1. Pass-protection woes at LT, C, and RG
The Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line should be able to remain sturdy against the New York Jets’ defensive line at left guard and right tackle. Superstar left guard Quenton Nelson (who is listed as questionable with a toe injury) and top-10 right tackle Braden Smith each hold the fort down effectively at their respective spots.
Indy has major pass-protection woes at the other three positions.
Left tackle Eric Fisher is struggling in his first season as a Colt following eight years in Kansas City. Fisher has allowed the fifth-most pressures (23) and committed the second-most penalties (6) among left tackles.
Center Ryan Kelly is tied for fourth in pressures allowed (14) and sixth in penalties (4) at his position.
Right guard Mark Glowinski ranks third among right guards with 22 pressures allowed (one spot ahead of him is Greg Van Roten with 23).
New York’s defensive front needs to dominate these three players.
Shaq Lawson will be Fisher’s primary opponent. Bryce Huff is typically the Jets’ No. 1 right-side defensive end (lining up opposite the left tackle), but Huff will miss his second straight game with a back injury, so Lawson will once again step in for him.
At center, we will likely see Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, Sheldon Rankins, and Nathan Shepherd all get their share of battles with Kelly.
Finally, at right guard, Rankins and Fatukasi will be the main opponents for Glowinski. Rankins (145 pass-rush snaps from the left side) and Fatukasi (92) are responsible for 90.5% of the Jets interior defensive line’s pass-rush snaps from the left side this season.
2. Bad blocking at wide receiver
The Colts’ wide receivers do not get the job done as blockers. They have combined for a run-blocking grade of 47.4 at Pro Football Focus, which ranks dead last out of the league’s 32 wide receiver units.
Knowing that Indy’s wideouts cannot sustain blocks, New York’s defensive backs need to take advantage by being aggressive as they pursue run plays and screen plays. There will be plenty of opportunities to make big plays by defeating the weak blockers on the outside.
3. Lack of a receiving threat beyond Michael Pittman Jr.
Second-year receiver Michael Pittman Jr. is having a breakout year, leading the Colts with 5.6 receptions and 74.3 yards per game.
Beyond Pittman Jr., the Colts do not offer much in the passing game with T.Y. Hilton set to miss the contest.
Indianapolis’ second-leading receiver is running back Jonathan Taylor with only 265 yards (33.1 per game). Their second-leading receiver at wideout is Zach Pascal with 261 yards (32.6 per game).
The Colts are particularly unproductive in the slot. Pascal leads the team with 154 receiving yards out of the slot, and that only ranks 28th in the NFL. Plus, Pascal has not even achieved that total efficiently. His average of 0.68 yards per route run out of the slot ranks third-worst out of 55 qualified wide receivers.
Slot cornerback Michael Carter II must take full advantage of his favorable matchups in the slot and go through four quarters without giving up anything of note. He is perfectly capable of doing so – against the Bengals in Week 8, Carter II allowed only one catch despite typically matching up against Tyler Boyd, who ranks sixth in slot receiving yards.
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Indy will likely feature Taylor and its tight ends (Mo Alie-Cox and Jack Doyle) in an attempt to avoid the strength of the Jets’ defense (the cornerbacks) and attack the weaknesses (linebackers and safeties). New York needs to rally and tackle efficiently when the Colts dump the ball off. Keep them short of the sticks and do not give up bonus yards after the catch.
4. Backups at safety
Indianapolis will be without starting safeties Julian Blackmon (out for season, Achilles) and Khari Willis (out for game, calf). That leaves backups George Odum and Andrew Sendejo in the limelight.
Sendejo is 34 years old and beyond his prime. Over the past two seasons, he has a brutal missed tackle rate of 18.7%, which is well above the 2020 league average for safeties (11.7%). He has also given up seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in coverage over that span.
Odum is in his fourth NFL season and has only started three games – he has not started since 2019. He allowed a 27-yard touchdown pass in that game.
In his starting debut, Mike White did not complete a single pass thrown over 20 yards in the air. Perhaps Indy’s weak safeties will give him opportunities to open up his game.
5. Awful tackling at cornerback
Indianapolis’ cornerbacks have struggled mightily at finishing plays. They have combined for 23 tackles, the second-most of any cornerback unit in the NFL.
The unit with the most? That would be the Bengals’ cornerback unit, the same one that White shredded last week.
Poor tackling at cornerback plays directly into the hands of a quick-passing offense like the one that White executed against Cincinnati. With another poor-tackling unit in front of them, White and the Jets must stick to their bread-and-butter and get the ball out quick, forcing the corners to make tackles.
Every key member of the Colts’ cornerback unit is to blame for the tackling issues. Each of Indy’s four most-used cornerbacks has a missed tackle rate that is worse than the positional average.
However, the main culprit is Kenny Moore, who mans the slot for the Colts. Moore ranks second among all cornerbacks with nine missed tackles.
New York needs to get the ball into the hands of Elijah Moore and Jamison Crowder in space against the miss-prone slot man.