On January 2nd, 2022 the Indianapolis Colts will travel to the Sunshine state to take on the Jacksonville Jaguars. In this week 18 matchup, I sought to understand our opponent and get a better idea of how they may attack our Colts.
The Colts haven’t won a game in Jacksonville in six years. The Colts have to break that streak if they want to have a real chance to play in the postseason. The Jags are bad but will desperately want to keep the Colts out of the playoffs if at all possible. The Colts will take the Jags best shot this week.
Let’s see what we can expect in week 18.
When Urban Meyer agreed to become head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars he knew that his new team had the first pick in the 2021 NFL draft and he knew that with that pick he would be selecting Trevor Lawrence. Beyond that Meyer had to decide what kind of offense he wanted to teach the most highly touted quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck.
You might think Meyer would want to push the envelope and hire forward thinking coaches on the cutting edge of offensive innovation to pair with his uniquely special quarterback prospect.
And when you think of cutting edge coaches you no doubt think of Darrell Bevell and Brian Schottenheimer?
Bevell was hired to be the teams play caller while Schottenheimer was given the role of passing game coordinator. Schematically Bevell has been a man with no nation. He’s gone back and forth between West Coast and Air Coryell principals and I have a few good guesses as to why but that would just be speculation.
Schottenheimer is another guy who has bounced around and found work in various systems. That’s not where the two similarities end for Bevell and Schotty. Both men worked with Brett Favre. And both have found high levels of success when working on teams that have hall of fame caliber players at both quarterback and running back.
I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t think of that.
Unfortunately for the Jaguars as of week 18, they have neither of those things. Instead of going on the normal journey I take you down in these scouting reports, let’s go back to week 10 and review this Jags offense against the Indianapolis Colts defense.
Week 10 Review
The Jaguars try to simplify the game for rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence by splitting the field in half, and giving him a read at all three levels of the field. In theory it’s a good way to make things easier for any quarterback. It’s a staple of the Shanahan west coast offense for good reason. That said your quarterback has to be decisive and make those choices on time. Had this ball come out sooner, there’s a chance it would have been completed, not a good chance, but a chance all the same. The Colts had this one covered up and this was one of Lawrence’s several throws he was lucky to walk away from without an interception.
They attacked the edges
One area the Jags consistently found success in their last matchup was in attacking the edges of the defense on the ground. Indy failed to set a hard edge as the Jags exploited the Colts failure to match up personnel and just outflanked the defense on their way to several good runs including this 65 yard touchdown run.
What else do the Jags do to help Trevor Lawrence?
Once again, the Jags get three receivers on one side of the field. One deep, one intermediate and one short. It splits the field in half but what happens when you run these routes with receivers that can’t beat man coverage?
Life gets tough when you’re forced to leave your favorite targets at Clemson.
I did manage to pull some clips later in the game that prove that the Jags do have plays that are designed to get their receivers open, they just choose not to use those concepts most of the time because, Coryell.
The edges, man.
The Jags just did a really good job getting blockers wide and blocking the Colts front seven back inside. It wasn’t a fluke they did it multiple times.
Basic third down play
This was third and less than five. All of Lawrence’s receiving options run routes 1-2 yards past the sticks and sit down. Every team does it and it can be effective, the problem is the ball has to cone out on time. This was yet another play that Lawrence wasn’t decisive enough on that almost got him picked off.
They did it, they ran a pick play
They finally do something to get a receiving option open, but the Colts cover it, initially. Lawrence looks to his right to watch the back running the wheel route. He sees the pick, he sees the pick isn’t effective and he looks back to his left only to discover that there’s nothing there, either. Now that he’s looked both ways, the pocket is starting to feel pretty tight and Lawrence decides it’s time to get out of Dodge.
Had Lawrence stayed on his initial read just a beat longer he would have seen Matthew Adams peeking in the backfield instead of staying with the deep route and this would have been an easy touchdown, assuming there was an accurate throw.
Even when the Jags tried to make things easy for Lawrence they didn’t quite make it easy enough. Sure it’s easy to say he should have stared down his back because he came open but the easy read to make was that mesh point- the pick. If the Colts don’t blow coverage at that point (and they didn’t) the back shouldn’t get open. The failure of this play was in the spacing the Jags used. Had they moved the receiver in tight it would have been harder for Adams to work through the pick and Lawrence could have made a faster decision on his first read. Instead, they kept him out wide and the rest is history.
I pulled this clip more for the coverage than the Jags offense
The Colts show a two high safety look before and even a little after the snap, before rolling into this cover three robber look and it almost fooled Lawrence. Watch Darius Leonard on this play. You’ll see him cover 85 initially before falling off to try to get in the throwing lane of the outside receiver.
Doing this does a few things, first it means if Lawrence throws the ball to that outside receiver, Darius Leonard gets his hands on this ball. Second if Lawrence sees Leonard play that way, coupled with the fact that the Colts showed a two high safety look, it means that 85 should be open in a hole in the middle of the field, except the safety is playing robber coverage. Indy wanted Lawrence to throw this ball to 85 because they had that safety breaking on the route before Lawrence had ever made a decision. This was by design. If Lawrence threw to either route to his right, there was a high probability the Colts would cause a turnover.
For all of the issue’s Lawrence has had this season, he’s still a smart player and he was able to sniff this one out. That said, this is a good example of the types of things the Colts are doing on defense to force opponents into making mistakes that result in turnovers.
Another pick play that suffered from poor spacing
The Jags went back to the well and ran a similar play from a different formation but it suffered from the same poor spacing.
Another thing to point out: the Jags have dialed up these plays designed to get guys open, a couple times in this game and yet they haven’t schemed up any high percentage throws. The Jags are trying to hit homeruns with a group of receivers who need to play small ball.
“See, I knew it would work” - Brian Schottenheimer, probably.
Here the Colts bit hard on first down to stop the outside zone to the left. I guess they were tired of getting beat to the edge. Only this time Trevor Lawrence keeps the ball, rolls out and finds the short receiver on one of the Jags favorite passing concepts. If I remember correctly, this did get called back due to a (bad) blocking back toward the line of scrimmage penalty on 84.
Colts defense keeping things in front of them
Later in the game the Indy defense started playing more quarters coverage to try to prevent giving up a big play late in the game. It’s a double edged sword as it will allow for more plays like this to beat you. Darius Leonard is held outside by the back who runs an out breaking route, which allows the outside receiver to run his in breaking route into a hole in the zone. This was a true two high safety defense so neither safety was going to be able to jump this route.
Ultimately it was good awareness by Trevor Lawrence to understand the game situation and what coverage he was facing. The throw should have been better, but his receiver made the catch either way.
Hey, an effective pick
Here we see the Jags finally get smart and run an in-breaking route off of a pick. The spacing could have still been an issue but since 85 was coming back inside, he was able to see to use his “block” more effectively. Also the Jags finally schemed a receiver open on a high percentage route. It’s like they woke up and decided that, maybe, they did want to win after all.
They found the section on the play-sheet labeled “creative”. Must have been on the back close to the non-alcoholic drinks (that’s menu humor, sorry it’s been a long article)
The Jags did it. They found a creative play when they needed it most.
Players to watch
I’m not going to go through each position group like I normally would, but I’ll give you a quick rundown of who had success in week 10 and who the Jags hope will do well this week.
Quarterback- Trevor Lawrence
Lawrence has had a rough rookie year. Not in the same way a lot of rookie QB’s have rough first seasons, it’s been especially rough.
Trevor Lawrence has thrown 1 TD in his last 300 passes.— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) January 2, 2022
Some of Lawrence’s struggles can be blamed on the dumpster fire that is playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it doesn’t explain the lack of accuracy and his elongated throwing motion that has caused many of his throws to arrive late. It’s far too early to call Trevor Lawrence a “bust” but if you’re looking for positive signs that he can become the guy the Jags thought they were getting when they selected him first overall, you’re going to be looking for a long time. A year from now he could be a completely different player, but as it stands for week 18 of the 2021 NFL season, Trevor Lawrence isn’t a quarterback anyone is afraid of.
Running Back- Dare Ogunbowale
Poor James Robinson. The former UDFA, turned top 10 NFL running back has had a tragic sophomore season for these Jaguars. It all started when Urban Meyer thought he needed to have a team full of four and five star college recruits (lol), panicked and selected a first round running back that he vowed to turn into a wide receiver for some reason. Then after Travis Etienne was lost for the season, Meyer insisted on giving his former college player- 31 year old Carlos Hyde carries instead of feeding the superior Robinson... all because... it sure seems like Meyer didn’t like the fact that he played at Illinois State. After Meyer was fired it seemed like Robinson would once again become the focal point of the Jaguars offense, only to tear his Achilles tendon in week 16. Since then Dare Ogunbowale has taken the lions share of the rushing duties but we will likely see Ryquell Armstead get some burn as well.
Pass Catchers- Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault and Dan Arnold
Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault lead the Jags in targets and receptions, their numbers aren’t impressive so I won’t mention them but these are the top dogs in Jax. I will mention the Jaguars star wide receiver DJ Chark who was lost in week four with a broken ankle. Chark has burned the Colts before and while I’m not sure his presence would have helped Lawrence play significantly better, it couldn’t have hurt. The last guy I’ll mention is Dan Arnold. Remember #85 from all of those clips, the guy who was killing the Colts in week 10? This is Arnold’s fourth year in the league and the Jags are his third team. As a matter of fact he played the first three games of the 2021 season with the Carolina Panthers before getting traded in a deal for former first round pick C.J. Henderson. Arnold had been out since week 12 with a knee injury and Covid, but of course he returns from IR for the Jags week 18 matchup against the Colts.
A week ago the Jaguars were decimated by Covid as they were missing three starters on their offensive line. This week they should all be back. This offensive line is, somehow, the best position group of the Jaguars offense and arguably their entire team. Having them at full strength obviously isn’t great for the Indianapolis Colts.
This Jaguars team is averaging just 14 points per game on the season. They’ve score more than 20 points just four times this season and they’ve yet to score more than 23 points in a game this year. Since their week 13 shutout of the Houston Texans the Colts defense has allowed an average of 14 points per game.
Look, the Colts are a much better team than the Jaguars. You would be insane to believe otherwise. Having said that, we saw some weird things happen around the league in week 17 and it would be pretty on brand for the Colts to lose in Jacksonville in some bizarre way. Couple that with the Colts, equally bizarre, six year losing streak in the city of Jacksonville and I’m over here nervous for this game.
It’s not that the Colts should lose this game. They shouldn’t. This should be an easy tune up game for them headed into the playoffs. Ultimately, I believe the Colts will come out fired up and win this game to punch their ticket into the post season.
But I thought they would roll over the Raiders, too.
Time will tell. Go Colts.