The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
My questions, and Chris’ answers are below. My answers to his questions should be posted on the Stampede Blue blog later today.
1. Since NFC & AFC teams only face off every 4 years, fans often don’t know much about the rival team. How would you describe the 2018 Colts to an NFL fan that didn’t know much more about them than the name of the starting quarterback?
The 2018 Colts are a team on the rise.
They have a lot of talent, but most of it is very raw. In week one, six of the Colts back 7 defensive players were first or second year players. That wasn’t due to injury or suspension, their defense is just that young.
The offense is similar in many spots. The three running backs who will get the most usage this season are all first or second year players. Along the offensive line are several young guys as well. This all bodes well for the future, because if these players can develop and contribute, they can grow into a very good team with time. However, young players are prone to mistakes, and this team will make those.
Ultimately, this is a team that needs Andrew Luck to be exceptional. Fortunately for the Colts, that is exactly what he has been. Luck makes some truly incredible plays, and didn’t look all that rusty in his first regular season game back. He makes the occasional “bonehead” play, but he can make downright gorgeous throws and has the kind of pocket movement that keeps plays alive long past when they should be. If Andrew Luck is playing at the top of his game, this is a tough team to beat, regardless of youth.
2. Following on from the first question, how do Colts fans perceive the Washington Redskins?
I am always hesitant to speak for Colts fans as a whole, but for my part and those I’ve spoken with, the Redskins seem to be a bit of a mystery. To outsiders, the Kirk Cousins situation looked mishandled and that situation seemed like one that was unnecessarily contentious.
In general, the ownership of the team has been viewed in the past as somewhat interfering, the toxic situation with RG3 comes to mind. Alex Smith seems like a lateral move at the quarterback position, and having watched him as a part of the Chiefs, I am not convinced that he has the ability to carry this team forward without a lot of help from other parts of the team.
Having said that, it seems as though the Redskins are a team that has a decent chance at taking the NFC East away from the Eagles. In a brutal conference, it is hard to know how much better than that they are. However, the Colts definitely would be ill advised to take them lightly, and Colts fans who know anything are expecting a good game. The one advantage that they have going for them is that Frank Reich is familiar with the defensive personnel in Washington and will have the offense ready to go.
3. I read a couple of articles on your site, and it seems that you guys are quietly confident about your defense. Why did you feel hopeful about the unit in preseason, and what did you see in the Week 1 game against the Bengals that reinforced your positive feelings?
Much of our optimism is based on potential and we are mainly confident that the defense is better than it is portrayed. Given the perception of the Colts’ defense, that isn’t saying a lot. In the past, our defenses have been older and untalented. With old and untalented, there is no hope that they are suddenly getting better. Your team is what it is.
The biggest legitimate knock on our defense as it is currently, is that they are young. There is a ton of talent there, they just need to develop. We know that the likelihood is that some of those guys never will develop into great players.
What they are now though, is a young and fast defense that gives up a lot of yards, but can create turnovers. Against the Bengals, this team got an interception, and forced two fumbles, only managing to recover one.
This is the typical bend-don’t-break mentality on defense, and it relies on an offense that can score points. They aren’t good enough to win games without Andrew Luck playing well, but they are young and developing. If a couple players break out on this young roster, they could be a really solid group going forward.
4. What can we expect from the Colts offensively when they come to FedEx field this Sunday? What major challenges will they pose to the Redskins defense?
As with the Bengals, I expect Frank Reich to utilize the quick passing game to help negate the Redskins’ pass rush. The Colts have a strong tight end group and will use them across the middle on shorter passes to get the ball out of Luck’s hands and in space.
One thing that will make a difference in the game on Sunday is whether or not running back Marlon Mack is available. Mack is a dynamic playmaker in space, and if he is back to 100%, Reich will absolutely design plays to get him the ball in the short passing game. If he is able to get to the second level, he is a threat to take it to the house every time.
Apart from Mack, I expect that the Colts will use Ryan Grant and running back Nyheim Hines prominently in the passing game. They both contributed to the offense significantly against the Bengals, and Grant in particular was valuable as a security blanket for quick slants and drags. That kind of reliability was something the Colts have been missing, and it was a noticeable difference last Sunday.
I don’t expect that Manusky will lose track of T.Y. Hilton much on Sunday, having seen firsthand what he can do as a part of the Colts’ coaching staff. However, Hilton is sure to be schemed open some, and if given a chance, he is deadly on the deep ball, which is the strongest part of Luck’s game. Hilton dropped a long pass on Sunday that killed a drive late, and will be chomping at the bit to redeem himself.
Overall, I think the offense will be well prepared for a defense with which Reich is very familiar. This should be a fun battle to watch.
5. Please tell us about one under-the-radar player that we should be watching for on Sunday. Which relative unknown is going to make a difference for the Colts this season?
It feels like nearly everyone on the Colts’ roster is under-the-radar, but if I had to choose one, it is rookie linebacker Darius Leonard. Leonard has been an active and encouraging part of the Colts’ defense from day one. He is rangy and dangerous as a coverage linebacker, and it hardly seems like you can go one play without seeing him doing something impressive.
In a young, athletic defense, he has stood out as a potential star. I expect that regardless of the outcome, it will be hard not to notice #53 flying around the field on Sunday making plays on defense. Colts fans are hoping that he can grow and continue to improve as the season goes on, because he is a small school player who is relatively raw. If he can translate that raw ability into a more refined player as the year goes on, he could become a central cog on this defense.
I want to thank Chris for taking the time to enlighten us about this young and exciting Colts team coming to visit on Sunday.
As always, we hope for a great, injury-free game.
How many passing yards will Andrew Luck put up against the Redskins on Sunday?
This poll is closed
less than 100