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MORSE: Patriots Week 10 Preview: Indianapolis Colts

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
3 weeks ago at 10:36 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

MORSE: Patriots Week 10 Preview: Indianapolis ColtsSam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

This week we take the trek across the pond and play in Frankfurt Germany.  There is a lot of interest in this game as the NFL is playing consecutive weeks in Frankfurt.  The interest in tickets for this game were through the roof, as the lottery had somewhere in the 100, 000 in the random que to get 4 tickets for the game.

This was supposed to be a win for the Patriots.  Indianapolis lost RB Jonathan Taylor and prized rookie QB Anthony Richardson.  Well, the tables have turned, the Patriots season is in the toilet and with Taylor back and Gardner Minshew steadying the ship, the 4-5 Colts are on their way to a winning season.

Offense 3WR 1TE
QB Gardner Minshew Sam Ehlinger Anthony Richardson IR
RB Jonathan Taylor Zack Moss Trey Sermon Evan Hull IR
WR Michael Pittman Isaiah McKenzie
WR Josh Downs Q Juwann Winfree
WR Alec Pierce Ashton Dulin IR
TE Kylen Granson Drew Ogletree O Mo Alie-Cox Will Mallory
LT Bernhard Raimann Blake Freeland
LG Quenton Nelson Arlington Hambright
C Ryan Kelly Wesley French Jack Anderson Danny Pinter IR
RG Will Fries Josh Sills
RT Braden Smith Blake Freeland Jake Witt IR


This team can score points.  In their last three games they were 1-2 but scored 38, 20 and 38 points respectively in those games.  Gardner Minshew will never be confused for a top 20 Quarterback.  He is tied with Mac Jones for giving up the most turnover-worthy plays (17) in the league this season.   The Colts are probably better off with him at the helm than Richardson.  In his last three games Minshew has thrown for 307, 213 and 127 respectively.  Gardner is completing his passes at a 63.6 completion %.  Minshew can be elusive in the and out of the pocket as he has been sacked just 15 times in 9 games.  Sam Ehlinger is now the backup with Anthony Richardson on IR.  There is no timeline on Richardson’s injured shoulder, but Owner Jim Irsay stated that he thought Richardson needed season ending surgery to repair his shoulder.

The running game is string with the Colts.  Jonathan Taylor is a beast.  In his three seasons since being drafted in 2nd round (#41) of the 2020 draft, he has run for 3,841 yards, 33 TDs and a 5.1 yards per carry.  This season in 5 games he has the modest stats of 62 carries for 254 yards (4.1 YPC) and a TD.  He is a threat every time he touches the ball.  Zach Moss is also having a good year for the Colts.  He has rushed 132 times for 615 yards (4.7 YPC) and 5 TDs.  This gives them a good 1-2 punch.

The Colts have an experienced group of Wide Receivers that will give the Patriots secondary problems.  It starts with Michael Pittman a big, long striding wideout.  Pittman was a 2nd round pick (#34) in 2020 out of USC.  The 6’4”, 223 lbs. receiver is a big target that’s hard to miss.  He leads the Colts in receptions this year with 58 on 86 targets, 593 yards receiving and 3 TDs.  This reflects the inaccuracy of Anthony Richardson early in the season.  Alec Pierce out of Cincinnati was a 2nd Round (# 53) pick last year.  Another big receiver at 6’ 3” 211 lbs., the second year WR had 41 receptions for 593 yards and 3 TDs as a rookie last season.  So far this year he has 17 receptions on 34 targets, for 593 yards (14.3 YPC) and 0 TDs.  Rookie Josh Downs has emerged at the #2 WR.  Downs is a rookie out of North Carolina, drafted in the 3rd round (#79).  He has a slight build, at 5’8” 171 lbs. but has good speed and an excellent 3-cone drill time of 6.75.  That is elite quickness.  Downs has 41 catches on 57 targets, 483 yards, 11.8 average and 2 TDs.  He is listed as Questionable.  Check to see if he makes the trip to Germany which is an indicator if he will play.  If Downs can’t go, then veteran Isaiah McKenzie will take his place. The diminutive McKenzie gave the Patriots fits when he played for Buffalo.  McKenzie has 7 catches on 10 targets for 51 yards.  He is excellent at running reverses and end around plays.

The Offensive line is the strength of the Colts Offense led by Left Guard Quenton Nelson.  How good is Nelson?  He is entering his 6th season after being drafted in the 1st round (#6) in 2018.  Nelson has been selected to the Pro-Bowl all 5 seasons he has played and even better, been named to the All-Pro 1st team 4 times and 2nd team once.  In 2018 – 2019 seasons he gave up 1 sack between both years.  He has never missed a game and in 81 games over 5 years he has started 78 of those.   The Notre Dame grad is 6’5” 330 lbs. and is a road grader.  Bernhard Raimann is from Steinbrunn, Austria.  This is a big game for Raimann as he is expecting a boatload of family and friends to come from Austria for the game in Frankfurt, 390 miles away.  Raimann was a 3rd round (# 77) selection in 2022 out of Central Michigan.  The 6’6” 303 lbs. Tackle may be Indianapolis’ solution to Left Tackle for a long time.  Growing up Austria, he was a wide receiver in youth football for the Vienna Vikings.  He is older (26) for his draft year because he had to complete a year in Military Service in Austria.  Center is Ryan Kelly the 2016 1st round (#18) selection from Alabama.  The 2nd Team All-Pro in 2018 and 3x Pro-Bowl selection stands 6’4” 307 lbs.  The 3 x National Champion was the Rimington Award winner as the best Center in College Football along with being a unanimous All-American selection.  He is the anchor on the line.  Right Guard has Will Fries manning the position.  Fries was a 2021, 7th round (#248) draft selection out of Penn State.  The 6’ 6”, 307 lbs. lineman is the weak link on the line.  He is tall and relatively slow for the position of guard.  Braden Smith is the Right Tackle.  He was drafted out of Auburn in the 2nd round (#37) in the 2018 draft.   Smith is solid, but he has competition from rookie Blake Freeland from BYU.  Taken in the 4th round (#106) of this year’s draft.  Freeland is a freak athlete at 6’7 ½, 303 lbs.  Freeland ran a 4.96 40-yard dash.  Anything under 5.0 for an O-lineman is terrific.  Freeland was a player I thought the Patriots might have interest in.  The Colts have him playing the swing tackle, moving back and forth from Left to Right to step in for an injured tackle. That position is usually manned by a veteran player and not a rookie.


Defense Base 4-3 D
LDE Kwity Paye Tyquan Lewis Jake Martin Genard Avery IR
LDT DeForest Buckner Adetomiwa Adebawore
RDT Taven Bryan Eric Johnson
RDE Samson Ebukam Dayo Odeyingbo Isaiah Land Titus Leo IR
WLB Shaquille Leonard Grant Stuard
MLB Zaire Franklin Q Segun Olubi
SLB E.J. Speed Cameron McGrone
LCB Kenny Moore Darrell Baker Tony Brown Q
SS Julian Blackmon Nick Cross
FS Rodney Thomas Trevor Denbow Daniel Scott IR
RCB JuJu Brents O Jaylon Jones E.J. Speed Dallis Flowers IR

The Colts’ Defense is not good, and they are giving up points at an alarming rate.  In the last three games they have given up 39, 37 and 27 points.  Their Defense is ranked 26th overall, letting up 360 yards a game.  The Pass defense allows 235 yards a game and the Run defense gets gashed at 125.6 yards per game.

The Dline has good players, but they are not playing together as a unit.  Kwitty Paye has been a disappointment at LDE.  The 3rd year player from Michigan was drafted in the first round (# 21) of 2021.  The 6’2 261 lbs. end is a bit of a tweener.  He doesn’t seem to have the ability to hold the edge.  DeForest Bruckner. 6’ 7” 296lbs. is a veteran of 7 seasons in the NFL.  The Hawaiian born player was traded to Indy for a 1st round pick.  Bruckner made the 1st All Pro team in 2019 and 2nd team in 2020.  He was selected to the Pro Bowl twice in 2018 and 2021.  He is a bit undersized for DT but makes up for that with his tenacity.  Taven Bryan locks down the other DT spot.  Bryan was a 2018 2nd round pick (#29) out of Florida.  The 6’5” 291 DT is a little underweight to handle the big nasties up front.   Bryant has just 14 tackles in 9 games.  He should be up against Sidy Sow this week.  Samson Ebukam has 29 tackles, second on the line to Bruckner’s 36.  Ebukam also has 4 sacks.  In the 2016 draft Ebukam was taken in the 4th round (#125) by the Rams.  He signed as a Free Agent with the Colts in March 2023.  The Eastern Washington grad stands 6’3” 245 lbs.  He is more an OLB than a true DE.  It remains to be seen if he can set the edge.

The Linebackers are the key to the Colts defense.  Zaire Franklin is having a great season; he leads the NFL in tackles with 102.  Franklin has made himself into a legit NFL player.  He was drafted in the 7th Round (#235) of the 2018 draft by Indianapolis.  The ILB stands 6’ 239 lbs. and ran a 4.62 40-yard dash at his Pro Day.  He also put up an incredible 6.97 3-cone drill.   He is fast sideline to sideline.  On the weak side Shaquille Leonard is stout against the run.  He is 4th on the team with 56 tackles.  You may not recognize him by the name Shaquille.  He changed his name from Darius a few years ago, but he is still one of the most feared linebackers in the league.  The South Carolina State grad was drafted in the 2018 draft, 2nd Round (#36).  He was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, 3x 1st team All-Pro, 2nd team All-Pro and 3- time Pro Bowl selection.   EJ Speed is the Strong side LB.  He hails from Tarleton State and was a 5th Round selection (#164) in the 2019 draft.  He stands 6’ 4”. 224 lbs. and is more like a strong safety than a LB.  At his Pro Day he ran a 4.6 40-yard dash.  That’s slow for a safety but fast for a linebacker.  Add to that a blistering 6.90 3-cone drill and you have another very quick linebacker.  Let’s put his 3-cone drill number in perspective.  The only Patriots wide receiver with a 3-cone under 7 is JuJu Smith-Schuster and that was when he came into the NFL.  That was in 2017 and I doubt he can run that now.  Former Patriots draft pick Cam McGrone is a backup LB for the Colts but has no stats through 9 games.  I liked LB Grant Stuard when he was draft eligible in 2021.  He was taken in the 7th round (#259) and was that drafts Mr. Irrelevant, the distinction given to the last player taken.  There is a parade in his honor.  I liked his tenacity coming out of Houston.  The 5’11” 230 lb linebacker is a ball of energy and a perfect special team ace.

The secondary is led by another Patriots castoff LCB Kenny Moore.  He is third in tackles with 61 for the team this year.  Moore was a 2017 Undrafted Free Agent signee by the Patriots out of Valdosta State.  He was cut at the final cutdowns and immediately claimed by the Colts, and he has been with them ever since.  His rookie year he started 5 games and had 36 tackles.  In 2018 he had 77 tackles, 11 pass deflection 3 INT and 1.5 sacks.  Playing in his 6th season now, the 28-year-old Moore will be a Free Agent after this season.   At Strong Safety Julian Blackmon is the man.  He leads the secondary and is second on the team with 62 tackles.  The 2022 3rd round pick (#85) out of Utah stands 6’ 187 lbs. and runs a projected 4.48 40-yard dash.  He came out as a Free Safety but wasn’t fast enough and they are using him at Strong Safety.   The Free Safety is Rodney Thomas from Yale.  He was the Colts 7th Round pick (#239) in 2022.  Thomas stands 6’2”, 196 lbs. and ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at his Pro Day.  At RCB its Julius Brents a 2023 draftee taken in the 2nd Round (#44).  At almost 6’3” 198 lbs Brents showed good speed, a 4.56 40-yard dash.  He also had a very impressive 3-cone drill at 6.63, which means he is very adept at changing directions.  Looks like CB Jaylon Jones out of Texas A&M will replace Julius Brents who has been ruled Out.  The 7th round (#221) pick of the 2023 draft, Jones will be thrust into the limelight.  Curious that LB EJ Speed was listed as the 3rd string CB on the depth chart.  He will be the backup now.


Special Teams
PK Matt Gay
P Rigoberto Sanchez
H Rigoberto Sanchez
PR Isaiah McKenzie Josh Downs Q Dallis Flowers IR
KR Isaiah McKenzie Josh Downs Q Dallis Flowers IR
LS Luke Rhodes


Overall, the Colts Special Teams ranks 13th in the league (as compared to 31st of the Patriots).  Isaiah McKenzie ranks 5th in punt returns and has 3 KO returns averaging 19 yards per KO return.  If McKenzie has to replace Downs, then he is the only Kick Returner that has seen action this season and he would have no backup that has returned a kick.  Place kicker Matt Gay is ranked 13th.  Punter Rigoberto Sanchez is ranked 18th.  Patriots Punter Bryce Barringer was highly ranked for most of the season but has dropped to #20.

Posted Under: Patriots News

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