Find out everything you need to know about the Jaguars' Sunday opponent, the Indianapolis Colts.
In our thirst for knowledge about Sunday's opponent, we asked Colts Blitz publisher Phillip Wilson to ask some in-depth questions about the team he covers. Here's how it went:
Charlie Bernstein: What's different, if anything, about Andrew Luck this year? Has it been an offensive line issue or possibly receivers not being where they're supposed to be?
Phillip Wilson: Luck has been hit 21 times and taken five sacks. His right shoulder is sore. Even before he got hurt, he was pressing because opponents are blitzing him relentlessly. Two of his seven interceptions were on throws when he was hit as he released the ball. Not excusing him for everything, he's admittedly made his share of "stupid" throws, like both interceptions at Tennessee in the third quarter. It hasn't helped that wide receiver Andre Johnson has struggled to get open consistently (he didn't have a catch last week for just the second time in his career), but that's not enough of a reason to explain all of Luck's issues. The Colts finally resorted to a more quick-strike attack in the fourth quarter against the Titans and the offense rolled to 21 points to rally to a win when 13 points down. Expect to see more of that, regardless of if Luck plays or the Colts turn to backup Matt Hasselbeck. Donte Moncrief and T.Y. Hilton are fast and can get open quickly. We just don't know who will be throwing to them. Luck was limited all week in practice, the media never saw him throw once. Hasselbeck got more reps with the first team. The Colts have kept quiet on their plans and the players haven't divulged who will start.
CB: When you have a great quarterback like Luck it's tempting to want to throw the ball as much as possible, but should the team ride Frank Gore a little more?
PW: No question. And the Colts finally started utilizing their new toy against the Titans as Gore ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns. The Colts haven't had a 100-yard rusher in 43 games. They would have achieved that if Gore got more than 14 carries against the Titans. Problem is, the Jaguars are sure to expect more of a reliance on Gore and should stack the box against him. That means the Colts must throw their share of quick-strike passes with success to loosen up the defense or Gore won't go very far. The offensive line's issues have been much-publicized from training camp on. They shuffled the line for the last game and inserted Joe Reitz at right tackle, moved Jack Mewhort from right tackle back to left guard where he started last season and put Hugh Thornton in at right guard. Luck still got hit, but they ran the ball better and Luck was able to do enough late.
CB: How has Andre Johnson looked? Obviously he's on the downslide of his career, but how much does he have left in the tank?
PW: That's the question everybody has been asking, especially after last week. Johnson tries to downplay his lack of production, saying he knew that could be the case because the Colts have such talented guys in the emerging Moncrief, Hilton coming off his first Pro Bowl and getting a new contract extension and rookie first-round pick Phillip Dorsett. But Johnson has had a couple of drops, including a two-point conversion pass at Buffalo in Week 1, and he hasn't looked like the player we're used to seeing from AFC South games past. He says his time will come. Skeptics are wondering if that will ever happen. It doesn't seem like he's been able to get consistent separation from cornerbacks, although several of Luck's throws have been way off target. At least four targets at Buffalo didn't give Johnson much of a chance. He's tipped a couple of passes well off the mark into interceptions. While the critics are having a field day with this guy, the hunch is he can still contribute more than the seven catches we've seen. He might not be the player he once was, but he should still be more consistent.
CB: How has the defensive line performed?
PW: While the run defense is still a concern, it hasn't been as bad as feared because rookie defensive tackle Henry Anderson (third-round pick) and rookie nose tackle David Parry (fifth-round pick) have been decent. Anderson has opened eyes in shifting from his natural defensive end in a 3-4 to play defensive tackle because the Colts lost their best D-lineman in Arthur Jones to a season-ending ankle injury. Anderson and Parry both have sacks, and Anderson had a team-high nine tackles in the season opener. Parry was strong enough in preseason to take the job away from Josh Chapman, who was among final roster cuts. New defensive end Kendall Langford has also made some stops for losses. So while the Colts still have some defensive issues -- struggling to get off the field at times especially since their secondary was depleted by injuries -- the D-line hasn't been as much of a problem as was expected. That said, it will be tested a lot more down the road like at Buffalo, where the Bills were still able to rush for two TDs. The Titans also had two rushing TDs, although the Colts did a decent job in minimizing the ground game other than those two scores.
CB: Even though the Colts rebounded nicely from an 0-2 start last year, there seems to be more panic regarding the team's slow start this year. Do you believe they've narrowed the gap between themselves and the Patriots?
PW: To be completely honest, no. If anything, the Patriots look stronger and the Colts look about the same. While the defense might be a bit better, there's still enough reason to think the problems of past playoff losses to the Patriots haven't been fixed. Throw in the offensive issues -- the Colts had scored a league-low 21 points after two weeks -- and it's fair to say this start was worse than in years past. Expectations were as high as they could be for this team. Owner Jim Irsay was continually quoted about how he was excited about this team. He can't be too thrilled with what he's seen so far. And he's been rather quiet since the season started. The reality in Indy is the Colts are 17-2 against the AFC South Division since Chuck Pagano was hired as head coach and Ryan Grigson got the GM job, but they're 17-15 against everyone else. Until this team proves it can consistently beat elite teams, like the playoff win at Denver in January (although Peyton Manning was hurt), nobody outside of Indianapolis will be taking the Colts seriously. And some inside Indy, myself included, have serious doubts already.