Maybe Not Everything Looks So Bad in Colts-ville

Posted: September 22, 2017 by cschrump in Uncategorized

by Chad Schrump

Image result for tolzien interception rams

After the Colts’ week one debacle in Los Angeles against the 49ers, errr, I mean the Rams – I literally had my column written before the game had concluded. That, my friends, is a snap judgement.  My critique of Colts’ Head Coach Chuck Pagano and his teams’ effort, or lack thereof, was harsh but I wouldn’t take anything back because it was fair.

The Colts players and coaches were as bad that game as any Colts team I’ve ever seen play, other than other Pagano lead Colts teams. That says something, right?  We’ve seen some bad Colts teams throughout the years in Indy but Pagano coached teams, at times, seem to be about as prepared as a grass hut vs. a hurricane.

After losing Sunday in overtime, 16-13, to the wounded Arizona Cardinals, I decided to let that game marinate for a few days. No hot takes this week.  I wanted to think about the good and the bad.

I’m certainly disappointed that for the 4th season in a row, a Chuck Pagano coached Colts team – has started a season 0-2.  Surely, you’ve seen the numbers on how that relates to making the playoffs, right?  Well, if not, let me share:

Teams that start 0-2, have about a 12% chance of making the NFL playoffs. 12%!  That’s abysmal yet for Colts’ fans, it’s becoming the norm… something we’ve grown accustomed to.

Not only that but get this! The Colts, at Lucas Oil Stadium, are underdogs to the horrid Cleveland Browns Sunday.  The Browns!  Cleveland hasn’t been favored for 21 straight games, folks.  21 straight yet they’re road favorites.  That’s downright sickening if you’re an Indy fan.  That’s Vegas’ view on the state of the Colts’ franchise… home ‘dog to the Cleveland stinkin’ Browns.  Wow.

With all that being said, let’s get past it and discuss some things that the Colts did much better against the Cardinals. Let’s put a positive spin on the near future, if that’s possible, as I tell you why things could be looking up.  And yeah, I get that it’s akin to asking, “Other than that, Mrs. Kennedy, how was the parade?”

I know they struggled late against veteran signal caller Carson Palmer and his electric receiver J.J. Nelson, but I truly thought that the young, rookie led, Indianapolis defensive secondary looked really athletic, aggressive and made some nice plays throughout. A loss is a loss but don’t forget that other than late in the 4th quarter, the Arizona offense was bottled up for essentially the entire game.

Pagano finally let 2nd round pick Quincy Wilson loose and he played well.  The kid is only 21 years old – youngest on the entire team and one of the youngest in the NFL, but he held his ground and showed lots of poise – and more importantly, promise.  Cornerback is a position that Indy has seemingly struggled with for years but Vontae Davis may finally have someone on the other side of the field that could lock things down.

Image result for malik hooker interception colts

Safety Malik Hooker, the Colts’ 1st round pick from Ohio State – made his first (of likely many) career interceptions when he made a ridiculously athletic play on the ball late in the 2nd quarter – with Arizona driving.  The pick allowed the Colts to take all of the momentum into the locker room at the half.  This kid is a freak athlete and has legitimate ball hawking skills.

At the time, I thought it was dumb, and actually still do because of undo pressure, but when Pagano said Hooker reminded him of former Baltimore great, Ed Reed, I see it now. I understand why he said it.  He’s right.  Hooker has a chance to be a special football player.  Now, should Chuck have said that the day that Hooker was drafted?  No.  But I get it.  He’s fun to watch.  He’s a special athlete.

Even rookie nickel corner and 5th round draft choice, Nate Hairston had some nice moments locking down Cardinal receivers in passing situations and even recording a sack of Palmer.

The Colts young secondary shows a ton of upside. It’s exciting.  Add to that – Vontae Davis should be back in a few weeks from a groin injury – and there’s legitimate reason to look forward to watching this secondary grow together.  I’m still holding out hope that Clayton Geathers’ neck heals sufficiently and  comes back to safety after week eight.  Geathers may well be the Colts best defensive player.  He’s a legitimate weapon and one that is badly missed in that young secondary.

It’s not often that you see an opposing quarterback pressured by an Indianapolis defense but make no mistake about it, the Colts put heavy pressure on Carson Palmer. Rookie Hairston, Hassan Ridgeway and free agent signees Al Woods and John Simon all recorded sacks against Arizona.  There have been more games that I care to count when Indy didn’t even touch a QB, much less sack him so 4 in one game was especially nice to see.

Jack Doyle played very well and is quietly establishing himself and an upper tier, NFL tight end talent. Even on a team that has a receiving corps that includes T.Y. Hilton, I’m confident in saying that Doyle has the best hands on this football team.  He snared 8 balls Sunday for 79 yards and seems to do everything correctly.  You can see why the Colts elected to let Coby Fleener depart two seasons ago and Dwayne Allen this past offseason.  They understood that they have a special guy in Jack Doyle.

Indianapolis starting quarterback, Jacoby Brissett didn’t wow anyone Sunday but understand this: The moment wasn’t too big for him and he didn’t seem overmatched.

When Scott Tolzien trotted out there against the Rams in the opener, it was apparent that the stage was too much for him – that his talent level, quite frankly, wasn’t going to be enough to beat NFL defenses.

I didn’t see that Sunday with Brissett. His arm is strong. Really strong. He laser beamed several throws.  We didn’t see that week one.  In fairness, he missed some throws, too but I’m guessing that he probably knew about 20% of the Colts’ offense when he took the field against the Cardinals.  This Sunday with Cleveland, he should be in a much, much better spot, relative to the knowledge of the playbook.  I don’t want Jacoby Brissett to be my QB of the future but I feel damn good having him as my backup.  It’s early but I like that Colts’ GM Chris Ballard brought Brissett to Indy.

Finally, the elephant in the room, Mr. Andrew Luck. I believed that he’d be back by week four, which is why I thought that if the Colts could start out just 1-2, or possibly 2-1, that they could still figure out a way to eke out 10 wins.  Well, it’s not looking like Luck will be back next week, huh?  Or the following?  I mean, when your QB hasn’t even been cleared to practice, it’s a pretty good sign that he’s not playing soon.  When your head coach swears that he knows the same as the media, regarding Luck – then I’m thinking, and bear with me here – it may be a bad sign.

That was sarcasm.

Thankfully, Indy plays in one of the worst divisions in football. No one is running away with anything in the AFC South.  Jacksonville is (1-1) and hosts Baltimore Sunday morning in London.  Let’s assume the Ravens win (they’re favored) so the Jags would be (1-2).  Seattle is coming to Nashville to take on the (1-1) Titans.  I’m thinking Tennessee drops to (1-2) by Sunday evening.  Houston at (1-1) visits Foxborough.  That game will be a mauling – so let’s call the Texans (1-2) after getting trounced by New England.

So, if the Colts can take care of business Sunday, they improve to (1-2) and are potentially tied for first in the AFC South. It’s a very real scenario.  I almost laughed typing that but seriously, tied for first in the division is absolutely possible – and you could almost say, probable.

If I were to tell you that the Indianapolis Colts would be without Andrew Luck for their first 3 games of the season, lose their starting center in Ryan Kelly, have one of the youngest secondaries in the NFL, yet would be tied for first place in their division, would you take that?

I would.

Who knows?  It might even be enough to motivate a certain $140M quarterback to get practicing and playing soon.

I know this much… it couldn’t hurt.

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