The Scouting Report for Thursday night’s Colts-Broncos game is produced by The 33rd Team’s Scouting Department, which is led by former Eagles, Cardinals, and Ravens personnel executive T.J. McCreight and assisted by scouts Justin Casey, Kevin Cohn, and Evan Pritt.
Colts OL vs. Broncos DL
- The Colts are 28th in sacks allowed at 9.74% against a Broncos defense that is seventh in sack rate at 8.53%.
- Jonathan Taylor is only averaging 3.48 yds per rush (5.08 in 2021 which was second in NFL) against a Broncos defense that is 20th in yards rushing allowed per play at 4.85.
- The offensive line has really underperformed to start the season. The RG position has been a serious concern for them. Danny Pinter has struggled and even got benched for Week 4. Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith look to be overcompensating for the struggles at RG and have struggled themselves. Quenton Nelson is struggling to generate a push on defensive tackles in the run game. He still has very good movement skills but the lack of push has been alarming. Matt Pryor is clearly in over his head at left tackle. He does not have the athletic ability to win against speed and struggles when he can’t get his hands on his defender. Offensive tackle Bernhard Raimann was taken in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft and may get his number called soon if Pryor continues to struggle. This group is a major concern and the main reason for their lack of early season success.
- The loss of Randy Gregory (knee) for an extended period of time is a major loss for the Broncos’ defense. While he has only two sacks, he has been one of the top edge rushers, generating pressure on over 22% of his pass-rush snaps. Without him, they lack a dynamic edge rusher. Perhaps second-round pick Nik Bonitto out of Oklahoma, who has just 15 snaps so far, will get more chances.
- Bradley Chubb should be the headliner as a former number five overall pick. Chubb leads the Broncos with three sacks, but his play on video can be underwhelming. He lacks variety in his rush and doesn’t flash the bend or burst you would like. He will win with some power and use of hands. He is better against the run. He can set the edge with strong hands and sheds well to find the ball. I would like to see more burst when he is crashing down from the backside, however.
- Dre’mont Jones has been their most productive interior defensive lineman with 14 tackles, two sacks, and two TFLs on running plays. He likes to shoot gaps and win with his initial move whether it’s a rip, swim, or swipe. If his initial effort is thwarted, he lacks counter-effort and strength to win most times. It looks like he freelances and will jump out of his gap in an effort to get penetration.
- D.J. Jones is a true nose tackle who plays both the pass and run well. He lacks length, but he plays with good leverage and above-average quickness for his size. He shows good vision and awareness to find the ball while engaged.
- Even without Gregory, the Denver pass rush could cause problems for a Colts OL that has struggled with communication. The Broncos blitz at the sixth-highest rate at over 31%.
- When the Broncos ran their speed rush personnel with two stand-up outside backers and two interior DL, the Raiders were able to double-team them and create some big lanes for Josh Jacobs up the middle. It will be interesting to see if the Colts can do something similar and finally give some room for Taylor to get on track.
Broncos WRs vs. Colts Secondary
- The Broncos are 18th in the NFL with 226 yards passing per game and 30th with 16.5 points per game. Russell Wilson and his pass catcher do not appear to be in sync yet. K.J. Hamler only has one catch on the season and don’t be shocked if his playing time is reduced.
- With the emergence of Montrell Washington in the return game, it could be possible that he takes away some snaps from Hamler on offense.
- Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy are talented players that eventually will hit their stride with Wilson and produce as expected. They are not easy to cover.
- The Colts rank 10th in the NFL in yards passing allowed at an average of 207 and 13th in points per game allowed at 21.3.
- Stephon Gilmore has proven to be able to travel with Sutton based on their matchups in the past. Gilmore is still a productive player and a top-level cornerback. Gilmore has even produced while covering tight ends in the past.
- Kenny Moore II will play in the slot and look out for his ability to play the ball as he has excellent hands and ball skills. This will be a good matchup to watch against Jerry Jeudy.
- I see this as the game that Wilson will show what he is capable of doing. The Colts have some talented defensive backs, but Wilson will take advantage of their ordinary eye control and his experience will win this game. It is time for him to be the old Russ.
Patrick Surtain II vs. Michael Pittman Jr.
- Matchup of sons of long-time NFL players by the same name.
- Surtain has primarily lined up as an outside corner this season. While he did not specifically travel against DK Metcalf and Davante Adams, he did cover them often.
- Surtain has the length and play style to match up with Pittman. He is very good in press coverage with his stab and feet to match any release. He gives up very little air at the top of routes. He’s extremely patient and disciplined. He doesn’t fall for stutters or change of speed. He will almost run the route for receivers. I don’t expect he will get beaten deep very often both because of his technique discipline and his recovery speed. He plays the ball well at the catch point. He is the rare cover corner who likes to tackle. He looks like he loves to compete and plays with extreme confidence. If you catch the ball against him, it is going to be contested. I would rarely target him.
- Pittman has had a good start to his season. He is a big-bodied receiver who possesses good athletic ability and speed. He has strong hands and is not afraid to go over the middle. He can go above the rim and high-point the ball. He has the skill set to give Surtain a real challenge. He has clearly been Matt Ryan’s favorite target to start the season.
- Pittman will line up all over the formation, so if Surtain is tasked with following him, he will be on the move frequently. Pittman may see the bulk of his targets from the slot; Surtain has not gone there often this season. This could be the Colts’ best strategy to get the ball to Pittman.
- Matt Ryan has nine fumbles this season. Only two have been lost but his ball security is a real concern.
- Melvin Gordon has four fumbles and lost two of them. With Javonte Williams out for the season with a torn ACL, Gordon has to improve his ball security or the Denver running game is in trouble.
- Broncos rookie Montrell Washington leads the NFL in punt return yards and is second in average at over 15 yards per return. He also only has one fair catch. He had returns of 30, 20, and 16 yards last week against the Raiders. He makes the first guy miss and has been on the verge of breaking one several times. Indy is 25th in the league, allowing almost 10 yards per return.
Colts’ Keys to Victory
- Have answers to get the ball out quickly versus the Broncos’ blitz packages.
- The OL has to give Jonathan Taylor some room to work.
- Create turnovers.
Broncos’ Keys to Victory
- Make Matt Ryan move and hold the ball.
- Take the reins off of the offense.
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