the young guys and you can see that as we go through this process. The guys right now are honed into that attention to detail of what is the bottom line at my position? The bottom line at each position, it varies... Those guys are honed into those things, and those are the things that win and lose football games.”
Ultimately when it comes down to it, Eberflus, the entire defensive unit, and even Frank Reich know that they have their hands full this season. At least three sure fire Hall of Famers, last year’s MVP, 2016’s MVP, and one of the best young quarterbacks who is also in their own division will all be very tough matchups for the Colts this season.
The Colts will need more than just Jacoby Brissett to have a very good season, the defense will have to be even better than last season if we expect to see the Colts playing playoff football this year.