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Colts vs Raiders: Q & A With the Enemy

Oakland Raiders v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Ahead of a critical game for the Indianapolis Colts who are fighting for a playoff spot, they’ll face the Las Vegas Raiders, who are also right in the mix. This critical AFC matchup will have big implications for both franchises. To get a better idea of what the Colts will face, I talked with Cam Mellor of Silver and Black Pride to get some answers. Here is what he had to say:

After an MVP level season back in 2016 that ended prematurely with a broken leg (sorry about that again), Derek Carr seemed to struggle a bit for a few seasons. This year he is having perhaps his best season since then. What is the reason for his resurgence?

You know, it’s interesting, he’s having a great year but it’s almost identical to last season, except for some reason this year, the wins are following suit. Sure, he’s thrown for more touchdowns at this point already than he did all of last year, but he’s actually been nearly as accurate, taking similar shots downfield while also keeping the offense on time, he truly is doing a lot of the things right that he did last year. The one thing that has stood out to me in particular, is the fact that he’s having more success downfield, on deep passes. Granted, that can be largely attributed to the receiving corps, but his arm strength and accuracy on balls well downfield has increased since even that 2016 season, so if I had to pick one facet, it’s that as the large contributor as to why he’s having a better season and ALSO getting more national notoriety.

If you were the Colts defensive coordinator tasked with game planning against the Raiders, how would you attack their offense?

Stack the box in clear-cut run situations and don’t play zone against Carr this season. Carr has been lights out against zone coverages this year and against those man-heavy teams in 2020 (Jets, he struggled; Patriots, he lost; Falcons, ugh; Saints, his only halfway-decent game as a passer vs heavy-man), he clearly has struggled. That’s not the only way to do it, but that’s been one of the clear-cut advantages that a defense can do schematically that presents itself at this stage. Other than that, you have to key on Henry Ruggs on deep shots and find someone to patrol the middle of the field that can A) run with and B) actually get Darren Waller to the ground.

If you were the Colts offensive coordinator and had to find the weaknesses in the Raiders defense, how would you draw up that game plan?

I’d be here a lot longer if I listed the weaknesses in this defense, so I can say this: The only strength on this team is Nick Kwiatkoski and some sporadic pass-rushing from Clelin Ferrell. Other than that, there are huge issues with missed tackles, lopsided coverage lapses, inconsistent run defense and a slew of other issues that pop up on a random basis. Not once has this team put it together for a full four quarters of solid defensive play, and to be honest, not once have they had good games in back-to-back weeks in terms of any one of the defensive facets that you have to be good in to win in today’s NFL.

That being said — I’d throw all over the secondary.

Henry Ruggs III was my draft crush ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. How has he looked, and what kind of a factor should Colts fans expect him to play?

Ruggs was clearly a guy who needed a summer workout program, a preseason camp and as many reps as possible with Carr to get comfortable to two things: 1) NFL speed and how to use his speed against opponents as opposed to against himself and 2) physically condition himself for 16 weeks of rigorous football action. His injury history is widely documented but the timing issues that have been showcased time in and time out this year have really worn on his statistical output for the year. That being said, if he does get a favorable matchup, just about no one can catch him.

But that being said, if they do catch him, he’s been prone to fumbles this season and he hasn’t shown the ability to catch 50-50 balls either.

Who are some under the radar players Colts fans should be on the lookout for as impact players Sunday?

Can we still call TE Darren Waller an under-the-radar player? If so, it’s him. A human mismatch at tight end. A walking YAC machine. And other than that on offense — can I say Rodney Hudson? He isn’t off the radar, nor under it, but he doesn’t get enough love. He’s a Hall of Fame player in my book and he’s just oft-overlooked so I’d love to give as much love to the big man who is a stalwart in pass protection and a dominant run blocker well into a HOF-worthy career.

On defense, it’s the aforementioned Kwiatkoski. He’s the lone sideline-to-sideline player with any documented consistent solid play this season, and the lone player who was brought in on defense this year that has shown up. Also, Maurice Hurst is finally playing up to his potential first-round billing from the 2018 draft process and he can cause a ton of havoc on the inside with his pass-rushing and his run defense.