The Offensive Line versus Wake and Co.
The Colts offensive line, which struggled last week, will face a difficult test Sunday against the Dolphins, who know how to bring the heat out of their base 4-3. Miami’s pass rush ranked 7th in the league last year with 42 sacks, and they racked up 6 against Cleveland in their opener. Colts guard Donald Thomas says they will be expecting more of the same blitzes and aggressive play on Sunday, along with some possible surprises.
“Absolutely. They’re an aggressive defense,” Thomas said of the Dolphins. "They’re going to do what they do, and they do it well, so we have to be ready to block what we see, block what they bring. There’s going to be some stuff probably that we haven’t seen. We have to just use our rules and adjust to them.”
The Colts will need to key on defensive end Cameron Wake, who led the team with 15 sacks in 2012, and after him, well, a little bit of everyone. Beyond Wake, the rest of the team contributed healthy 27 sacks, but no one else had more than five.
Wake had 2.5 sacks on opening weekend. For the casual fan (and trust me, it’s okay to be a casual fan), that may not sound much, but bear in mind that would put him on a rather ridiculous 16-game pace (40). If the Colts can make him regress to the mean this weekend, maybe hold him to one sack (zero would also be nice), they will have a chance at a much better offensive showing this time around.
However, Wake is a wrecking crew. When asked about what he thought of him, having faced Miami twice a year as a Patriot, Thomas sounded almost like a coach or college scout. “He just has a really good motor,” he said of Wake. “He’s strong, very athletic. He can bend really well. Speed to power is unbelievable.”
As for achieving any improvement against Miami’s stout defense, Thomas stuck to the fundamentals. “We just have to be, our communication needs to be a little bit better,” he said. “We all just have to trust our technique. We all can go out there and play ball, so I think the main thing is going to be just keeping Andrew (Luck) upright, giving him a little more time to make some more throws.”
Pep Talks Offense
In case you haven’t heard anyone mention it in the past week, the Colts only had 7 drives and 53 offensive plays last Sunday. That left everyone with a rather small sample when sizing up how the Colts offense will look this season and left some key players with very few touches.
One of those players was second year receiver T.Y. Hilton, who had 50 catches for 861 yards and 7 touchdowns as a rookie. Hilton ended up with 3 receptions for 20 yards and was on the field sparingly. Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton reassured everyone that they want to get Hilton on the field more and that, “T.Y. is a valued playmaker in our offense.”
Another player who played somewhat sparingly was running back Ahmad Bradshaw. Hamilton was asked if it was difficult to evaluate Bradshaw’s performance from Sunday. “No, we’ve already evaluated Ahmad,” he said. “We kind of know what we have in Ahmad. We’re excited that he was able to go out and play. His role, it will continue to grow just like T.Y.’s (Hilton) role. The more snaps that we have in a game, it’s going to afford us an opportunity to get more guys involved.”
When a media member asked Hamilton what the ideal split would be between Bradshaw and fellow running back Vick Ballard, he quickly answered, “50-50.” In case anyone is wondering where Donald Brown fits into that equation, he had a special teams tackle on Sunday. That pretty much sums up where each of them stands at the moment.
Brown could be a good asset if one of the top two backs suffers an injury this season. In the meantime, the Colts will be looking for a better mix of contributions from their many offensive playmakers, which, according to Pep, is more than just the skill position players. “I just think that we got to do whatever we see fit to move the chains and score touchdowns,” Hamilton said. “We got to feature our playmakers and we don’t just consider our skill players to be playmakers. We feel like our offensive linemen are playmakers as well. Andrew, he has a big duty and responsibility in the run game as well just making sure that we get to the right play. Ultimately, we’ve always talked about setting up our passing game with the run game and vice versa. I feel like we were able to do that in our first game.”
A little love for the offensive line. It’s nice to see the team’s emphasis on that position group. Maybe all that emphasis can translate into something good on the field. This Sunday should give us all a better idea.