The behind enemy lines series will focus on an individual opponent each week that is worthy of special attention. This week we have one of the most prominent players in the NFL coming to Indianapolis, Travis Kelce. Kelce is one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history. He is one of the most decorated players at his position, including multiple Pro Bowls and All-Pros, and he is also a Super Bowl champion. At 32 years old, Kelce this season has picked up right where he left off last year. In week 1, he had eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown.
The Colts have a history of struggling against tight ends. In Week 1, Indianapolis gave up two touchdowns to OJ Howard, a guy that wasn’t even on the Texans roster a week prior. Colts also struggled against the Jaguars' tight ends (Dan Arnold, Evan Engram). The way the Jaguars used Evan Engram is what I want to focus on specifically because that is a very similar way I expect the Chiefs to use Kelce.
The Jags used Evan Engram as an isolated X receiver on the back side. In those situations, he was matched up with Stephon Gilmore for the most part, and he was very successful in repeatedly winning those one-on-ones to convert first downs. The Jags used him that way to hide that Engram is not a strong blocker, unlike Kelce, who has, over the years, become a better and more willing blocker. Aside from lining up as an X, his ability to block makes the Colts have to still be ready to stop the run when he’s lined up in line and as a traditional TE. Andy Reid is a master of disguise and will move Kelce all over, including lining him up in the backfield now and then.
There are a couple of ways the Colts can try to limit him. The most likely route is for the Colts to bracket Kelce, and that’s when you keep someone underneath him and over the top. This will leave the Colts vulnerable in other places, but you must force one of those other guys to beat you. Colts linebackers, especially Shaq Leonard and Bobby Okereke, must be physical with Kelce at the line of scrimmage, especially when he’s lined up in line, and Gilmore must do the same when he’s split out wide to disrupt his timing.
In two games last year against Gus Bradley’s Raiders defense, Kelce combined for 11 catches and 146 yards. It’s without a doubt the Indianapolis Colts have their work cut out for them taking on the Chiefs, who are clicking on all cylinders, but if they want a chance at pulling off the upset, it starts with slowing down Travis Kelce.