Jaguars at Colts – Week 10 Game Preview

The Indianapolis Colts (0-9) enter their week 10 match up against the Jacksonville Jaguars as the NFL’s last winless team. Will they be able to overcome an ever-growing injury list and the poor play from Curtis Painter to earn their first victory of the season?

Jacksonville (2-6) enters this game a young team that is surprisingly good on defense, but in search of an offensive identity. Will they be able to ride the legs of long-time Colts killer RB Maurice Jones-Drew to victory, or will the poor play of rookie QB Blaine Gabbert and his underwhelming cast of receiving options do the team in?

Regardless of which of these fierce rivals leaves the stadium with an embarrassing loss on Sunday, one thing is guaranteed:  Jaguars Head Coach Jack Del Rio will be smirking.

Tale of the tape

How do the Colts and Jaguars measure up against each other on offense and defense? Let us take a look. NFL.com conventional rankings are listed first, with FootballOutsiders.com advanced stats (DVOA) in parenthesis.

 

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Offense Defense Offense Defense
Passing 28th (28th) 24th (32nd) 32nd (32nd) 8th (7th)
Rushing 23rd (15th) 31st (29th) 13th (24th) 11th (3rd)
Total 31st (25th) 31st (32nd) 32nd (32nd) 5th (6th)

 

When the Colts have the ball

 

Indianapolis Colts Offense Jacksonville Jaguars Defense
87 WR R. Wayne 74 DE A. Kampman
84 TE J. Tamme 93 DT T. Alualu
74 LT A. Castonzo 96 DT T. Knighton
67 LG M. Tepper 94 DE J. Mincey
63 C J. Saturday 52 SLB D. Smith
71 RG R. Diem 51 MLB P. Posluszny
72 RT J. Linkenbach 55 WLB C. SessionSSSSS
17 WR A. Collie 21 CB D. Cox
85 WR P. Garcon 25 SS D. Lowery
7 QB C. Painter 26 FS D. Landry
29 RB J. Addai 27 CB R. Mathis

 
Nine weeks into the season and it is safe to say that the Colts’ rushing attack, which is ranked 10th in the league in yards-per-carry (4.5ypc) and 15th in DVOA, is not only much better than it has been since 2007, but a legitimate weapon that can be used to gain yards against most defenses. The problem with the Colts offense is that — as many smart people have pointed out — the NFL is a passing league.

So while we’ve been clamoring for more carries for the Colts running backs and less throws for QB Curtis Painter, the premise was simple – fewer, more effective passes. Unfortunately, Painter, who started the season by performing above the level most had expected from him, has had his play drop to levels below even his most staunchest critics would have imagined.

Painter’s first four games: 62.7 rating and 0 interceptions against Pitts, 99.4 rating and 0 INT against Tampa Bay, 115.8 and 0 INTs against Kansas City, and 79.0 and 1 INT against the Bengals.

Painter’s last three games: 38.1 rating and 1 INT against the Saints, 50.6 rating and 2 INTs against the Titans, and 41.9 rating and 1 INT against the Falcons.

The NFL is a quarterback dominated league, and the Colts are simply not getting the kind of performance they need from the position to win games. The offensive line is healthy and has been the Colts best and most consistent unit throughout the year. The running backs are running hard, gaining yards and blocking well. The receivers and tight ends are finding ways to get open.

The onus is on Painter – he has to start making plays, he has to start doing the simple things that any starting quarterback should be able to do. If he can’t, he will find that his career and this season both have the same number of games left.

When the Jaguars have the ball

 

Indianapolis Colts Defense Jacksonville Jaguars Offense
93 DE D. Freeney 83 WR J. Hill
99 DT A. Johnson 89  TE M. Lewis
95 DT F. Moala 75  LT E. Monroe
98 DE R. Mathis 73  LG E. Britton
53 WLB K. Conner 63  C   B. Meester
51 MLB P. Angerer 77  RG U. Nwaneri
50 SLB P. Wheeler 68  RT G. Whimper
25 CB J. Powers 80  WR M. Thomas
30 SS D. Caldwell 11  QB  B. Gabbert
41 FS A. Bethea 33  FB  G. Jones
21 CB K. Thomas 32  RB  M. Jones-Drew

 
The Jacksonville Jaguars offense can be summed up in five words: run. Jaguars’ head coach Jack Del Rio is an old school football coach that believes in the antiquated philosophy, “run the ball and stop the run.” He also believes in smirking through any and all situations, but that’s a story for another time. Unfortunately for Del Rio, the NFL is no longer about running the ball and stopping the run, it’s all about passing the ball and stopping the pass.

To their credit, the Jaguars acknowledged the need for a change in philosophy when they drafted QB Blaine Gabbert in the first round of the 2011 draft. Gabbert, however, was thrust into the starting role sooner than the team would have liked, and has struggled mightily as he’s tried to adjust to playing in the NFL.

Gabbert has played in 7 of the Jaguars 8 games and has completed just 79 out of his 173 attempted passes (45.7%) with 5 TDs and 4 INTs. He also has an abysmal 5.24 yards-per-attempt and a pee-wee-esque 11.48 yards-per-completion — and the worst quarterback rating of any of the qualifying QBs in the NFL (62.0). Due to his poor play, the Jaguars have attempted to shelter him by running the ball 249 times (31.2 per game, 2nd in the league) while throwing only 218 times (27 per game, 31st in the league).

Unfortunately for the Jaguars, their strategy has failed – the Jaguars have the worst offense in the league according to both raw/conventional stats and DVOA. Luckily for the Jaguars, while they won’t make the playoffs and will wind up with one of the worst records in the NFL, their running game may be good enough to overcome Gabbert and the passing game’s deficiencies.

Led by RB Maurice Jones-Drew (MJD), the Jaguars feature the kind of cut-back, misdirection rushing attack that gives the Colts defense fits. MJD and the Jaguars offensive line will start running plays strong to one side of the field in an attempt to get the Colts defense to not only flow to that side of the field, but to get the Colts’ safeties and linebackers to over-pursue the play, thus abandoning their “gap” (each defensive player is designed a specific running lane to fill, this lane is a gap) and affording the running back a clean hole to run through.

As we have seen in the past, when one Colts defender starts over-pursuing plays it leads to a domino effect where another defender attempts to cover for the over-pursuing player leading to a complete breakdown of the defense. The Del Rio-era Jaguars have been exceptional at forcing the Colts defense into these types of breakdowns, and Del Rio also has the patience – and stubbornness – to stick with the running game regardless of game situation and score, meaning the Colts will have to be focused on their gap assignments for a full 60 minutes – they won’t get a break from the run.

If the Colts defenders can maintain their gaps, if they can prevent MJD from breaking tackles and gaining a lot of yards after contact, they should be able to limit the scoring from this otherwise inept offense. If, however, MJD does his usual damage against the Colts, or worse, if Gabbert does to the back-7 what previous opponents have done, it will be a sign that this year’s version of the Colts defense is beyond repair. Technique, practice, focus – none of those will be the primary issue. Coaching scheme and talent will bear the brunt of the responsibility for that kind of defeat.

Five key match ups

1. Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Pat Angerer – Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew (MJD) has made feasting on Indianapolis a yearly ritual. Jones-Drew has gashed the Colts at better than a 5ypc clip thus far in his career. What makes MJD so deadly against the Colts? Elite vision and cut-back ability. The Jaguars love to start running plays far left or right against the Colts defense and then cut them back, taking advantage of over-pursuit from the linebackers and safeties. “Gap control” is the term you hear a lot when these two teams play, and if the Colts do not maintain their gap control on Sunday, MJD will likely increase that ypc average.

The person charged with stopping him will be Colts MLB Pat Angerer. Angerer, who slid to MLB after LB Gary Brackett suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 1, leads the NFL in tackles by a wide margin (22, according to ESPN.com). Much of his lead can be attributed to the sheer volume of chances Angerer receives – Colts opponents run the ball 22 times a game – but Angerer has also played well. He brings the kind of speed, athleticism, and toughness you need in a Cover-2 MLBm and though he has shown some signs of slowing down as the season wears on, he is still capable of putting together an impressive performance.

If he can play to his best and if he and his fellow linebackers maintain their gaps, the Colts have a good chance of beating the Jaguars on Sunday.

2. DTs Knighton and Alualu vs. LG Tepper, C Saturday, and RG Diem – One of the reasons the Jaguars defense has been as good as it has this year is their pair of young defensive tackles. DTs Terrance Knight and Tyson Alualu are the kind of young – they are 25- and 24-years of age respectively – strong, penetrating defensive tackles that defensive coordinators crave. Their strength at the point of attack means that one of them will have to be double-teamed on every play, leaving one of the Colts guards – either Mike Tepper or Ryan Diem – in a one-on-one blocking situation on a majority of the snaps.

If the Colts’ interior linemen are unable to successfully block the pair, they will dominate the line of scrimmage, slow down what has been a good Colts running game, and force QB Curtis Painter into less-than-ideal situations. If they can block them, however, that should allow both the Colts RBs to find the space they need to be effective, and give Painter the time he needs to attack a suspect pair of Jaguars safeties with some deep passes to WR Pierre Garcon.

3. DT Nevis vs. C Meester – Colts DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have gone four games without either player recording a sack – the first such stretch since they began playing together in 2003. Some have questioned whether or not the pair of pass rushers have given up, but if you watch them closely, you can see that is not the case. The problem with the Colts DEs actually has nothing to do with the DE play at all, but that of the players next to them: the DTs. On most plays, the Colts defensive tackles are providing very little – if any – push or penetration. This is allowing opposing offenses to single-block the DTs while assigning two and sometimes three blockers to Freeney and Mathis.

In steps Drake Nevis, rookie DT out of LSU. When Nevis was healthy – weeks one through four -  the Colts’ defense looked like a different unit: they were ranked in the top half of the league in most measurements, Freeney and Mathis looked as dominant as ever, and there seemed to be a sense of belief that the defense would keep the Colts in close games. Since then, the Colts defense has fallen to pieces, culminating in three straight blowouts to the Saints, Titans, and Falcons. Will Nevis and his ability to create chaos be enough to kick start a fading Colts defense? If he is, that may be the jolt the Colts need to stifle what is already the league’s worst offense.

If, however, the Jaguars hand the Colts their fourth-straight blowout loss, one has to believe that the Colts are on their way to an 0-16 record and that the defense has completely crumbled.

4. WR Pierre Garcon vs. Holdy McHolderson (CB Rashean Mathis) – Being a “shutdown” corner in the NFL sometimes seems to be a case of perception becoming reality. For example, when you watch CB Darrelle Revis (Jets) or CB Nnamdi Asomugha (Eagles) play, you watch them commit more holding than the parents in a maternity ward, with most of those holds going uncalled. Officials, it seems, buy in to players being “elite”, so they must be succeeding because they are good, not because they are committing rules infractions. Thus, the player becomes even better, because he has an advantage.

What does this have to do with the Jaguars, you ask? CB Rashean Mathis was declared elite for years by NFL people – especially those in earshot of Jacksonville – to the point where, for a short period of time, he was being discussed as one of the best players at his position in the league. When he would play the Colts, however, he would be served with butter and perhaps a nice jam (he was toast).

To make up for the great speed and route-running of WRs Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, Mathis developed the nasty habit of attempting to de-robe the Colts receivers. For reasons known only to the refs – perhaps it was because they heard that Mathis was “elite” – these holds went uncalled. It all came to a boiling point (dramatic wording) in 2008 when Mathis yanked Harrison down by his jersey, intercepted the pass and took it in for a 61-yard touchdown in a game that the Colts lost 21-23. 

This Sunday Mathis will once again be matched up against a player that is bigger, stronger, faster, and well, just plain better than he is: Pierre Garcon. Will the referees allow Mathis to reduce Garcon to the speed of mere mortals, or will the Luke be serving toast with their brunch? The Colts have been on the wrong side of a lot of questionable calls this year, hopefully the myth of Rashean Mathis’ greatness doesn’t induce them into more game-changing errors.

5. Jim Caldwell vs. Unemployment – Through Week 6 of the 2011 season, the best attribute that most people (experts and fans alike) attributed to the Colts was that they were fighters – that they hadn’t given up despite extreme adversity. That all changed in Week 7 when the Colts were embarrassed to the tune of a 55-point throttling at the hands of the Saints. Since then, the Colts have also been blown out by the horrible Titans and the deliciously average Falcons. A fourth-consecutive blowout, and the second in a row in front of the home crowd, and HC Jim Caldwell, the man who had been credited with keeping the team from giving up, might find himself unemployed in Week 12, which will serve as the Colts’ BYE week.

Many have opined that Caldwell would be gone at season’s end regardless of the Colts’ final record. I agree with these people, especially after the team has failed to bounce back from the Saints game despite playing beatable opponents. I would go a step further and say that if the Colts are blown out against the Jaguars – a loss that would easily qualify as the Colts most embarrassing loss of the year – that the Colts will no longer have the crutch of “the team is still playing for Caldwell” to lean on. Irsay and Polian, even if they would prefer not to, will most likely feel compelled to relieve Caldwell of his duty, to hold someone accountable for the 0-10 start.

The injury reports


Indianapolis Colts

Player Name Injury (STATUS)
Peyton Manning NECK (OUT)
Joe Reitz KNEE (OUT)
Dallas Clark LEG (OUT)
Brody Eldridge HAND (OUT)
Joseph Addai HAMSTRING (QUESTIONABLE)
Kavell Conner REST (QUESTIONABLE)
Dwight Freeney REST (QUESTIONABLE)
Terrence Johnson HAMSTRING (QUESTIONABLE)
Blair White KNEE (QUESTIONABLE)
Drake Nevis BACK (QUESTIONABLE)

 
Jacksonville Jaguars

Player Name Injury (STATUS)
Tyson Alualu NOT INJURY RELATED (PROBABLE)
Brock Bolen CALF (QUESTIONABLE)
Eben Britton BACK (DOUBTFUL)
John Chick ABDOMEN (PROBABLE)
Greg Jones NOT INJURY RELATED (PROBABLE)
Maurice Jones-Drew NOT INJURY RELATED (UNFORTUNATELY)
Aaron Kampman HAMSTRING (QUESTIONABLE)
Terrance Knighton ANKLE (PROBABLE)
Rashean Mathis NOT INJURY RELATED (PROBABLE)
Cecil Shorts III HAMSTRING (QUESTIONABLE)
Courtney Greene HAMSTRING (QUESTIONABLE)

 

Series notes

  • The Colts are 15-5-0 all time against the Jaguars, including an 8-2-0 record in Indianapolis.
  • The Colts created 40,000 temporary seats at the Luke to accompany any traveling tarps the Jaguars may have.
  • Neither QB Blaine Gabbert or QB Curtis Painter has faced Sunday’s opponent before in their career. Each team’s defense laments this fact.
  • RB Donald Brown has faced the Jaguars twice in his career, and has 25 carries for 162 yards (6.48ypc) and 1 TD, along with 3 catches for 20 yards and a score.
  • WR Pierre Garcon has 10 catches for 84 yards in four career games against the Jaguars.
  • WR Reggie Wayne has faced Jacksonville 18 times. He has 106 catches for 1568 yards and 6 touchdowns.
  • TE Jacob Tamme has 9 catches for 48 yards in 4 career games versus the Jaguars.
  • DE Dwight Freeney has averaged a sack per game against the Jaguars, accumulating 9 sacks in 9 games.
  • DE Robert Mathis has tallied 6.5 sacks in 10 career games against the Jaguars.
  • Colts MLB Pat Angerer leads the NFL in tackles (98). S Antoine Bethea is 5th on that list (75).
  • WR Mike Thomas has 10 catches for 151 yards and 1 TD against the Colts in 3 career games.
  • TE Marcedes Lewis has 31 catches for 311 yards and 2 scores in 10 career games versus the Colts.
  • RB Maurice Jones-Drew should be abducted by aliens. He has 180 carries for 929 yards (5.16 ypc) and 8 TDs. He has also racked up 34 catches for 293 yards and 3 scores.
  • DE Aaron Kampman has 0 sacks in his 2 career match ups against the Colts.
  • Former Colts, current Jaguars LB Clint Sessions has joined the long line of former Colts linebackers that moved on to “greener” pastures and then proceeded to act like a jilted lover once they were there. Session has 25 tackles, 0 INT and 1 sack for the year in Jacksonville, and they are paying him $6,000,000.00 a year for that output. People will point to letting him go as yet another bad mistake the Polians made, but the truth is, he simply wasn’t worth that kind of money. It also does not do justice to the fact that LB Kavell Conner is doing just fine as his replacement.

 

Identifying the coverage

Where(Visually): CBS
Who(Visually): Spero Dedes, Steve Beuerlein
Where(Audio): 1070 AM The Fan WFNI and 97.1 HANK FM
Who(Audio): Bob Lamey and Will Wolford
Who(Are Spero Dedes and Steve Beuerlein?): Seriously, have the Colts been DEMOTED from the Wilcots/Harlan combination? Well, at least it can’t get any worse. Right? Please tell me it can’t get any worse. Oh, look, there’s Colts TE Pierre Garcon, wearing #17! HEY, PIERRE, OVER HERE!
Is the Game on in your area? Good question. The people at The506 will be able to tell you.

Prediction

Jaguars – 13, Colts – 12

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