Colts offense? Get ball in best players’ hands
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Let’s pull Football 101 off the shelf and turn to the chapter dealing with offense and how best to operate when facing a defense with bad intentions.
And let’s allow Andrew Luck, the orchestrator of the Indianapolis Colts, to highlight the pertinent passage. He does, after all, possess the requisite experience from his days at Stanford and his last four seasons with the Colts.
“It’s been an emphasis in every offense I’ve been in and I truly believe get the ball into a playmaker’s hands with space and you’ve got a chance,’’ Luck said.
Get the football to T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, Dwayne Allen and Frank Gore, and see what develops. Allow the so-called skill players to maximize their skills, whether it be on shallow crossing routes that were prevalent in last Saturday’s preseason loss to Baltimore or on deeper routes that were a staple in 2014 when Luck led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes and set a franchise record with 4,761 yards.
Again, Luck elaborates.
“That’s a given in football, at any level,’’ he said. “You’re going to want to get the ball in your best players’ hands with a little space and they make good things happen after that.’’
Hilton has averaged 15.6 yards on 283 career receptions, and last season joined Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne as the only receivers in franchise history with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Of his 24 regular-season touchdowns, 10 have covered at least 40 yards.
Moncrief offers a rare blend of size (6-2, 222 pounds) and speed and continues to emerge, while the coaching staff is anticipating a major boost in year 2 from Dorsett. Allen was little more than an extra blocker last season, but generated eight touchdowns in ’14.
So many options, and they all emanate from Luck.
“Nice to have No. 12 back, isn’t it?’’ offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said Wednesday. “All the things you can say that are superlatives about Andrew, you say.
“He’s got a presence. He’s a leader. He can take things from the classroom to the field. He’s got an intensity about him. He’s got a flair for making plays. He’s got a toughness about him, obviously standing in there and delivering the throws and making the throws he needs to, delivering in clutch situations.’’
Chudzinski’s challenge is to maximize the talent at his disposal.
It’s being able to establish Gore to the point the Colts can run when they want to run and need to run. That wasn’t the case a year ago when Luck missed nine games and defenses refused to give credence to the offense’s ability to stretch the field. Gore consistently ran into stacked fronts and averaged a career-low 3.7 yards per attempt.
And it’s putting the receiving corps in position to make plays.
Against the Ravens, that meant sending Moncrief and Dorsett on crossing routes and Luck hitting them, in stride. He was 8-for-8 for 71 yards.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can run,’’ Dorsett said. “We can create the yards for (Luck). We catch a crossing route and we break a tackle and there’s nothing but room.’’
Absent from last Saturday’s game plan were shots down the field from Luck as the Colts were more interested in getting him back in the flow of the game. The shorter routes also allowed him to get rid of the ball quicker.
No one should be lulled to sleep by the conservative approach against the Ravens.
“I wouldn’t necessarily make that an indicator that he’s going to be throwing 2-yard passes all year long,’’ Chudzinksi said with a grin.
Besides, the preseason isn’t about exposing every page of your offensive playbook. It’s about fine-tuning, especially on the practice field, and showing enough in preseason games to adequately prepare for the Sept. 11 opener against the Detroit Lions.
“It is definitely a balance,’’ Chudzinski said. “I wouldn’t say that what we’re doing this week is necessarily what you’d see in the regular season.
“You don’t typically do everything you’re going to do in the preseason.’’