INDIANAPOLIS – There are no lack of culprits in yet another poor start by the Indianapolis Colts.
Sinking to 0-1-1 is a group effort.
- The erstwhile kicker botched a game-winning field goal at Houston.
- The NFL’s highest-paid offensive line – roughly $42.2 million in cap space – isn’t playing up to that status. Not even close. Matt Ryan has been sacked seven times and hit on another 11 drop backs, according to the NFL. And the hits seem a bit conservative.
- A defense that generated 33 takeaways last season has one in two weeks. That was E.J. Speed’s sack/forced fumble against Davis Mills in the opener. The only other two sacks came from Kwity Paye in overtime at Houston. Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence operated in a calm pocket; no sacks, just two hits.
- A receiving corps that was under the gun all offseason/preseason has done little to quiet the critics. Michael Pittman Jr. was the leading man in the opener with nine catches, 121 yards and one TD on 13 targets, but missed the loss at Jacksonville with a quad injury. Without him and rookie Alec Pierce (concussion), the passing was deficient. Ashton Dulin set career highs with five receptions and 79 yards. No other wideout had more than two catches or 24 yards.
- Ryan hasn’t been able to elevate anyone’s game around him. He’s made a few poor decisions and been forced into others by the relentless pressure. The absences of Pittman and Pierce in the 24-0 loss at Jacksonville, coupled with the Jaguars’ aggression, exacerbated the deficiencies of the Colts’ 37-year old quarterback.
“It’s all of the above, right?’’ Frank Reich said Monday in reference to Ryan’s struggles. “I mean the protection yesterday wasn’t our best effort. He was under duress a number of times. There’s still mistakes that he made, that we all make.
“Listen, I understand how the quarterback position is. You’re really dependent on everyone else out there, but you’re at the center of it so you have to make it work.’’
Reich remains steadfastly in support of Ryan even though Ryan ranks 31st in passer rating (63.9), 22nd in completion percentage (60%) and is tied-2nd with four interceptions.
“What I love about Matt is that he takes responsibility. He’s the leader,’’ Reich said. “I could not be happier that he’s our quarterback. He’s an elite leader and I really believe he can be an elite player in this offense.
“We’ve all got to pull it together. We all have got to carry our own weight, each one of us, including him and everybody on that offense.’’
After dealing with Josh Allen, Travon Walker and the rest of the Jaguars defense Sunday, Ryan dealt with the media.
“Yeah, I’ve got to play better. There’s no doubt about that,’’ he said. “I think as a group we all have to play better, too. . . . today wasn’t good enough.’’
It was mentioned Ryan was acquired by the Colts to make a difference.
“I think if you are going to be a championship football team, which is the objective of all 32 teams across the league, you have to be hard. You have to be tough,’’ he said. “Sometimes you have to have that mud on your face a little bit and pick yourself up and find out what we’re really all about.
“Although it’s early in the season and we have a long way to go, the sense of urgency needs to be there, and I think it will be. I think we have the right group of guys, but you have to be battle-tested. You have to have some wounds. You have to come back from those a little bit and you have to be tougher for those experiences.’’
It’s hard to imagine things improving dramatically until the offensive line gets its act together. From Reich’s perspective, it’s been a group effort. It’s been left tackle Matt Pryor or center Ryan Kelly or right tackle Braden Smith or right guard Danny Pinter or left guard Quenton Nelson. Pick a play and it’s probably somebody different each time.
“The protection as a general theme, it was not good enough yesterday, we all know that,’’ Reich said. “We try to take a lot of pride in that over the years, but when you really watch the film, it’s typically one guy.
“It’s not the same guy all the time.’’
On a few occasions, the Jaguars got to Ryan with effective line stunts. But on one sack, Josh Allen whipped Pryor. On Ryan’s second interception, Allen pushed rookie left tackle Bernard Raimann back into Ryan and hit him as Ryan was delivering the pass. Late in the game, Roy Robertson-Harris beat Smith and buried Ryan as he was throwing. Ryan got up flexing his right hand/wrist.
Reich declined to address whether personnel changes were looming on the offensive line.
“We’re always evaluating that process,’’ he said.
Not much from Hines
One of the surprising aspects of Sunday’s game was the lack of action for Nyheim Hines. The versatile back was on the field for just 15 of 50 plays (30%). He rushed once for no gain and had four receptions on five targets.
Things started off nicely as Hines had receptions of 19 and 4 yards on two of the first three plays, and was targeted a third time. Then, not much else.
Reich insisted the game plan involved more of Hines. But the offense’s overall inefficiency (50 total plays, just nine first downs) and the commitment to get Jonathan Taylor his carries (nine for 54 yards) complicated things.
“When you get down to 50 or in the high 40s plays, it’s just going to limit everybody as far as snap counts,’’ Reich said.
There also was no continuity. Of the 11 possessions, only three involved more than seven plays. Six failed to generate a first down.
The team is hoping Pittman is able to return for Sunday’s home opener against Kansas City at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“Hoping it’s just a one-game thing,’’ Reich said. “I hope he’s ready this week.’’
Pittman might not practice Wednesday.
Campbell a non-factor
Parris Campbell was expected to be more of a contributor with Pittman and Pierce out. That didn’t happen. He was targeted twice with no receptions.
“He’s a guy we thought would have come out of the game with a little more production,’’ Reich said.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.