Thanks to the wonderful world of social media, where Indianapolis Colts fans won’t hesitate to click the keys and hit “send,” it probably doesn't come as a surprise that many are already fearing the worst about this season.
This isn’t an expose to validate those with a defeatist attitude. But I would be less than forthright after Week 1 if some bottom-line thoughts weren’t shared as the Colts prepare to host the high-powered Philadelphia Eagles’ offense on Monday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Let’s start with the pass rush. Granted, we knew it was going to be difficult to get to Peyton Manning in Denver anyway. So I’m not yet convinced this team is unable to figure something out. There’s something to be said for timely blitzes. But some of the guys we’ve been interviewing had better show something this next game.
Bjoern Werner was credited with three tackles against the Broncos. None of them were on Manning. Bottom line, the second-year outside linebacker didn’t get a single hurry going up against three-time Pro Bowl tackle Ryan Clady.
While Colts coach Chuck Pagano is correct in his assessment that Werner, a 2013 first-round pick, is still learning his position, that doesn’t explain the lack of a single hurry. Werner spoke before the opening 31-24 loss about his eagerness to meet the challenge. That challenge hasn’t changed.
Show something against the Eagles, or it’s time to stop talking about what you need to do until you do it. This is the NFL, and if injured/suspended outside linebacker Robert Mathis has stood for anything as a team leader, it’s that talk doesn’t mean anything.
While outside linebacker Erik Walden got a sack and a quarterback hurry, the Colts’ pass rush had just three hurries of Manning. And Walden’s sack was after Josh McNary blitzed and couldn’t wrap up No. 18. McNary really made the play, Walden was just able to finish after Manning was compromised.
Colts defenders will have enough to worry about in dealing with the running tandem of 2013 rushing champ LeSean McCoy and familiar-nemesis Darren Sproles, but Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was sacked five times by Jacksonville in Philadelphia’s 34-17 home win. That suggests the Colts should be able to get in his face and disrupt the passing game more than they did Sunday night.
Much is made of the Eagles running an up-tempo offense, basically a two-minute offense the entire game, as Colts reserve safety Colt Anderson described it. He would know, he played for the Eagles last season. That means the Colts won’t be able to substitute as much, and guys had best be prepared to make stops, even when gassed.
If the Eagles roll up a ton of yards on this defense, this will clearly illustrate the Colts have serious issues. Simple as that. The season isn’t over at 0-2, still plenty of games they can win, but it’s not like there will be any confidence gained based on how this team performed against two of the best teams on the schedule.
Another ongoing problem since 2012 has been the Colts’ slow starts. Media cohort Conrad Brunner looked up the number the other day. The Colts have trailed by double digits in 15 of the last 36 games. Yeah, read it again. Fifteen double-digit deficits in 36 games. And they're 7-8 in those games.
Whatever the reason, and the critics are quick to blame the coaches but it’s a shared fault in my opinion, the Colts haven’t started nearly as well as they tend to finish. In this regard, the proverbial glass is half empty. Fall behind the Eagles by a bunch and history likely repeats itself.
The O-line isn’t immune from criticism after allowing three sacks, but let’s see how it does against Philly. Particularly, I’ll be keeping an eye on right guard Hugh Thornton and rookie left guard Jack Mewhort. The latter is learning no the fly, OK. The second-round pick is only one NFL start into his career. But Thornton has played a season and, like Werner, needs to show more.
The last thought is on the Colts’ running game. Aside from the fact that I’m on record as saying Ahmad Bradshaw is the best running back on the roster, fans convinced Trent Richardson provided a reason for optimism in the opener are a bit too optimistic after one game. It’s true that the Colts abandoned the run game after falling behind 24-0. But Richardson still has to show a lot more before any of us should start throwing out compliments.
If Andrew Luck points out the guy to block, block him. And catch the ball when you’re open. It’s not always about running the football. It’s the little things. And it’s the sum total of so many little things, like failing to convert scoring opportunities or the defense allowing the Broncos to convert 7-of-14 third downs, that ultimately doomed the Colts in Week 1.
The beauty of this league is Monday night provides another opportunity to bounce back. Don’t let the national stage become a nightmare, a re-run of what’s not right, what hasn’t been corrected or perhaps proof of what can’t be fixed.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.