Colts Offense Create Myriad of Problems for Browns
The Indianapolis Colts come in to town this weekend when all the talk has been about Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel. The real concern for the Cleveland Browns is the Colts offense, not who takes the snaps for them. That is because Andrew Luck heads up an offense that can make your head spin very quickly.
Even with Trent Richardson being a terrible pickup for the team, the offense has weapons galore. The running game, ranked 15th in yards, takes advantage of all the attention that Luck and the passing game get. Luck’s high level football IQ allows him to audible into plays that allow Richardson and the rest of the backs to get into the best position possible to make big plays.
While Richardson has failed to do so, he still leads the team in rushing yards. Ahmad Bradshaw, out for the year, is just 20 yards behind T-Rich even though he has 45 less carries. Daniel Herron, Buckeye fans know him as Boom, has come on strong recently for the Colts and could take the majority of the load Sunday. In less than a third of the carries that Richardson has, Boom has more than half Richardson’s yardage. Richardon’s 3.3 average is almost a yard and a half less than Bradshaw’s and over 2 yards less than Herron’s, although that is a small sample size.
The run game is obviously as good as it is because of the threat of Luck, Luck even has pitched in 50 carries for over 200 yards. It is Luck’s arm, and brain, that has led the Colts to being ranked 1st in total passing yards at 326.3 yards per game. Luck is able to dissect defenses with his photographic memory thus allowing him to be prepared for anything the Browns might throw at him.
On the outside Luck is blessed with very talented receivers. T.Y. Hilton leads the group with 68 receptions at 1145 yards, which is amazing given that he has 4 games left to go. Hilton also has 5 touchdowns. He can run every route on the route tree. Crossing routes free him up to use his speed to create space while deep throws allow him to separate from corners.
Old veteran Reggie Wayne also keeps defenses from loading up on Hilton as he continues to be a tactician at the position. Wayne knows how to create separation, even as his physical skills diminish, and always is in the right spot in zone coverage. He has 54 receptions for 636 yards. 36 of his 54 catches have gone for first downs.
That twosome gets some support from veteran Hakeem Nicks and rookie Donte Moncrief. Nicks has slowly given way to the rookie but can still provide some help to Luck in 3 and 4 wide sets. Nicks has 24 catches on the year and 3 touchdowns. Moncrief, an interesting rookie out of Ole Miss, has 24 catches as well but averages over 6 more yards per catch than Hakeem.
Besides that wicked 4 some in the receiving corps, and the backs out of the backfield (Trent, Boom and Bradshaw have combined for 69 receptions) the Colts have two tight ends that can give the Browns fits. Dwayne Allen is likely to return from his ankle injury that has kept him out for a little bit. He leads the Colts with 7 receiving TDs while his counterpart Coby Fleener leads the team in yards per catch with 17.0. Having both on the field together could be deadly for the Browns.
The Colts offensive line has not been great, giving up 21 sacks and not giving the backs big running lanes on early downs. However Luck’s ability has minimized how important the line play is, very Peyton Manning like.
The Browns have tough decisions to make on every down on defense. Send a free rusher and hope you get there before Luck gets the ball out of his hand? Play coverage and let him pick apart the defense with all his weapons? Get creative and hope it doesn’t lead to a huge blown coverage?
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Not a ton of easy answers for the Browns. Missing Tashaun Gipson for the rest of the regular season really hurts in this game. Perhaps the Browns go small most of the game. Quicker blitzers could get home before Luck gets the ball out and more players in coverage could help make plays. Pierre Desir, Justin Gilbert, Jordan Poyer and Jim Leonhard all could be important in this game supporting Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and Donte Whitner.
While many focused on the Cleveland Browns quarterback decision, Jim O’Neil, Mike Pettine and the rest of the defensive staff were likely up late having nightmares about the talent that the Colts will trot out on offense. Trying to force the Colts to win with the ground game seems like the best hope.
How hopeful are you that the Cleveland Browns defense can slow down the Indianapolis Colts offense at all Sunday?