Positional Grades: Colts at Titans

For the first time since 2011, the Indianapolis Colts fall to 0-3 on the year, struggling in the red zone once again on the road in Nashville in the AFC South opener. (Video via Indianapolis Colts YouTube)
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Though the Indianapolis Colts continue to scratch and claw through three games, the record tells the story for Frank Reich's charges as the Colts fell to 0-3 on the road in Nashville Sunday against the AFC South rival Tennessee Titans. 

Quarterback Carson Wentz gave a valiant effort on two sprained ankles, while Nyheim Hines showed just how great of a weapon he truly is for the Colts. The offense struggled to finish in the red zone once again, and lost star left guard Quenton Nelson early in the game to a high ankle sprain, which could keep him out a few weeks. 

Defensively, the Colts did a decent enough job keeping Derrick Henry from hitting the home run on the ground, but the big, bruising running back rushed for 110 yards as the Titans received three passing touchdowns from the Ryan Tannehill to win 25-16. 

Let's get to some grades. 

QB — C

All credit to Wentz here for giving it a go in a game the Colts desperately needed. Fact of the matter is though he was severely hampered by his injured ankles and really couldn't do much, handicapping the offense through the air. 

A lot of Wentz's damage came on check downs and YAC creation by guys like Hines, Michael Pittman Jr. and tight end Mo Alie-Cox. 

Wentz also missed a couple of key throws in the red zone to Pittman Jr. and Zach Pascal that should have gone for touchdowns. Instead, the Colts settled for field goals and that ended up being the difference in Indianapolis's third straight loss. 

Hopefully another week of rest and recovery can help Wentz heal up and return to some normalcy in Reich's offense. 

RB – A-

Hines was the star of the show on Sunday, rushing for a score and adding another 54 yards through the air, creating big plays throughout the game. 

It was great to see him get more work because he adds so much to the Colts' offense overall as a dual-threat running back. His speed and ability to make defenders miss was very evident on Sunday. 

As for Johnathan Taylor, the Colts have to do a better job of getting him the football more. Taylor started slow and had just 26 yards in the first half and finished with just 64 yards on the ground against the Titans. However, those 64 yards came on 10 carries. 

I understand the Colts were trailing the Titans throughout the game, but Taylor needs to get more work in the run game. 

WR — C+

This grade deals a bit with the Colts being limited by Wentz, but guys like Pittman Jr., Pascal and even Parris Campbell really didn't do much of anything on Sunday, especially after the catch. 

Pittman Jr. should have had a touchdown but Wentz missed him; on the final Colts' drive of the game Wentz gave Pittman Jr. a chance on a go ball down the right sideline, which is a situation you want Pittman Jr. to win as a physical receiver. Obviously he didn't. 

Campbell really didn't create much separation on the day and was largely a non-factor for the Colts. 

TE – B

This is a group that needs more work. I'm not sure what's going on at this point, but Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox just aren't being used properly. 

Doyle had one catch for 10 yards, while Alie-Cox had two catches for 14 yards, including a gain of 11 yards on a tight end screen, dishing out punishment to a pair of Titans' defenders at the end of the run. 

These two were really solid as run blockers, and it feels like they chipped a lot, but these guys need more targets, plain and simple. 

OL — C-

I liked what I saw in the run game from the Colts' offensive line, especially after Nelson left the game in the second quarter. 

Veteran left guard Chris Reed did a really nice job coming in and upholding the standard at the position, while I was pleased with Ryan Kelly and Mark Glowinski in the run game as well. 

Pass protection remains a real issue though. 

Eric Fisher really struggled with speed off the edge, allowing a sack and multiple pressures, while the interior of the Colts' offensive line struggled to identify blitzes, allowing free rushers up the middle to the immobile Wentz, leading to sacks. 

Two sacks allowed and 10 quarterback hits is never a recipe for success, especially with this offense. 

DL — C-

All credit to Al-Quadin Muhammad, who is playing some really good football through three weeks for Indianapolis. He felt like the odd man out with all the moves the Colts made at defensive end, but he's stepped up and played some really good football.

Muhammad recorded a tackle for loss on Sunday and played the run really well against Derrick Henry. 

Aside from Muhammad, nobody else in the trenches for the Colts was adequate. 

Kemoko Turay flashed some speed off the edge, forcing Ryan Tannehill to step up in the pocket, but he is struggling to finish. Same for Ben Banogu and even rookie Kwity Paye, who left the game early with a hamstring injury. 

Inside, Grover Stewart was relatively stout, but it felt like the Titans ran away from him often, while DeForest Buckner really struggled to make the impact we've come to expect. 

At this point, the Colts just aren't getting much out of Tyquan Lewis, which is a disappointment. 

LB — B-

Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke were much, much better in this one compared to one week ago. 

Leonard recorded an interception and was around the football a ton on Sunday, while Okereke recorded a sack on a terrific coffeehouse stunt. He tracked plays sideline to sideline and looked like the linebacker the Colts were expecting to see in Year 3. 

Zaire Franklin gave the Colts some strong reps in base defense as well, though the Titans really chewed up the Colts' front seven on the ground. 

DB — C-

Yes, Kenny Moore II and Rock Ya-Sin forced turnovers on the day, but Xavier Rhodes had a big pass interference penalty that set up a Titans' score, and Moore was cooked in slot by former Colt Chester Rogers for a touchdown. 

Safety play was average as well, though Julian Blackmon had a really strong day against the run, leading the team with 11 tackles while filing lanes with force and sound tackling. 

Khari Willis left with a hamstring injury, but prior to that was a bit rough in pass coverage, which is starting to become a concern. 

Special Teams — C-

Franklin's roughing the kicker penalty on a punt by the Titans allowed Tennessee to extend a drive after the Colts made it a 14-13 game and forced a three and out. That was a brutal penalty. 

The Colts also struggled to bottle up Rogers on punt returns, allowing the former Colt to rack up 44 yards on three returns, allowing the Titans to set up in favorable field position. 

Kicker Rodrigo Blankenship was solid until his final kick, pushing a 51-yard attempt wide right. Blankenship had previously hit from 43, 22 and 24 yards before missing his final attempt. 

Punter Rigoberto Sanchez had a decent day overall, averaging 49.3 yards per punt and downing one inside the Titans' 20 yard line, but it felt like he was out-kicking his coverage at times, leading to Rogers creating some plays on punt returns. 

Have thoughts on the positional grades for the Indianapolis Colts following the loss to the Tennessee Titans? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel! 

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