Carson Wentz and the Colts are desperate for a win
The Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts are relatively familiar with one another after squaring off in 2020. The Ravens were able to take control of the Colts in a knockdown, drag out game that saw a high level of physicality.
In 2021, the Colts are off to a slow start, standing at 1-3 heading into a primetime matchup in Baltimore. They’re without several key players this week, including their first-round pick Kwity Paye, All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith, their right tackle whom they signed to a $70 million contract not too long ago.
Let’s take a look at some of the Colts schemes and tendencies ahead of the matchup.
Offensive pass game
Advanced metrics indicate that Carson Wentz is playing well. The quarterback Indianapolis traded for this offseason to replace Phillip Rivers is eighth in the NFL in “Points Earned” with just over 28. The Colts haven’t been using a ton of play action — their 30 play actions passes attempted ranks 21st in the NFL and their 20% frequency ranks 26th. Wentz has a lower completion percentage on straight drop backs than on play action (21/34 qualifying QBs are higher on PA than without).
Wentz uncharacteristically only thrown 15 deep passes, which encompasses 22% of his pass attempts, ranking 22nd in the NFL. His average distance of target is 6.6 yards, which ranks 29th in the NFL. This is strange considering that the Colts also haven’t utilized much motion or many RPO’s so far. The Colts have used pre-snap motion on 49 of their 154 pass plays, which ranks 22nd in the NFL. They’ve run eight total RPO’s — 15th most of any team — and three of the eight have resulted in gains of 10 or more yards.
Wentz has been blitzed 40 times, the 12th most in NFL. He’s gone 23/33 for 233 yards but only 161 air yards, by far the fewest of passer in the Top-15 of most drop backs against the blitz. The sixth-year passer has been sacked four times when blitzed, tied for sixth most in the league.
Wentz’s successes have been relatively balanced when facing single-high or two-high defenses. Against Cover 1 and Cover 3, Wentz is 16th in NFL in points earned. Against cover-2 man-2 cover-4 cover-6, he’s seventh in points earned. Against the split safety looks, Wentz likes to throw to Michael Pittman Jr. and Nyheim Hines (21/47 passes have gone their way).
Splitting into man vs. zone, Wentz is No. 6 in points earned against man coverages and No. 11 against zone. Wentz’s issues have been much less turnover-related, while he’s still struggling when pressured. Wentz is 20th in points earned when pressured, which is an issue considering he’s been pressured the most of any passer entering Week 4 (38 drop backs). He’s 15-of-30 for 150 yards with no touchdowns nor interceptions and has taken five sacks when pressured. Wentz has also been hit while throwing six times, the most of any quarterback, and has been sacked nine times — tied for the sixth-most.
The Colts’ offensive line hasn’t had a clean bill of health and they’ve struggled to effectively protect their quarterback. Indianapolis lead the NFL in blown block percentage on pass plays, with their lineman having a blown block on 4.5% of their pass blocking reps. For reference, only three teams have have a blown block percentage above four percent.
Their offensive tackle tackle duo has struggled severely in pass protection. Julien Davenport and Eric Fisher have 25 combined blown blocks in pass pro. Davenport has the most in the NFL (14) while Eric Fisher is tied for fourth (11). Guard Mark Glowinksi has the second most blown passing blocks among all guards with seven. Three weak spots in pass protection is debilitating for a quarterback and offense in general. The Colts low use of play action certainly doesn’t aid their offensive line. They also don’t utilize a ton of screens, although the Colts do throw screens to their running backs more than most teams. Their nine screens to Hines and Jonathan Taylor are the fifth-most in football.
The three pass-catchers for the Colts thus far are Pittman Jr., Hines and tight end Mo Allie-Cox. Pittman Jr. is universally a Top-20 receiver by most advanced metrics. The second-year wideout has been a beast for Indianapolis — 15th in points earned, 10th in points above average, 20th in WAR, 16th in PAR (points above replacement). Pittman Jr. leads the Colts in targets by 13 and is a well-balanced receiver that possesses size, speed and the ability to work at all three levels as well as over the middle of the field or on the perimeter.
Offensive run game
The Colts are a zone-heavy run team that has an extremely dangerous back in Taylor, who is spelled by a wonderful third-down speed back in Hines. Taylor is fifth in points earned among all running backs. He’s 12th in points earned per play and fifth in points above replacement.
44 of his carries have been on zone/split zone concepts and he ranks is third in points earned on zone concepts. Only 14 of his carries haven’t used zone concepts. He’s had no carries over 10 yards in man/gap schemes. Taylor is 10th in yards after contact per attempt (2.8 yards) and fifth in missed/broken tackles forced per carry (13.8%) among all backs with at least 20 carries entering Week 4. Taylor is a strong cutback runner, using a different gap than the intended gap on nearly 40% of his carries.
Taylor will be a difficult matchup for a Ravens defense that has the third-worst tackle rate in the NFL, missing or having tackles broken on 13.6% of their attempts in run defense. Despite their poor tackling, Baltimore still rates as a Top-15 unit in points saved per rush attempt and teams have generally avoided running the ball against their stout defensive line. The Ravens have seen the fourth fewest rush attempts against them (83). With an ailing offensive line, the Colts would be wise to relentlessly pound the ball.
All statistics and metrics in this article were provided by Sports Info Solutions.