While we anxiously await the start of the 2017 NFL season, here is a peek behind enemy lines. For Pats fans, a bit of schadenfreude for one of the co-conspirators in the scheme to frame the Patriots by those that never learned the Ideal Gas Law.
Although it is only two games in to the preseason, the 2017 Indianapolis Colts appear to be closer to their ‘Suck for Luck’ 2011 team than the club that won 33 games from 2012 to 2014 and made it to the AFC championship game. The Colts have not had a winning season since then.
If Luck doesn’t practice by the end of this week – and there’s certainly no indication he will – the Colts will be down to just a handful of workouts before their opener. Because next week’s preseason finale will be a mid-week game (Thursday, Aug. 31), the Colts likely will have just two light practices on Monday and Tuesday (Wednesday, Aug. 30 would likely be limited to a walkthrough).
If Pagano’s past habits hold, the Colts then would have a three-day weekend heading into Week 1. Taking into account players’ one mandated day off during that week, the Colts would be down to roughly six more practices after this week.
Among the questions posed to Pagano on Tuesday was how many practices would Luck need before returning to game action. Remember, he’s been out for seven months.
Part of the angst in Indy is due to what the offense and backup quarterbacks have done thus far. With Scott Tolzien under center, the Colts have achieved exactly one first down in the first quarters of their two preseason games. One first down! Tolzein is averaging less than five yards per pass thus far. With 19 days until their week one game, Pagano is just now considering making a change at QB to Stephen Morris. He has spent three years on Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Indy’s practice squads, and had been listed fourth on the depth chart behind undrafted rookie Phillip Walker. That speaks volumes about Tolzein’s performance.
Quarterback is not the only offensive position in flux. An NFL offensive line depends on continuity to be effective, but there is neither cohesiveness nor productivity from this unit.
We’re already starting to see some willingness by Pagano to think unconventionally. The Colts started Jeremy Vujnovich over Le’Raven Clark at right tackle in Saturday’s 24-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. When asked about the move, Pagano responded, “We’re just trying to find the best five (linemen)”.
Unconventional thinking or desperation? I can understand giving a new player reps to see what he can do, or to let a veteran or injured player sit. This sounds like neither. To make matters worse starting center Ryan Kelly will be out for six to eight weeks due to surgery after injuring his foot two weeks ago in a joint practice with the Lions.
The Colts’ offense has been abysmal during the preseason – or, to borrow Pagano’s word from Saturday night, “pitiful.” Indianapolis ranks 26th among 32 teams in offense thus far. The Colts have been outgained in passing yards by their opponents 556 to 384. They’ve been outgained altogether 812 to 495. They’re 5-for-30 on first downs. Ouch.
Without Luck, Indy has scored 29 points in eight quarters and the offense has produced only one more touchdown (two) than the defense. Both offensive TDs came in the final minute of the games, and the starters still haven’t had a scoring drive.
Even worse: After going 4 of 18 on third-down chances in the preseason opener against Detroit, the Colts were an even more dismal 1 of 12 at Dallas.
Against the Cowboys the Colts did not record a first down until the second quarter. Their only touchdown before halftime came on a fumble return by the Dallas backup quarterback.
Colt Defense Is Even More Of An Issue Than The Defense
Now consider this: the Colt offense usually makes up for the shortcomings of their defense. Last year Indy ranked 8th in points scored versus 22nd in points allowed; the offense was 10th in yardage but 30th (3rd worst) in yards allowed.
Dallas’ first two possessions netted 166 yards, nine first downs and an 18-yard Dak Prescott-to-Dez Bryant touchdown pass. Only Darren McFadden’s red-zone fumble on the second drive kept the Cowboys from tacking up back-to-back TDs. The Prescott-led Cowboys averaged 9.2 yards per play and faced just one third-down situation, which they converted.
It is not as if that was due to there being a bunch of scrubs on the field either.
Most of the starters were on the field for approximately 30 percent of the game, including cornerback Vontae Davis, safeties Darius Butler and Matthias Farley, outside linebackers Jabaal Sheard and John Simon, and linemen Al Woods, (Henry) Anderson and (Jonathan) Hankins.
At halftime, Dallas had amassed 281 total yards and 16 first downs. Only a pair of Colts’ takeaways, including Lavar Edwards’ returning a fumble for a touchdown, kept things from getting out of hand.
Now the Colts are bringing in street free agents, hoping they will represent an improvement over their current sad state of affairs.
Corner Chris Culliver was a free agent bust for Miami, washing out after two knee surgeries. CB Corey White is now on his sixth team since 2012 and has started just five games over the last two seasons. I wouldn’t place too much faith on a player that was just waived by the Jets.
This is shaping up to be a long season for the Indianapolis Colts; one that could push Jim Irsay over the edge and into the abyss.