The Colts offense is no doubt one of the more explosive ones in the league, led by sensational QB Andrew Luck. Everyone knows the capabilities of the third-year player, but I’m here to break down the rest of the Colts’ offense for you and give the Broncos’ keys to the game on their defensive side of the ball.
Luck has been great, but many have overlooked a key component of the offense. Everyone knows the blockbuster trade that brought RB Trent Richardson to the Colts, but RB Dan “Boom” Herron has become the secret weapon in the backfield.
He is an elusive, shifty back. The Colts like to look to free him up in space: they will use him with tosses or passes out of the backfield. Herron averages a 4.9 yards per carry average outside versus 4.2 ypc between the tackles. He has forced 6 missed tackles wide versus 2 inside on runs.
The first three plays against Cincinnati were passes targeting Herron. Luck went 2/3 for 26 yards. Herron will make things happen with short passes. The Colts can clear the middle of the field and get it to him free in space.
At 5’10” and 212 lbs, Herron also picks up blitzes well. This is a textbook blitz pickup by Herron. He sets his feet, squares his shoulders, and drives up through the blitzer to blow him up. This allows Luck time to throw deep for WR T.Y. Hilton on the deep corner.
We saw the Broncos struggle to contain a similar size and skillset out of the backfield in Gio Bernard against the Bengals. Andrew Luck is a very smart QB, and will take the underneath passes. Denver will need to limit Herron from making anything of those receptions.
If Herron is the secret weapon of the Colts offense, Hilton is the not-at-all-secret weapon. He has great speed (timed at 4.34 in the 40 yard dash) and does a very good job of using his routes to gain separation. He runs routes that work the defenders against themselves, purely beautiful routes.
The key here is the deep shots. Both Hilton and rookie WR Donte Moncrief have the speed and deep play-making ability to break a game open. FS Rahim Moore has to play disciplined and stay deep.Here are two plays where the safety doesn’t flip his hips or get enough depth.
If Moore can’t keep the deep responsibility, it will be a long day for the Denver defense.
WR Reggie Wayne is past his prime and not a major receiving threat at this point. I expect CB Aqib Talib to be able to neutralize him, and CB Chris Harris, Jr. to take care of Hilton. What it comes down to is rookie CB Bradley Roby and his slot matchups with Moncrief or WR Hakeem Nicks.
In terms of tight ends, Colts journalist Jack Browne puts it very succinctly:
"With facing DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, the Colts will keep TE Dwayne Allen in to block more than they’d prefer, which takes away a key weapon for them. TE Coby Fleener will block too, but is much more valuable as a receiver. He could be the key. Fleener has improved this year, high profile drops be damned. Last year with Allen out, he was forced into a more traditional in-line TE role. This year, he’s often been split out wide, and has been targeted on more deep passes than any other TE in the league."
Finally, we come to Luck. He is a great QB, but most crucially, can beat you with his legs. Any four-man rush has to keep contain on him, and yet get pressure. Otherwise, he finds a way out of the pocket, and will run for yardage.
What do you get when you put it all together? This next example. It is crucial to the ways the Indianapolis offense can beat you. Watch Luck find a hole in the pocket, move up, and look deep. Moncrief, working from the slot, ends up one on one with the safety. The safety has stiff hips, and doesn’t commit enough to the deep ball. Luck places the ball perfectly for the score.
In conclusion, for the Denver defense to have a successful day, they will need to do several things. Firstly, the LBs will need to eliminate Boom Herron as a receiving threat. This responsibility will probably fall to LB Todd Davis. Moore needs to take away any deep plays. And the defensive line needs to contain Luck and get pressure on him.
Thanks to Jack Browne for his insight on the Colts. Drop him a follow on Twitter and check out his work!