The Indianapolis Colts picked up a third straight win on Sunday afternoon and received key contributions from rookies. On offense, Jonathan Taylor maintained his role as lead back in a three-headed rotation. On defense, Julian Blackmon had an incredible performance that put fans and the league on notice. On special teams, Jordan Glasgow blocked a punt and made a big stop for the coverage team late in the game — when the Bears were trying to mount a comeback.
Due to injuries, the only healthy offensive rookie who is being asked to carry a heavy burden is running back Jonathan Taylor. He rushed 17 times for 68 yards and added another 11 yards on one reception (he was targeted only once). His 4.0 yards per carry was more than a yard per carry on average than either Nyheim Hines or Jordan Wilkins.
Importantly, Taylor showed some signs that he was willing to use his vision to redirect his runs to daylight. The biggest criticism he has faced to this point is that he has left yards on the field by staying so disciplined to play direction or the intended gap that he missed cutback opportunities. If he can continue to gain confidence, he has superstar potential out of the backfield.
At this point, the biggest thing working against the rushing attack is a surprisingly disappointing offensive line. After two seasons of domination, the line has struggled to get any push or to open rushing lanes and has left rushers to get swarmed in the backfield. Part of the issue may be the lack of a consistent passing threat and numerous injuries at wide receiver but it will need to get figured out if Taylor and his teammates expect to get things going.
It should be noted that without Michael Pittman Jr. the offense is missing one of its best blockers on the outside and down the field. Pittman has a reputation from college for his blue collar work as a blocker and has made it a point of emphasis early in his NFL career. Getting him back on the field would help.
My word has Julian Blackmon been impressive to start his NFL career. It’s been astonishing to see him healthy enough to practice, let alone strap up for regular season action, after he suffered an ACL injury in early December last year.
After he missed Week 1, Blackmon was called to action to replace Malik Hooker around the midway point of Week 2. Since then, he has been credited with four tackles, 5 passes defensed and an interception. He is tied for the team lead in passes defensed with Xavier Rhodes, who has been a starter and played nearly every down this season. The tackle number might seem low but Blackmon’s pass breakups have frequently come by way of devastating hits on would be receivers, separating them from the ball.
To this point, it seems clear that Blackmon is comfortable in Matt Eberflus’ defense and that he is gelling with fellow starter Khari Willis. There is little doubt that Blackmon has played an important role in the Colts’ secondary exceeding any reasonable expectations to start the season.
While Rodrigo Blankenship has had an up and down start to his NFL career, days like Sunday will help a young man feel established. He was perfect in field goal attempts 4-for-4 and hit his lone extra point. His 13 points were enough to top the Bears’ 11. Without his points, the offense wouldn’t have been able to get the job done.
He should build off of performances like this one and will need to do so to keep pace with a surprisingly explosive Cleveland Browns offense next week.
When the Colts selected Jordan Glasgow they were hoping to get a special teams ace with a hybrid skillset. At this point, it’s safe to say that’s exactly what they have. Glasgow is second on the team with three special teams tackles and his blocked punt on Sunday in the first quarter set up the Philip Rivers and the Colts offense with great field position. The offense used that field position to score an early touchdown and establish a lead they would never give up.
The question now is whether injuries to players like Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed will force Glasgow into action on defense for the first time in his career — against the most dominant rushing offense in the NFL.