The Indianapolis Colts offense is struggling this season even with Jonathan Taylor, one of the best running backs in the sport. They rank 24th in yards with 1,665 and last with 69 total points scored. The rushing attack managed just 457 yards of that total. Still, they are 2-2-1 on the season and second in the AFC South. Football is a funny game.
Indianapolis, Tennessee and Houston are among the top 10 teams with the fewest points in a season. But when you think about these three teams, you wouldn’t expect that to be the case because Indy has the best quarterback — Matt Ryan — of the three so they should be able to put up more points.
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Let’s dive into some of the different reasons why the Colts offense has disappointed in 2022.
The offensive line of the Indianapolis Colts is broken
One of the reasons the Colts haven’t scored as many points is the lack of a rushing attack. Jonathan Taylor has just two total touchdowns and both came in Week 1. He had 20 last season. He still has time to match that number or at least come close. However, there will have to be more big games.
Many fans will say he didn’t have a big game because a) the offensive line isn’t good and b) teams are shooting the box against him. Teams know the Colts want to run the ball and know Ryan only has one passing option, Michael Pittman Jr. Although rookie Alec Pierce is showing up.
Back to the running game. The reality is that JT faced the stacked box at an above-average rate just 9% of the time. The average rate is 19%. Meanwhile, the league’s leading rusher, Nick Chubb, faced an above-average loaded box 31% of the time.
General manager Chris Ballard has stated that he wants to build this team starting from the trenches. In 2020, it looked like he successfully accomplished that goal on the offensive line. However, that unit has regressed in recent years. According to Pro Football Focus, the Indianapolis Colts have the worst offensive line in the NFL and are 24th in PFF’s run-blocking grade (53.7). Entering Week 6, Braden Smith (69.8) is the only Colts offensive lineman with a run-blocking rating above 60. Take the time to read that again.
Possible fixes for the Colts’ O-line
After an incredibly painful win against Denver Thursday Night Football, came out and said they would be making changes to the starting lineup. There are three names you can automatically stick with the starters, the aforementioned Smith and Nelson, and then rookie Bernhard Raimann. Then it depends on your preferences.
Matt Pryor most likely has to be benched, but if he plays, it has to be at right guard and nowhere else. Will Fries can also play some right guard as well as Smith. Then there is Dennis Kelly who was brought in to be the swing of the team.
Considering the Colts could use a better option at tackle than Pryor, it’s a little puzzling that Kelly didn’t play. Even more confusing because he’s healthy. So it only makes sense that the team went out and signed Ty Nsekhe’s 36-year-old team u training squad. And finally, we have the controversy of who should start at center? Pro Bowl Ryan Kelly or sophomore and local boy Danny Pinter?
Pinter’s game was much better at center than at fullback. And some will say he was better than Kelly. Somewhere in all this craziness, the team has to pick two more starters.
It should be noted that Frank Reich wanted to “strengthen the middle of the pocket” and that’s why the team moved Smith to right guard. This resulted in more opportunities for Matt Ryan to step up and throw. So it’s very possible that Smith stays at right guard for the rest of the season and the team drops Pryor in the matchup again. Maybe they give Kelly a chance to play, but he didn’t he left wondering what’s happening.
He still finds success despite the ineptitude that surrounds him
Despite all this pathos, Taylor is still having a good breakout year. He is still averaging four yards per carry and 82 yards per game. As mentioned earlier, these aren’t bad stats for the 2022 NFL kickoff.
They are, however, bad for by Taylor’s standards. For his career, he is averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 91.9 yards per game. Maybe if the team can fix their O-line issues or at least better, JT can take care of the rest. Because his 2.6 pre-contact rushing yards per rushing attempt is right around his career average of 2.7.
Taylor is fourth in shutouts with 11 on the season. Dameon Pierce leads the league with 16 for some context. However, an area of concern is Taylor’s rushing yards after contact per rush. For his career, he is at 2.1. Unfortunately, he’s 1.4 this season and ranks 41st in rushing attempts per stoppage time. Again, for his career, he’s at 12.1.
This week the Colts host Jacksonville and their sixth rank hasty defense. They are currently allowing 3.7 yards per attempt (good enough for fourth) and 98.2 yards per game (good enough for sixth). And the last time Taylor faced them, he had 10 total touches for 63 yards. Hopefully, with the return of Alec Pierce and Michael Pittman Jr., the Colts running back can get back on track.