Week Three in the NFL is upon us, and for the Indianapolis Colts, that means trying to avoid an 0-3 start.
The Colts are traveling down to Nashville this week to square off with the Tennessee Titans in their first division game of the season. The Titans stand at 1-1 and are looking to gain an early leg up in the AFC South.
While the Colts enter this matchup with injury concerns all over the roster, it is still a crucial game that could have playoff implications down the line.
Here are the areas to watch as kickoff from Nissan Stadium approaches.
Colts’ Quarterback Position
As of Friday morning, it does not look very likely that quarterback Carson Wentz will be suiting up for the Colts. Wentz suffered sprains to both of his ankles during the loss to the Los Angeles Rams last week and has not practiced at all this week.
With Wentz likely to miss Sunday’s game, Jacob Eason and Brett Hundley become the “next men up.” Eason has served as Wentz’s backup all season and took his first NFL snaps last week when Wentz came out of the game. Hundley has spent the season on the Colts practice squad.
For both Eason and Hundley, they will need to make sure they are prepared as a big divisional opponent awaits.
“We have a great QB room with a lot of talented dudes in there,” Eason said when asked about competing to start. “From here on out there’s always going to be someone competing for that same spot I want. We’ve got a great locker room, great group of guys, great coaching staff. So, we’ll get it figured out. For me, it only makes me better. I’m happy with where I’m at. I’ve got a lot of room to continue to grow and improve.”
“Things change fast,” Hundley said. “With the NFL, with football, it’s one of the biggest things, especially being a backup quarterback. You just have to be ready and sometimes that means being ready in any given situation. Honestly stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.”
It is thought that the Colts may use both Eason and Hundley if Wentz cannot go. While Eason is the backup, Hundley has previous starting experience in the NFL and provides more mobility at the position.
Regardless of which one of these quarterbacks are playing, the Colts will need everyone around them to step up and have big games if the Colts want to compete for the win.
Offensive Line MUST Improve
The play of the Colts’ offensive line so far this season can be described in three simple words: Not good enough.
In the first two games, Wentz has been sacked six times and hit 21 times. While some of that is on Wentz and other factors, the majority of the blame falls on the offensive line.
“It’s unacceptable,” All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson declared after last week’s game. “Going into next week, we are going to fix a lot of things and get back to playing Indianapolis Colts football – our offensive line.”
The offensive line will be more important than ever this week. If Wentz does end up playing, he will not be near as mobile and the protection will need to be spectacular. If Wentz cannot go, the offensive line will still need to have a big game to take pressure off Eason and Hundley as well as open up holes to get the running game going.
The Titans’ defensive front has several guys that will be wanting to make an impact. This is especially true for defensive end Denico Autry, the former Colts starter who spent the last three seasons in Indianapolis. If there was ever a week for the Colts offensive line to get back to dominance, it’s this week.
Containing Derrick Henry
This is much easier said than done. Since Matt Eberflus became the defensive coordinator for the Colts in 2018, Henry has been one of the only running backs to rack up over 100 yards in a game against this Colts’ defense.
Henry is arguably the best running back in the NFL today. His incredible size and power combined with his homerun speed keeps opposing teams up at night. The Colts will need to make sure they focus on their technique when tackling and have multiple guys flying to the ball.
“Obviously, everybody doing their job in the run game,” All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner explained when asked how to contain Henry. “Being in the gaps, their assignments and also, tackling him low. Coach (Matt Eberflus) preaches about hamstring tackling and also team tackle. We need hats on the ball, especially against a guy like him.”
“He’s about 270 pounds playing running back,” All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard said. “He’s got great vision and their offensive scheme puts him in position to have mismatches on the outside. You see a lot of times they run the Tampa and then the only thing he’s doing is jump cutting, stiff arming the cornerbacks on the outside. So that’s why we have to be great with our crack replace and linebackers scraping over the top, and making sure that we have seven-plus to the ball.”
The Colts know they must contain Henry to have a shot at the win. While Henry will most likely still put up numbers, the Colts are confident in their chances if they do not allow him to take over the game.
But like I mentioned, easier said than done.
Have thoughts on the key areas to watch for the Indianapolis Colts-Tennessee Titans matchup Sunday in Nashville? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!
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