Know Thy Enemy: Indianapolis Colts

The newest edition of Know Thy Enemy enters divisional territory in the AFC. The Indianapolis Colts, fresh off their loss to the Rams, travel to Nashville for their first game against the Tennessee Titans. Can they escape all the bachelorette parties and honky tonks despite a crazy quarterback situation? The Titans want to put on a show with so many legendary Oilers alumni in town. Who will gain the upper hand in an eminently winnable division? 

Previous KTE editions

Know Thy Enemy: Seattle Seahawks

Key Numbers + Info (2021 season)

Record: 0-2 (0-0 AFC South)

Points scored: 40

PPG: 20

Points allowed: 55

PPGa: 27.5

Yards per rush: 4.0

Avg. yards per rush allowed: 4.3

Avg. rush yards per game: 111

Rrush yards per game allowed: 120.5

Rushing TDs: 0 for, 1 against

Avg. pass yards per game: 234

Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 255.5

Passing TDs: 3 for, 6 against

Pass Completion Rate: 64%

Pass Completion Rate Against: 70%

Top Rusher: Jonathan Taylor (32 attempts for 107 yards, 0 touchdowns)

Leading Receiver: Michael Pittman, Jr (11 receptions for 152 yards, 0 touchdowns)

Top Tackler: Khari Willis (15 tackles, two tackles for loss, one interception, one pass defense)

Key Additions: QB Carson Wentz, OL Eric Fisher, OT Julien Davenport, RB Marlon Mack, CB TJ Carrie, EDGE Kwity Paye (rookie), S Andrew Sendejo, WR Mike Strachan (rookie), TE Kylen Granson (rookie)

Key Losses: QB Philip Rivers (retired), OT Anthony Castonzo (retired), DL Denico Autry, T.Y. Hilton (injured), OT Sam Tevi (injured), WR Dezmon Patmon (injured), QB Sam Ehlinger (injured)

Series History

Indianapolis leads the series 35-18

Keys to a Titans Victory

Get AJ Brown Back to Form 

The third-year star receiver had a rough outing against Seattle and hasn’t connected effectively with Ryan Tannehill to begin 2021. Julio Jones got going last week, snagging over 100 yards and a questionable touchdown reversal. It could be time for Brown to get going versus a weakened Colts secondary susceptible to the big play. He’s more than capable of generating monstrous YAC on any play. In Brown’s case, he has been massaging a knee injury which has repeatedly placed him on the injury report. Can the star join Julio in scaring the Colts defense this week? 

Establish. The. Run

Derrick Henry appeared to generate very little production until the second half last week. He single-handedly outgained the entire Seahawks offense by himself in the three quarters. The King faces a much stiffer test in the Colts front seven who could have an argument that they are better than Seattle’s front. The Titans’ best offense features a ton of play-action concepts due to the defense’s fear of Henry’s punitive retribution. Tennessee’s offensive line is a bit banged up and Todd Downing’s play-calling capabilities are somewhat in question, however. 

Pressure the QB 

Indianapolis has a severe issue at quarterback, regardless of Carson Wentz’s status (he has injuries to BOTH ankles). Wentz has continued the poor run of form that plagued him from his Philly disillusionment. If he can’t go on Sunday, then frequent signee Brett Hundley would get the nod over current backup Jacob Eason. Not to mention, the glaring issues on the line that Eric Fisher and Quenton Nelson don’t occupy. Fisher is just coming off a serious knee injury and Nelson is coming off a stint on the COVID list. Both players proved capable last week but their linemates did not. Tennessee would be wise to apply a ton of pressure on the right side to see if they can crack them. Enter former Colt Denico Autry to do the job.  

Keys to a Colts Victory

Target the left side of the OL

The last time we saw Taylor Lewan, he was being utterly emasculated and delineated into rookie mincemeat by Chandler Jones in week one. He was a last-minute inactive due to a knee injury suffered in pregame warmups last week. Although he practiced fully for multiple days this week, it appears that he isn’t as ready to return to full fitness from the ACL injury suffered last season. Tennessee has a new (old) fire to put out on the line as left guard Rodger Saffold exited the game last week due to injury. It’s gotten to the point that Tennessee might have to rely on backup caliber players at both tackle spots, Ben Jones being a constant injury worry, and regressed right guard. Enter a venomous and fierce Colts’ front seven featuring DeForest Buckner, Darius Leonard, Kwity Paye, and Bobby Okereke.

Get Titans Killer Jack Doyle Going

The former Tennessee Titans tight end has carved out a starring role for the hated rival Colts. He’s been a frequent bugaboo for the Titans due to their inability to cover the tight end for whatever reason. Indy would be wise to use him due to a lack of other receiving weapons outside of its running backs (they are very good at receiving) and a solitary threat in Michael Pittman, Jr. Unfortunately, the Titans get back linebacker Jayon Brown so he will be a boon for the much-maligned Tennessee defense.  

Run the Ball. A Lot

The best way to protect a less-than-ideal quarterback situation? Run the ball. Fortunately for the Colts, they have one of the best young running backs in the game in Jonathan Taylor. Whoever starts for them isn’t the best of options even if Wentz can go. The mere threat of Taylor and Marlon Mack should neutralize a frugal and anemic Titans pass rush. 

Injury Report

What are the odds?

Caesars has the Titans as 5.5 point favorites at -110 while the Colts are +110 dogs. The over/under has been set at 48 even. The money line is the Titans at -250 and the Colts at +205.

BetMGM has the Titans as 5.5 point favorites at -105 while the Colts are +115 dogs. The over/under has been set at 47.5. The money line is the Titans at -250 and the Colts at +200.

Prediction

INDIANAPOLIS 28

Tennessee 24

Colts Fantasy Preview

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

It’s that time of year again where all the armchair general managers start building their teams for this season. Let’s take a look at the names you might want to familiarize yourself with before you huddle up with your buds and start claiming your perfect team.

Carson Wentz: Miss out on Mahomes, Lamar, or A-Rod? Wentz is so intriguing due to his shoulder. There is no denial that Wentz arm talent is top tier but he has struggled the last few seasons. That performance in recent years makes him a high risk yet high reward because, as I mentioned in a previous article, Wentz has upgrades everywhere around him. Everything is there for Wentz to carry your fantasy team the question is can he put it all together with his old OC Frank Reich. Wentz is a QB you want on that roster.

Jonathon Taylor: The year end explosion from Taylor helped many fantasy teams clinch gold as he went beast mode week 17 and set several franchise records as he topped 250 yards. Taylor has already started flying off the board early, lasting in a lot of drafts only until the 2nd round. If Taylor is one of your targets, make him your 1st. All signs point for the 2nd year man to continue his upward trend with Frank Reich already naming him the starter and the teams emphasis on running the ball. No brainer.

Marlon Mack: Marlon is an stash and pray player. If you were lucky enough to draft Taylor you need to grab Mack later in the draft. Stash him and pray Taylor stays healthy but this is your insurance right here. Mack is a proven rusher with over 2,000 yards in the last 3 seasons. If Taylor falters and Mack becomes the hot hand your team is still set. BOGO sale here

Nyhiem Hines: Hines time in the backfield may be short with the logjam of Taylor and Mack but he shines as a pass catcher. Hines has explosive speed combined with great hands to make him a major weapon running routes. Last season he was the 2nd most targeted pass catcher on the entire team, behind only TY Hilton. While the QB change may have an effect on his numbers the scheme the team runs keeps those numbers up. Hines is a boom or bust fantasy guy. He eclipsed 18 points 3 times last year but held solid around 7-10 per game. Need a bye week replacement? Hines is your guy. Late round stash or waiver wire pickup

Colts WRs: T.Y. was simply unplayable last season until week 12. The 1st 11 weeks he averaged 2.4 fantasy points per game. The last 6 weeks of the season he took off averaging 12.5, which was top 10 during that time frame for WRs. Despite that wild fantasy outlook he still lead the club in targets and receptions. If that trend continues he will be a great waiver wire pickup later in the year. Pittman had a few big games but fantasy wise was too unpredictable to roster a spot. Pascal has improved year after year but has yet to attain every week starter status. Parris Campbell needs to actually play. Bottom line is the Colts WR room leaves a lot to be desired. Waiver wire at your own risk.

Colts TEs: Jack Doyle will be the number 1 guy to start the season but that’s not the name to look at. Mo Alie-Cox has the potential to be a breakout star with his size and athleticism. Think 2018 Ebron level of breakout. Reich loves to use his TEs and Wentz best friend in Philly was Zac Ertz. Mo is the sleeper here. Look for him to start the season slow and build towards the middle. Dynasty guys a name to look for to stash and look for later is Kylen Granson. Reich pounded on the table for this guy and looks for him to be a prominent player in the years to come.

Colts Defense: Some leagues have defensive players and there are only 3 guys that are rosterable from Indy. Darius Leonard, Deforest Buckner, and Kenny Moore. Leonard has been a tackles machine with a nose for turnovers while his in game speed gets him sacks. He’s ranked as the 4th best LB by ESPN and lives that up on every snap. Buckner was also ranked by ESPN and he comes in as the 3rd best interior DL on that list. His long arms combined with his non-stop motor makes him a problem every snap. The league loves the slot WR and with the passing game numbers always climbing it pays for you to have the best slot corner in the game. That man is Kenny Moore. Kenny shows a willingness to tackle the ball carrier by leading all slot corners with 80 tackles which gives him fantasy value in the running game as well. He’s a defensive player you want week in and week out. The Colts defense has a top 4 player at each level and with the addition of Kwitty Paye the front looks to be even better. The Colts defense is incredibly draftable and may end up being one of the top in the league by the time fantasy playoffs start.

Is the Maniac worth the crazy price?

Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Darius Leonard (53) celebrates a defensive stop against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

With the signing of 49ers linebacker Fred Warner it is expected in the coming days for Colts linebacker Darius Leonard to reset the market with a massive contract extension. The real question Colts fans are asking themselves happens to be is the money worth it for a linebacker?

Flashback to the second night of the draft in 2018. The Colts had amassed 4 second round picks and General Manager Chris Ballard took a linebacker from South Carolina State with the 36th overall pick. Immediate reaction was mixed as some popular news outlets even went so far as to tab Leonard the worst pick in the entire draft. He quelled those takes very quickly when he exploded in week 2 vs the Football Team with 19 tackles and a sack. From then on out the man they call Maniac tackled and sacked his was to NFL Defensive Rookie Of The Year honors along with 1st team All-Pro honors. Solid 1st season but was he one hit wonder?

Move on to 2019 the 1st team All-Pro looked to continue his rapid rise and hoped earn his 1st Pro Bowl appearance. Leonard faced the 1st big test of his NFL career as he had gotten a concussion and 3 weeks later was still dealing with severe symptoms. Leonard talked about that time and how trying it was as he wondered if he’d ever lace up his cleats again and if he did would he be the same player. He cleared concussion protocol and went on to set career highs in Interceptions and defensive touchdowns. After the year 1 snub Leonard finally cracked the Pro Bowl roster while also getting 2nd team All-Pro.

Last season came with challenges for everyone and Darius Leonard was no exception. In all the Covid-19 roadblocks and hurdles Leonard still had 130 tackles and 3 forced fumbles. While 2020 did become the 1st season Leonard did not notch an interception he still had 7 pass defensed in 14 games played. He made his 2nd consecutive Pro Bowl and was named 1st Team All-Pro. So where does Leonard rank with top linebackers who’ve played at least 3 seasons?

PLAYER A: 48 games 253 solo tackles with 114 assisted 14 QB hits 4 Sacks 5 Forced Fumbles 3 Fumble Recoveries 3 Interceptions 1 Defensive Score

PLAYER B: 40 Games 202 solo tackles with 123 assisted 4 QB hits 1.5 Sacks 3 Forced Fumbles 3 Fumble Recoveries 5 Interceptions 0 Defensive Scores

PLAYER C: 47 Games 251 solo tackles with 184 assisted 23 QB hits 7 Sacks 3 Forced Fumbles 3 Fumble Recoveries 2 Interceptions 1 Defensive Score

PLAYER D: 46 Games 258 solo tackles with 102 assisted 17 QB hits 6 Sacks 7 Forced Fumbles 5 Fumble Recoveries 2 Interceptions 0 Defensive Scores

PLAYER E: 42 Games 268 solo tackles with 148 assisted 17 QB hits 15 sacks 9 Forced Fumbles 4 Fumble Recoveries 7 Interceptions 1 Defensive Score

Which player deserves to be the NFL’s highest paid LB? The players listed are commonly referred to as the top 5 linebackers in the NFL and in order are Fred Warner, Eric Kendricks, Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David, and then Darius Leonard. Playing in less games than all qualifying linebackers except Kendricks, Leonard was 1st in solo tackles, 1st in sacks, 1st in forced fumbles, and 1st in interceptions. He took home 2nd in total tackles behind Bobby Wagner, tied for 2nd in QB hits with Lavonte David behind Bobby Wagner, and he is 2nd in fumble recoveries behind David as well. In every major linebacker category Leonard is consistently one of top the linebackers if not the top. So what do you think? Is Darius Leonard worth the money?

Training Camp Preview: WR Edition

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13) warms up before an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Last year the Colts kept 6 wide outs and the trend continues this year. Unlike the last few positions there are 4 pass catchers who are making the roster. I’m going to break down the others fighting for those last few spots.

Tyler Vaughns- A UDFA from USC with a great track record while in school. In an interview at rookie mini-camp Tyler said he came here due to his familiarity with the O and chemistry with Colts 2nd round pick last year Michael Pittman Jr.

Mike Strachan- The former DII standout athlete showed up and showed out at the West Virginia pro-day. After not playing for a year due to Covid-19 he impressed the Colts scouts by how in shape he was and how well he performed. His 6’5 frame along with his 4.4 speed piqued the Colts interest and so far has gotten wonderful praise from the coaching staff.

Dezmon Patmon- The former 6th round pick has already been working with new QB Carson Wentz this offseason in Houston. Last year was a weird year for him as he spent every week on the 53 man roster yet only played in one game. The Colts kept him for his developmental upside in hopes that he can take a big year 2 leap.

JJ Nelson- Nelson is fighting for his life this training camp. The 29 year old WR is on his 3rd team and has never really caught his stride after being a 5th round pick by Arizona in 2015. Look for the speedy guy to take the top off the defense in camp.

Gary Jennings Jr.- The former 4th round pick in 2019 is now on his 5th team in 2 years. While he possess all the athletic measurables he hasn’t been able to put it together on the field yet.

DeMichael Harris- Harris is an interesting prospect as he made plays last season in a schemed role. The question for the electric Harris is if he can develop enough pure WR skills to earn a spot or improve on special teams enough to secure that roster spot.

Ashton Dulin- Dulin has been a stellar special teamer with the Colts and looks to continue his development under the tutelage of another UDFA Zach Pascal. Dulin’s willingness to do what needs to be done while getting better is a quality every team desires.

Quartney Davis- After not sticking with Minnesota last year the former Aggie looks to make an impression in Indiana. While he has great footwork his speed is just average while his ability to locate the ball lacks causing double catches.

Tarik Black- Tarik is an exciting UDFA from Texas. The former Longhorn is explosive and has an ideal body type at 6’3 213 lbs. Bleacher Report named him as the Colts Most Exciting UDFA and the Colts hope they can work on Black’s route running and his ball skills to turn in another Zach Pascal.

So who’s in and who’s out?

TY Hilton WR1

Zach Pascal WR2

Michael Pittman Jr WR3

Parris Campbell WR4

Dezmon Patmon WR5

Mike Strachan WR6

Training Camp Preview: TE Edition

With the departure of Trey Burton the TE spot has an opening on the 53 man roster. Which TEs are primed and proven to make their mark?

Jack Doyle: Ever since the Colts picked Doyle up off waivers from Tennessee the man has done what ever he’s been asked. Last few years he’s been fighting some rough luck with injuries so it’d be great to see the crafty vet get a full season in like he did in 2017 and 2019. Jack isn’t going to run past or run through defenders in the passing game but where he shines is as one of the leagues very best run blocking TE. For a team that wants to pound the rock that’s some big value

Mo Alie-Cox: Coming off a career year the young TE with the big paws looks to keep it going. Not only did he grab a career high with 31 passes, PFF also graded him as the 2nd best pass blocking TE and 15th best run blocking. Look for this former star of the hardwood to keep improving on the gridiron

Kylen Granson: We all hear the stories about coaches banging on the table for their guys but in this case we saw it. Featured on With The Next Pick Head Coach Frank Reich wanted this rookie TE from the moment he watched his tape and banged on the table for him. The explosive rookie looks to be built for the Colts system with his size and speed. The biggest knock on him seems to be his blocking ability so look for that to be worked on in camp.

Farrod Green: Green was a UDFA in 2020 who spent all of last year on the practice squad after being waived during the final round of preseason cuts. He was elevated to the active roster for one game last year but registered no stats.

Jordan Thomas: Thomas is an interesting enigma. The 6th round pick in 2018 had a very good rookie year notching 20 receptions for 215 yards and 4 scores. Since then Thomas doesn’t even have 4 catches and is playing on his 4th team moving from Houston to Arizona to New England and now to Indy. Can Thomas recapture the rookie year production or will Indy be just another map dot for the journeyman TE.

Noah Togiai: Noah came to the Colts after being claimed off waivers from the Eagles where he signed as a UDFA. Noah spent last season on the practice squad and was elevated for 4 games but did not register a stat.

Andrew Vollert: Andrew is in that same boat that Jordan Thomas is but without the paddle of a solid rookie season. Vollert is now on his 5th team since 2018 and spent the last part of the 2020 season on the Colts practice squad coming over from Carolina.

The Colts rostered 3 TE’s on last years initial 53 man roster and no reason to see they would move on that this year.

Jack Doyle- TE1

Mo Alie-Cox TE2

Kylen Granson- TE3