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Colts Rookie Report: Week 3 vs. Jets

NFL: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

While rookies were heavily involved on both sides of the ball, their impact on the outcome wasn’t as big as a week ago. The backfield split was balanced. The passing game still limited the role of receivers through the air. The Jets offense was a mess so the defensive performances included big games from a few veterans and little action for most others.

This week will be interesting as there are numerous players nearing a return to the field. If Rock Ya-Sin returns it is unlikely Isaiah Rodgers will see much time on defense for the foreseeable future. Veteran defensive tackle Sheldon Day and tight end Trey Burton might also return but neither is expected to take snaps from rookies.


OFFENSE

Rookie running back Jonathan Taylor continued to lead the way in the backfield by pacing the team with 13 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown. His carries, yards, and yards per carry were higher than any of the other backs on the roster. Given that the game was so lopsided, perhaps the best move was to give Taylor a much lighter workload and keep him fresh for a tougher match-up on the road next week. Still, a week after he dominated the snap counts he took part in a more balanced approach that saw him lead the backfield with 24 offensive snaps, which was only 4 more than Nyheim Hines and 7 more than Jordan Wilkins.

The other offensive rookie who stands out is receiver Michael Pittman Jr. He has been featured heavily on offense and there is no doubt that part of the reason is his ability and willingness as a blocker. Only Zach Pascal saw the field more than Pittman, 56 versus 35 snaps. Unfortunately, an injury to Pittman’s leg will keep him out until after the bye.

With Pittman down for weeks, the Colts only offensive rookie who will likely make an impact is Jonathan Taylor.


DEFENSE

While Julian Blackmon burst onto the scene replacing Malik Hooker against the Vikings, he was quiet against the Jets. He shared the workload with veteran safety Tavon Wilson and took 41 or a possible 57 defensive snaps. Those opportunities led to one tackle.

Rookie cornerback Isaiah Rodgers also had a few looks on defense. He was on the field for 11 of 57 defensive snaps and was also credited with a tackle. As mentioned, one would have to assume that Rodgers will see even fewer opportunities when Rock Ya-Sin returns.

As with the offense, once Ya-Sin returns it is likely that the only defensive rookie to have a weekly impact or at least an active role is Julian Blackmon.


SPECIAL TEAMS

Rodrigo Blankenship won a good training camp kicking competition against Chase McLaughlin. Many in the media were surprised that Chris Ballard chose to move forward with the rookie — especially after he had an up and down showing in practice.

He missed a field goal he should have hit Week 1 against Jacksonville, striking an upright. He was perfect for the day at home against the Vikings. At the end of the first half, after a good offensive drive to put him into solid field goal range, he missed again off of the upright against the Jets. He also got a lucky ricochet off of an upright for an extra point.

The sad reality in the NFL is that the leash for kickers is incredibly short. The Adam Vinatieri’s of the league may get an entire season to try to figure things out but undrafted rookies likely will not. An 80 percent average to start his career isn’t bad but Blankenship needs to figure out his nerves or whatever it is that is leading to the early season struggles. Missing from 40+ yards isn’t surprising but anything inside that distance needs to be close to automatic.

It’s also worth noting that Jordan Glasgow remains a very active contributor on special teams. It will take more time to figure out what level of special teams production the team can expect out of him but Frank Reich and Bubba Ventrone are trotting him onto the field regularly to develop his game.