Every NFL team aspiring for a Super Bowl wants an elite defense. However, it is the offense that scores the points and wins on the scoreboard. This is an area of football where the Indianapolis Colts have massively disappointed.
After bringing Matt Ryan over from the Atlanta Falcons in a trade, the Colts figured they finally had the Super Bowl formula to un-tap the potential of the offense by pairing the legend with running back phenom Jonathan Taylor. However, this has been the Achilles Heel for the Colts and Ryan has never looked so confused, slow, and inefficient in his arm as a quarterback throughout his illustrious career.
Along with Ryan, Taylor has looked like a ghost of his 2021 self. With those two in mind, let’s take a journey through the struggles of the 2022 Colts and their offense. Over the next three articles, I’ll cover the quarterbacks/running backs, wide receivers/tight ends, and the offensive line and how they’ve failed to lift an elite defense to a winning record through the first 11 games.
Let’s begin with the man they call "Matty Ice."
Matt Ryan | Quarterback
Entering his 15th year in the league, Ryan was acquired in a trade from the Falcons this offseason. Since his arrival, he has failed to appear comfortable in any form.
Through 11 games, he has an abysmal 87.1 passer rating, which is the lowest of his entire career, barely edging out his rookie season in 2008 (87.7) when he was the Rookie of the Year.
This is a microcosm of a year that Ryan wishes he could likely reassess. This struggle came to a head in Week 8 when he was benched by former head coach Frank Reich for Sam Ehlinger to face the Washington Commanders, the replacement being a backup, second-year player out of Texas.
However, it soon showed no difference, as Ehlinger struggled mightily, if not worse than Ryan, going 32-of-52 passing for 304 yards with no touchdowns and 2 turnovers.
Following the firing of Reich, new interim head coach Jeff Saturday immediately threw Ryan back into the fold against the Las Vegas Raiders. Since then, Ryan has a record of 1-1 with a recent, but close, loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. For the year, Ryan shows a very uncharacteristic stat bundle, currently 247-of-357 with 10 touchdowns and 12 total turnovers (9 interceptions and 3 fumbles lost).
Jonathan Taylor, Deon Jackson | Running Back
Even though the quarterback gets looked at often for offensive struggles, Ryan isn’t the only one being hampered by an inefficient offensive line and consistency issues. Taylor, the NFL's 2021 rushing king, has been unrecognizable, regardless of who is the signal caller or head coach.
During his sophomore season, Taylor was a monster of a problem for every defense that opposed him. With an elite performance week in and week out from the offensive line, Taylor put together 332 rushes for 1,811 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns (20 total). He was electric, even with an unsure passer in then-quarterback Carson Wentz.
It has been far worse with a solution at quarterback that was supposed to be better, and even take pressure off of Taylor. After Taylor's monstrous 161-yard Week 1 performance against the Houston Texans, Taylor regressed, going only for 301 rushing yards over his next five games, as an ankle injury would remove him for three total contests (Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New England Patriots).
In that stretch, a backup, second-year man out of Duke, Deon Jackson, filled in, mostly attributing to the passing attack. He’d compile 36 carries for 127 yards and 1 touchdown, with his largest contribution coming in Week 6 at home against the Jaguars, where he and Ryan connected for 10 catches for 79 yards.
In Week 10 against Las Vegas, in the first game of Saturday’s coaching career, Jackson was relegated to his backup role and Taylor regained his footing, exploding for 147 yards on 22 carries, including a 66-yard scamper to the end zone.
After coming off of a tough game against the Eagles, Taylor currently posts 8 games, 693 rushing yards on 151 attempts, and 3 rushing scores. He also has 21 receptions for only 97 yards (career-low).
With 11 games in the books, the Colts are nothing like they wanted to be in the rushing department, sitting at a measly 22nd in the league with one game played over all of the next 10 teams behind them in rushing yards (1,086 for 98.7 YPG).
It isn’t the lack of a rushing attack that is the only disappointment. Whether it’s Ryan or Ehlinger, the season totals for passing the ball aren’t much better. Right now, the Colts do nail down the ninth spot in the NFL at 2,449 yards passing. However, they average, as a team, the second-fewest points per game with 15.7.
This puts into perspective how often that kicker Chase McLaughlin has had to score for the team, essentially winning the 12-9 struggle in Week 5 against the Broncos (he was 4-of-4 that day and 19-of-23 for the season). You can’t win as an offense with your kicker shouldering the responsibility or without scoring touchdowns, with the Colts' offense only having 16 team touchdowns.
That number doesn’t cut it for any NFL offense. With the Pittsburgh Steelers on tap for a “get right” Monday night matchup, we will have to see if there’s any spark in the offense, or if it will continue to flounder and underperform in a crucial situation where touchdowns are the recipe for success.