One of the standout stories for the Colts in 2023 has been the remarkable improvement along the Colts’ offensive line despite facing numerous injuries. Additionally, the running game has taken off with an unlikely hero, Zack Moss, who may be the most improved veteran player in the league. We’ll look at how the relationship between the offensive line, Moss’ improvement, and the return of Jonathan Taylor could impact the outcome against the Browns.
Win in the trenches
It’s football cliche, but winning in the trenches is a considerable component of winning football at all levels. Last year, the offensive line was a disaster - and Matt Ryan’s lack of mobility and Jonathan Taylor’s lingering ankle issues compounded that fact. This year, the line has shuffled around to fill in for injuries at center, and both tackle spots, and still have been largely successful in giving Anthony Richardson and Gardner Minshew time to work and have opened rushing lanes for Zack Moss to break out.
Zack Moss: Breakout of the year candidate?
The Colts’ backfield has been a revelation with the breakout of Zack Moss. His bruising running style and elusive spin move complement Jonathan Taylor’s explosive, upfield style, offering the Colts diverse weapons out of the backfield.
In recent games, Moss has showcased his ability to break tackles, grind out tough yards, and contribute as a receiver out of the backfield. He caught six of seven targets against the Jaguars. His presence will keep defenses on alert and allow Taylor to stay fresh, which is crucial for a long NFL season.
Jonathan Taylor Takes Control
While Zack Moss has been valuable, it’s clear that Jonathan Taylor is the long-term plan for the Colts in the backfield. Over the last two weeks, Taylor has increased his role steadily and is likely ready to take over control of the backfield. Taylor’s combination of speed, power, and vision makes him a game-changer.
The question is how much Ballard and the Colts will lean on him with Moss as a reliable complement. If the season spirals under Minshew and under the weight of missing key players to suspension and injury, will the front office risk injury in what could turn into a lost season after making a big financial commitment?
It’s nice to have options. Few teams in the league are in this situation.
Balancing the Offense
The Colts must balance their offensive approach in the upcoming matchup against the Cleveland Browns. Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Colts found themselves with a lopsided run-to-pass ratio, which was unsustainable. Gardner Minshew threw the ball considerably more than the Colts can afford if they hope to win regularly.
While the Browns have a formidable run defense on paper, it’s worth noting that their previous opponents haven’t been ground powerhouses. Christian McCaffrey’s injury last week and the quality of prior rushing attacks suggest that the Colts could find success on the ground. Establishing a balanced offense will be crucial in challenging and keeping the Browns' defense off balance.
A Chance to Shock the Browns
The resilient offensive line, the emergence of Zack Moss, and Jonathan Taylor’s return to a more prominent offensive role could give the Colts a more well-rounded offense, even with Minshew under center. If they can establish the run game and maintain a balanced attack, they have a chance to shock the Browns after their confidence-boosting win against the 49ers.