Skip to main content

Indianapolis Colts’ line hurting Jonathan Taylor and the offense more than the opposition

The Indianapolis Colts offense is struggling this season even with Jonathan Taylor, one of the best backs in the sport. They rank 24th in yards with 1,665 and last with a total of 69 points scored. The rushing attack has only managed just 457 yards of that total. Yet, they are 2-2-1 on the season and second in the AFC South. Football is a funny game.

Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Houston are all among the bottom 10 teams to have scored the least amount of points on the season. But, when you think of these three teams you wouldn’t expect this to be the case since Indy has the best quarterback — Matt Ryan — of the three so they should be able to put up more points. 

Related: Everything you need to know about NFL Sunday Ticket

Let’s dive into some of the various reasons why the Colts’ offense has disappointed in 2022.

Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line is broken

indianapolis colts
Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

One reason the Colts haven’t scored as many points is due to their lack of rushing offense. Jonathan Taylor has only two total touchdowns and both of those came in Week 1. Last season he had 20. There’s still time for him to match that number or at least get close. However, he’s going to need to have multiple big games.

Many fans will say that he hasn’t had a big game because a) the offensive line isn’t good and b) teams are stacking the box against him. Teams know the Colts want to run the ball and they know Ryan has only one passing option, Michael Pittman Jr. Although, rookie Alec Pierce is emerging.

Getting back to the running game. The reality is that JT has faced a stacked box at an above-average rate only 9% of the time. The average rate is 19%. Meanwhile, the leagues leading rusher, Nick Chubb, has faced an above-average loaded box 31% of the time.

General manager Chris Ballard has stated that he wants to build this team starting in the trenches. In 2020 it looked like he had successfully accomplished that goal on the offensive line. However, that unit has regressed over the last couple of 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 grade above 60. Take your time to read that again.

Possible fixes for Colts’ O-line

After the incredibly painful win against Denver on Thursday Night Football, they came out and said they are going to make changes to the starting group. There are three names that you can automatically place with the starters, the aforementioned Smith and Nelson and then rookie Bernhard Raimann. Then it’s up to your preference.

Matt Pryor needs to most likely be on the bench, but if he’s playing, it has to be as a right guard and nowhere else. Will Fries can also play some right guard as can Smith. Then there’s Dennis Kelly who was brought in to be the team’s swing tackle.

Considering the Colts could use a better option at tackle than Pryor it’s a bit baffling that Kelly hasn’t played. Even more baffling since he’s healthy. So it only makes sense that the team went out and signed 36-year-old tackle Ty Nsekhe to the practice squad. And finally, we have the controversy as to who should start at center? Pro Bowl Ryan Kelly or second-year man and local boy Danny Pinter? 

Pinter’s play has been much better at center than at guard. And some will say he’s been better than Kelly. Somewhere in all of this mishegoss, the team has to pick two more starters. 

It should be pointed out that Frank Reich wanted “firm up the middle of the pocket” and that’s why the team moved Smith to right guard. This did result 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 trots Pryor out at tackle again. Maybe they give Kelly a chance to play, so he’s not left wondering what’s going on.

Still finding success despite the ineptitude surrounding him

indianapolis colts
Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Despite all this patheticness, Taylor is still having a good year for a running back. He’s still averaging four yards per carry and 82 rushing yards a game. As previously mentioned, these aren’t bad stats for a starting NFL running back in 2022. 

They are, however, bad for Taylor’s standards. For his career, he averages 5.1 yards per carry and 91.9 rushing yards per game. Maybe if the team can get its O-line issues fixed or at least better, JT can take care of the rest. As his 2.6 rushing yards before contact per rushing attempt is right around his career average of 2.7.

Taylor is fourth in broken tackles with 11 on the season. Dameon Pierce leads the league with 16 for some context. However, an area that is of concern is Taylor’s rushing yards after contact per rush. For his career, he’s at 2.1. Unfortunately, this season he’s at 1.4 and he ranks 41st in rush attempts per broken tackle. Again, for his career, he’s at 12.1.

This week the Colts host Jacksonville and their sixth-ranked rushing defense. Currently, they are 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 got a total of 10 touches for 63-yards. Hopefully, with the return of Alec Pierce and Michael Pittman Jr, the Colts’ running game can get on track.

Mentioned in this article:

More About: