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Indianapolis Colts

Where Do Colts Go From Here?

  • Jack McKessy
  • January 10, 2022
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All the Indianapolis Colts needed to do to secure a playoff spot was beat the 2-14 Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville on Sunday. Yet, like in their previous five trips to Duval County, Indianapolis just couldn’t get it done. This wasn’t just any old loss, it was an ultimate choke job. After winning three of their last four and six of their last eight, beating the worst team in the NFL for a playoff spot felt like a given. Instead, Indianapolis lost by two scores and was held without a touchdown until the end of the fourth quarter. Now, with their loss and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens, the Colts’ season is over. The all-around abysmal performance is going to raise questions about Indianapolis’ future. First and foremost, the Colts need to figure out their future at quarterback. The incredible performances from Jonathan Taylor in the back half of the season allowed Carson Wentz to skate by under the radar with some really poor outings. In the three games preceding Sunday’s meltdown, Wentz had a combined completion rate under 60% with fewer than 145 passing yards per game. That downward trend did not suddenly improve on Sunday. In fact, it was perhaps the worst performance of the season for the former second-overall pick. Wentz looked completely unable to string together long drives with his inaccuracy—17-of-29 passing for a 58.6% completion rate—and two turnovers presenting the biggest issues. The explosive passing plays the Colts were hoping for when they traded for Wentz were nowhere to be found. In truth, they hadn’t been there for weeks. The season-ending stretch of games from Wentz has left Indianapolis heading into a fourth consecutive season with uncertainty at quarterback. Since Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement ahead of the 2019 season, the Colts have had a different starting quarterback for each of the last three seasons. This latest performance from Wentz in a must-win game against the league’s worst team doesn’t inspire hope that he can be the answer there. The problem is that this year’s draft class isn’t full of quarterback talent, and even if it was, Wentz cost the Colts their first-round pick. The quarterback also represents a significant cap hit, with all $15 million of his 2022 salary guaranteed. Those factors make his bad performance against the worst team in the NFL especially worrying. The real slap in the face? Wentz’s former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, will play in the playoffs. The Colts will not. Another big question is what the deal was with head coach Frank Reich’s game plan. He’s the offensive play-caller for Indianapolis, and despite Taylor’s incredible recent stretch and Wentz’s struggles, the Colts tried throwing the ball a lot. That’s an understandable strategy when facing a score deficit late in the game, but Reich called more pass plays than runs in the first half. Meanwhile, Taylor averaged 5.1 yards per carry but he ended the game with just 15 carries. The Jaguars had just given up 107 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries to the New England Patriots’ Rhamondre Stevenson just a week earlier. Why Reich kept the ball out of Taylor’s hands and in Wentz’s so often from the start was confusing. Other things to look at from Sunday’s soul-crushing loss are the offensive line’s worryingly poor performance and the defense’s inability to get home on the pass rush. The Colts were supposed to have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, but they got bullied by the Jaguars’ defensive front. Jacksonville finished the game with six sacks against Wentz for a total loss of 46 yards. The lack of a push up front could have been the cause for Reich’s perceived need to change the game plan early, relying more on the Colts’ pass attack than the run. On the other side of the ball, the Colts only sacked Trevor Lawrence once. The lack of a pass rush allowed the rookie to build up confidence and the result was the best performance of his young career. Another worry for the Colts is their lack of consistent and productive receiving weapons outside of Michael Pittman Jr. He was the only pass-catcher with more than three catches against the Jaguars. The Colts’ tight ends are better blockers than contributors to the passing game, and T.Y. Hilton is getting old and hasn’t committed to returning to football next season. Without the first-round draft capital to address that, Indianapolis will either have to address those issues in free agency or later in the draft. That issue along with the quarterback question could leave the Colts' offense very dependent on Taylor and his legs, with the risk of becoming very one-dimensional. Any way you look at it, the Colts’ loss to the Jaguars was embarrassing. The silver lining is that they’ll now have plenty of time to reflect and repair before the 2022 season. With several glaring problems exposed in Jacksonville on Sunday, they might need all the time they can get.

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Jack McKessy