Throughout much of Chris Ballard’s tenure in Indianapolis, Colts fans have enjoyed relatively stable confidence in the team. In fact, it has been somewhat surprising given that Ballard’s tenure has included a ton of adversity, especially at quarterback.
This season has tested that confidence. Whether this is a sign that Ballard’s honeymoon period is coming to an end and fan patience is wearing thin is yet to be seen, but there is no denying that opinions are getting louder and tension is growing.
Since Peyton Manning left the franchise, the fan base has had to discuss windows quite a bit. Could Indianapolis capitalize on Andrew Luck’s rookie contract window? Could the Colts figure out the offensive line in time to allow Andrew Luck to resume his promising career after a run of injuries? Had Philip Rivers’ window already closed as a playoff quarterback who could carry a young team?
Now, big contracts are due. Players like Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard are entering their primes and the cost of strong draft classes is starting to show up on the salary cap. Can Ballard figure things out before the window closes for these players? Has the window closed for Carson Wentz, who just had the worst season of his career?
Put it this way, when a win against the Jets can cause a notable jump in fan confidence, things are volatile. Exactly who are the 2021 Indianapolis Colts?
Apparently, no one is quite sure just yet.
One thing fans seem to agree about is that this Colts defense is not built to have success against elite quarterbacks. This is unfortunate, given that elite quarterbacks typically litter the playoffs each season.
While the poll doesn’t provide specific reasons, anyone who has followed the team closely can likely guess.
- This Colts defense is entirely comfortable allowing opponents to complete short passes. This also frequently means that this defense is comfortable allowing opponents to move the ball between the twenties and to get a lot of first downs. This is problematic against elite quarterbacks because those players find ways to score touchdowns in the red zone and this scheme essentially dares them to do so.
- This Colts defense focuses on stopping the run above all else. Look, stopping the run is great and at times, stopping the run can make a difference in the outcome of a game. However, passing wins football games in the modern era and allowing opponents to get things rolling through the air is a recipe for disaster. Remember the Monday Night Football game in Baltimore? This was the Colts' defense in a nutshell. Sure, the secondary was decimated the impact of that played a role BUT this also was John Harbaugh taking what the Colts defensive scheme was willing to give him.
The only way this defensive scheme works is with an elite and consistent pass rush. It will allow the secondary to play downhill and aggressively attack short passing lanes. Without it, the secondary plays on its heels, allows free releases off of the line, and attempts to limit big plays.
Big plays are great but if you don’t need them to score points, who cares?
So, if the Colts don’t have an elite/consistent pass rush (THEY DON’T) and if stopping the run won’t consistently be responsible for winning football games (IT WON’T), why not make some schematic adjustments?
Dunno. Unless or until something changes, fans will likely continue to lack confidence in the team against elite quarterbacks and playoff opponents.
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