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Colts Bye Week positional report cards

Syndication: The Indianapolis Star Jenna Watson/IndyStar via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Quarterback

What can you say about Philip Rivers? He’s had one very good game, three decent games, one pretty bad and one horrendous game. If you take the average of that, that gives you around a C+. In the first few games of the season, he didn’t make many poor turnover-worthy throws and through three games, his only bad throws came against Jacksonville. His play took a dive against Chicago and Cleveland but he rebounded strongly against the Bengals. He’s all over the place and his play cost them two games, but won them one. At this point in his career, he’s an aggressive game manager and nothing more and him in the backfield won’t ease the nerves of Colts fans.

Grade: C+


Running Back

Jonathan Taylor has been ok. He played his best game of his career against the Bengals, but still struggles to break tackles in the open field and has issues hitting the hole hard. There’s definitely no need to hit the panic button, but he hasn’t been one of the 4 best rookie running backs this season (Edwards-Helaire, Robinson, Gibson, Swift have been more impactful). There’s still plenty of time for him to turn it around and if his Bengals game is a sign of things to come, then the Colts should be getting big games from him. The play of Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines has been very encouraging

Grade: B-


Wide Receiver

This group has been a major disappointment. TY Hilton has had a brutal start to the season and looks like a shell of his old self. Bad drops and no separation has hindered his performance and he barely looks like a starting receiver at times. He needs a serious wake up call. Michael Pittman Jr showed some flashes, but his injury set him back. Parris Campbell had some great moments early on, but an ankle injury ended his season. Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson have had their moments, and look to be good rotational players, with Pascal looking like a legit starter at times. The Colts have gotten some production from other players, but this group has been a major letdown.

Grade: D+


Tight Ends

If it weren’t for Mo Alie-Cox, this group would be a D. Alie-Cox has shown flashes of stellar play as a receiver and blocker and looks to be a very good starter in this league. Jack Doyle, on the other-hand, has struggled with drops and production and his blocking has taken a step back. Trey Burton missed the first few games of the season and upon his return, his impact has been minimal and almost entirely as a receiver. This group has not been good overall.

Grade: C+


Offensive Line

Although they’ve been one of the 10 best units in the NFL, this group has underperformed by their standards, especially in the running game. Nelson and Castonzo have been their usual selves. Ryan Kelly was slow at the beginning, but has been stellar in his last few games. Mark Glowinski has been very good and Braden Smith has held his own against some elite competition. The issue is they have zero depth, as seen by La’Raven Clark’s brutal performance against the Browns. Can this unit be better? Yes, especially in the run game, but they’ve been incredible in the pass game.

Grade: B


Defensive Line

The best unit on the team!! They got off to a slow start in Week 1, but they’ve established themselves as one of the 3-4 best defensive lines in the NFL this season, led by DeForest Buckner and Justin Houston. Both are playing like All-Pros this season. Grover Stewart and Al-Quadin Muhammed have done a very good job as well in complimentary roles. The return of Kemoko Turay should be a huge addition for an already strong unit. They rank in the top 10 against the run, according to Football Outsiders and that’s where I believe they are at their strongest. No team has been able to effectively rush the ball against them since Week 1 and they’ve faced some stiff competition (Vikings, Browns, Bengals). If the Colts continue to win in the trenches, they’ll continue to win football games.

Grade: A


Linebackers

This unit has also been solid, and they have shown good depth in the absence of Darius Leonard. Anthony Walker has taken a big step forward and is playing his best ball in his contract year. In my opinion, he has surpassed (or re-surpassed) Bobby Okereke as the 2nd best linebacker on the team. Okereke has been good, but not great. The same can be said about Zaire Franklin in his limited time as a starter. Darius Leonard has been his usual self, but has made less impactful plays this season. Leonard’s lack of turnovers, which is his specialty, is the reason why this group falls below an A.

Grade: B+


Secondary

The biggest surprise out of any group! I was holding my breath before the season about the secondary. Lots of young bodies and the veteran of the group, Xavier Rhodes, was coming off one of the worst years you’ll see at cornerback. He has bounce backed in a very big way, with many turnovers and stellar play. Rock Ya-Sin has had an up and down year, but his “down” plays are less bad than what they were last year. Kenny Moore continues to be a playmaker on the team and the Colts have gotten great play from Julien Blackmon, their rookie safety and looks to be the future at that spot. Khari Willis has been good and bad, but had his best game of the season against the Bengals. This unit has been exceptional and has been the reason why the Colts have been a top 5 defense through 6 weeks as opposed to be a borderline top 12 defense.

Grade: A-


Special Teams

Rigoberto Sanchez continues to play as one of the 6-7 best punters in the NFL and Luke Rhodes has shown great flashes of athleticism. Rodrigo Blankenship has not truly been tested yet in a high pressure situation or with an overly long field goal, but he has done well with the kicks he’s had. He’s had a few close scares, including nearly missing a 21 yard field goal, but at the end of the day, he’s made all his extra points and almost all his kicks as a rookie, so you can’t ask for much more at this point. I’m not sure I’m comfortable yet with Blankenship, but he’s earned his due up to this point.

Grade: A-


Coaching

In French, we say “comme ci, comme ca”; it means not good, but not bad. Frank Reich knows how to script an offense as well as anyone, but it seems like the plan and good play-calling disappears from stretches after that. A lot of the play calling has been bland, save for the occasional receiver reverse. Short pass-run-medium pass is pretty predictable after a certain amount of time. Rivers struggles throwing the ball downfield, so quick rhythmic passing and some more creative running with more motion would benefit the offense tremendously.

On defense, Matt Eberflus sometimes relies too much on Cover 2 and teams are able to expose the middle of the field. This was seen against the Bengals where Burrow was able to consistently attack the middle of the field with Higgins. This has happened in other games with Cover 2 and Cover 3. I believe he needs to do a slightly better job of mixing up the coverages and bring a bit more pressure. Relying on 4 man rushes got them hurt against the Browns and gave Baker Mayfield perfect pockets to throw from. Mixing up the coverages a bit more and bringing more pressure are my two main issues with Eberflus, otherwise he’s done a great job with this talented defense.

At the end of the day, the Colts are 4-2 with a point differential of +42. Their opponents have a combined record of 12-17-1, so it’s not like they’re playing Super Bowl contenders, but 4-2 is what many expected of them through 6 games.

Grade: B-


Team Overall: B

Offense: C+

Defense: A-