Well folks, this is it. The 2019 NFL regular season is finally underway for the Indianapolis Colts. The season will start off with a formidable challenge. Eastern time zone teams tend to perform poorly on long trips west. Also, the Los Angeles Chargers were a playoff team a season ago and have a roster loaded with talent. Importantly, as long as Philip Rivers is still spinning passes, they will have a legitimate shot in any football game.
This will be the second “debut” of Jacoby Brissett as the Colts starting quarterback. Week 2 of 2017 was technically his actual debut as an NFL starter but the circumstances were different then. At that point, Brissett took the field to potentially bridge the gap before Andrew Luck would make a return. Now, Brissett takes the field as the unquestioned starter and in an entirely different offense system. One that, importantly, he has spent the last two years learning and practicing within.
The Chargers will be missing key players like Melvin Gordon and Derwin James but still have a scary pass rushing tandem in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Is the Colts offensive line ready to pick up where it left off in 2018? Is the defense as fast or even fast than it was a season ago? Can Justin Houston terrorize Philip Rivers and keep the Chargers offense off-balance?
We’re about to find out.
No player on the Colts defense is more familiar with the San Diego Chargers than defensive end Justin Houston. He played in the same division as the Chargers during the first eight season of his career, meaning that he prepared for an competed against them 16 times. There should be very little that surprising Houston about how the Chargers will approach trying to shut him down in the game. Can he use that familiarity to his advantage?
The linebackers are going to get a real test right out of the gate. Austin Ekeler likes to use speed to get into open spaces and do real damage. The Colts pride themselves on speed and have done a nice job of shutting down opposing running games since Matt Eberflus took over in 2018. Can they continue dominating on the edges? Can they also handle a tight end like Hunter Henry who has the talent and length to do damage over the middle?
It’s a multi-faceted test for the second level.
Finally, the secondary looks a little different in 2019. Returning are sure-fire starters Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore, while Quincy Wilson and Rock Ya-Sin work out a time-share for the rest of the snaps — likely based upon match-ups and situation. Can they handle a dominant receiver like Keenan Allen, a young budding superstar in Mike Williams, a reliable safety valve like Dontrelle Inman, and a shift deep threat like Travis Benjamin? There are a lot of different types of weapons at Philip Rivers’ disposal and the Colts secondary can go a long way to give the ball back to the Colts offense.
While Jacoby Brissett will be challenged with leading the Colts first team offense, he may not be the most important piece to the puzzle this afternoon. That honor may be on Frank Reich and the Colts offensive line. Reich will need to draw up a game plan that capitalizes on Brissett’s strengths and masks his weaknesses. He will need to find a way to help neutralize the Chargers pass rush and keep his quarterback clean. He will need the offensive line to not only hold up against the pass but open up lanes for Marlon Mack and the Colts backfield.
If Jacoby Brissett is turned into Mitchell Trubisky, trying to throw his way to a victory against Philip Rivers, it’s not a good thing for the Colts. There must be a way to establish balance and put the Charger defense back on their heels at least a little bit. Let’s hope the offensive line looks nothing like it did in preseason and training camp.
An “x-factor” in this game could very well be rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell. This kid has true game-breaking speed and is very comfortable with short crossing routes that will give Brissett a chance to get the ball out of his hands quickly. If they connect, watch out. Campbell is a legit threat to break a big one every time he touches the ball.
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