We just passed the bye week here in Indy in the 2020 NFL season and the Colts currently sit at 4-2 and second place in the AFC South. While the season has gone well up to this point, there are still some adjustments and changes to be made to get this team to the level they want to be at.
That is what we are going to be looking at today as we look at three players who have earned more playing time after the first six weeks of the season for the Colts.
The most obvious answer to start with is defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis who is coming off one of his best games as a pro. On Sunday against the Bengals, he had five tackles, three run stops, and a sack in just 21 snaps played. He looked explosive and fast which is something the Colts desperately need at defensive end.
Before we get to his game against the Bengals, he also had an excellent game this season against the Vikings back in week two. In this game, Lewis played mainly on the interior and this is where he did his most damage. You can see just how much of an advantage he is at here with his speed and quickness off the line of scrimmage. He quickly pushes and pulls past the interior lineman and bends his way around the outside for a sack.
Tyquan Lewis speed on the interior. Let's give him some more snaps. He's got the juice. pic.twitter.com/OKlzIs05UO— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) September 23, 2020
His explosiveness is so impressive, especially on the interior. He does need to control his rushes a bit better though as he has a tendency to shoot gaps a little too far up field. That being said, I’d rather have over-aggressive gap shooter than have a player who isn’t getting any push off the line. Here he moves the quarterback off his spot with a quick rush. Lewis has played just 33 of his 86 snaps on the year from the interior but he looks really impressive from this spot.
I counted two pressures and a sack for Tyquan Lewis in only 12 snaps played on Sunday. He's making an impact without really seeing the field. Hope he can continue his strong play. Looks like a really nice speed rusher from the 3-Tech spot so far pic.twitter.com/t2daUGvSwa— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) September 23, 2020
On Sunday against the Bengals, we saw the whole package from Lewis in limited snaps yet again. Nothing was spectacular but he played at 100 miles per hour off the edge and got his job done. He had two really nice backside pursuits on outside runs away from him, two really good run stuffs on the interior, and a sack on a stunt play where he bull rushed the guard into the quarterback’s lap. Really good game from him and this sparked DL Coach Brian Baker to say that he has earned more snaps going forward. Hopefully we see that this Sunday against Detroit.
I was impressed by Tyquan Lewis in his game against the Bengals. Didn't do anything special but won his easier match-ups and looked really explosive all day. Colts need to give him more snaps (especially as a pass rusher on the end) going forward. pic.twitter.com/DhYIb9Wyx7— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 26, 2020
Before I get into this one, I want to preface by saying that Johnson has received a lot of playing time the last few weeks with the injury to Michael Pittman Jr on the outside. Part of why Johnson is in this piece is that even with Pittman Jr returning from injury here after the bye, Johnson needs to continue to get a high snap count in this offense.
Johnson has been a big play threat for the Colts since midway through the 2019 season. This year he is even more efficient as he has caught 82% of the targets thrown his way and averages 20.9 yards per reception. He is a burner who can stretch the field and make big things happen for this offense. Here against the Browns the Colts ran a dagger concept with Johnson in the slot. He gets vertical on his route as the deep in takes the high safety out of position. He extends for the pass and makes a great catch in traffic for the big play.
I watched enough of the Lions secondary last year to know the Colts need to do this all game after the bye. 3X1 dagger concept with Hilton running a deep in and MoJo stretching vertical. Great catch down the field by MoJo as he gets crushed by the safety pic.twitter.com/y2cDsxw0w6— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 19, 2020
His deep play ability was on full display against the Bengals. Frank Reich saw the mismatch in the Bengals secondary and exploited it. This is a deep cross concept where the Colts would typically have Johnson continue on the post. Instead, it’s a post-corner as he jabs at the top of his route and breaks back to the outside. He then turns on the jets and creates a huge amount of separation down the right sideline. The Colts’ offense needs big plays this year and he is the guy to go to in these situations.
Marcus Johnson vs a safety in space... man this is such a great call to isolate Johnson deep. Think this should have been called a TD too. pic.twitter.com/wYe3PcFxDM— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 19, 2020
The Colts have a tough gauntlet ahead of them down the stretch of this season as they play some of the best teams in the NFL. One way to keep pace with these high powered offenses is to hit the big play and continually stretch the field vertically. Johnson is the receiver in this core who can do that at an effective and efficient level. Even if Zach Pascal or T.Y. Hilton get less snaps as a result, Johnson needs to be on the field getting starter snaps for the rest of this season.
Marcus Johnson was inches away from having a 170 yard 2 TD game on Sunday. He was really really good all game long. May have been the best game from a Colts WR since TY vs the Titans in 2018. He was that good. Bengals had no answer for him down the field. pic.twitter.com/DT6RMRf0DW— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 19, 2020
A late offseason signing, Stallworth has provided some quality play for the Colts in limited snaps. He may not be a stat sheet stuffer but he has been getting the job done as a backup 1-technique on the interior defensive line.
Stallworth is an unspectacular defensive tackle who excels at stuffing the run. While this may not be a “sexy” position, it is vital for the Colts’ defense. He has great power at the point of attack and has been redirecting run plays in his very few snaps this year. This was an outstanding block shed on the goal line against the Vikings in week two.
Major props to Taylor Stallworth in this game as well. Played only a handful of snaps but had two run stops including this one here on the goal line. Colts have really quality depth across the defensive line this year. pic.twitter.com/Vn0pIRHZFE— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) September 23, 2020
Plays like this one are why he is playing well despite not loading up the stat sheet. He bull drives the center deep into the backfield on the outside run play. This forces the running back to take a deeper angle out of the backfield, which gives the rest of the defense more space to come in and make a play. He didn’t make this tackle but he was a big reason why it was just a short gain on the play.
Taylor Stallworth also was outstanding on Sunday. Here he drives Bradbury 3-4 yards in the backfield and forces Cook to run a wide on the stretch. Colts nose tackles abused Bradbury all game long. pic.twitter.com/XEx9FGAVVE— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) September 22, 2020
Outside of Stallworth playing well, another reason why he should get a few more snaps is to keep Grover Stewart fresh down the stretch. Stewart has been incredible as the Colts’ starter at 1-tech this year. Keeping him fresh down the stretch for the two Tennessee matchups and other key games will be vital for the Colts. Use Stallworth a bit more as a sub and keep Grover’s legs healthy and dominating and the Colts will be in good shape.
Like what I've seen from Taylor Stallworth as the backup 1 Tech this year. Think going forward, the Colts should give him a few more snaps so Grover Stewart can stay fresher down the stretch. He's earned them too. pic.twitter.com/Z20pcaAlCz— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) October 26, 2020