Minnesota blitzed third most of any team in week 1, a total of 43.2 percent of defensive plays. Even with the blitzes, they did not record one sack in the entire game.
This all sounds extremely promising for the Colts, but they didn’t have a strong game in week 1, either. Let’s take a look at my impact players for week 2:
PLAYER: Jonathan Taylor (RB)
Last week, the Colts had just 22 carries for 88 total yards. This may not seem like a horrible stat line, but it is surprising for a team that has one of the stronger offensive lines in the NFL and lives by the mantra “Run The Damn Ball”.
With veteran running back Marlon Mack out for the remainder of the season with a torn achilles, Jonathan Taylor will be the starting back for the week 2 contest against the Vikings.
Frank Reich has alluded to the fact that he plans to utilize the run game more this Sunday. Dominating the run game makes it easier to manage the clock, control the pace of the game, and forces the defense to respect a potential run which could open up the field for bigger passing plays.
Pretty clear, both in his comments yesterday and this afternoon, Frank Reich wishes he'd have called more runs vs. JAX. "There's something about the physicality of the run game that dictates the tempo," he says. Got away from it too much late yesterday (46 throws to 22 runs).— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) September 14, 2020
The big question is, will Taylor, a rookie, be up for the task on Sunday?
In one career NFL game, Taylor has 22 rushing yards on 9 carries and 67 receiving yards on 6 catches. Sounds like a pretty versatile running back to me, and the Colts will desperately need that versatility if they have any chance at beating the Vikings.
Behind the stacked Colts offensive line, Taylor has the ability for a big game. He ranks second all-time in rushing yards and third all-time in rushing touchdowns for the University of Wisconsin, and he did all of that in just three years with the team.
I think it’s safe to say he is up for the task. He’s going to have to be if the Colts stand any chance against Minnesota. It all comes down to the play calling. If Reich calls for more runs like he said, you will see a more poised and comfortable Colts offense on the field. That confidence can translate to a victory.
PLAYER: Xavier Rhodes (CB)
This will likely be the biggest storyline of the game. Rhodes, who played seven seasons with the Vikings, will play against his former team for the first time.
.@Colts CB Xavier Rhodes right now via Zoom on facing his former Vikings team this week: “It’s all love. There for 7 years. It was a brotherhood when I was there, it’s a brotherhood to this day ... but I’m gonna be able to tackle them, this time.”— StaceyDales (@StaceyDales) September 15, 2020
For the second week in a row, my defensive player resides at the cornerback position. There are two major reasons for this:
First, in last week's game, Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew II completed 95% of his passes. 19 completions on just 20 attempts. He threw for three touchdowns as well. This can not continue against ‘lesser’ teams if the Colts are to have any chance at winning big games this season.
The Vikings may have lost last week against the Packers, but quarterback Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense still put up some big numbers. Which leads me to the second reason.
Last week, Cousins completed 19 passes on 25 attempts, accumulated 259 yards through the air, and passed for a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Forgetting the interception, that is a pretty solid stat line for any football game.
Rhodes will need to step up against his former team and play much more physically than last week. Corners gave a lot of space at the line of scrimmage against the Jaguars receivers, and that should have changed halfway through the game but never did. There were also several situations where some players didn’t seem to know where they were supposed to be.
While I am sure Frank Reich and Matt Eberflus worked out some of these kinks throughout the week, a week may not have been enough time to prepare.
A lot of questions surround this game. How will the Colts respond to last week’s loss? Will the run game be strong without Marlon Mack? Can the defense keep up with the Vikings offense?
I don’t know the definite answer to any of these questions. What I do know is the Colts need Jonathan Taylor and Xavier Rhodes to step up big time if they're going to have a shot at beating the Vikings.