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Know Your Enemy: Colts Offensive Line Critical Versus Denver Broncos

The Colts don’t have much time to recover from last Sunday’s difficult loss to the Tennesse Titans as they prepare for a hungry Denver Broncos team on Thursday night.

The Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos are two teams that have been disappointed with poor offensive showings through the season’s first quarter. With major injuries impacting both teams, who has the advantage coming into Week Five’s opening matchup?

Colts vs. Broncos: Offensive Comparisons

Quarterback

Colts fans are at odds regarding the play of Matt Ryan through four weeks. While Ryan is fourth in the league in passing yards, he has also had an issue with turnovers early on. Clearly, the ineffective offensive line is a key contributor to this issue, but the fumbles from Ryan simply have to stop. On the bright side, Ryan has spread the ball out well to his receivers and tight ends. His yardage totals are an indication of how well Ryan could play for the Colts, given more time to throw.

The Denver Broncos have faced their fair share of offensive woes to begin the year. Russell Wilson was brought in with the expectation to return the team to Super Bowl contention. After a stunning loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Wilson and the offense continued to struggle through back-to-back wins. They seemed to put it together last week against the Raiders. Wilson connected with Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler on deep balls and was a dropped pass away from leading a two-minute drill in the fourth.

Advantage: Broncos


JERRY. JEUDY. 📺: CBS pic.twitter.com/I6HVAW0R2u — Denver Broncos (@Broncos) October 2, 2022

Running Backs

Jonathan Taylor suffered an ankle injury and did not practice on Monday. He hasn’t been ruled out officially, but the Colts should look for a heavy dose of Nyheim Hines either way. Hines hasn’t been as involved in the offense early on as many would like. This unfortunate injury to Taylor could become an opportunity for the Colts to get Hines into a rhythm.

Javonte Williams suffered a torn ACL last week and will miss the rest of the season. This means that Melvin Gordon will take over as the lead back in Denver. Although he has put up solid numbers with the split workload, Gordon’s two fumbles were costly against the Raiders. Gordon will be a quality starter for the Broncos, but he has his own injury history that could be cause for concern.

Advantage: Colts


Nyheim Hines does a flip in the end zone 🤯 (via @thecheckdown)pic.twitter.com/rzYzvWF5c6 — Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 1, 2020

Wide Receivers

One of the positives to come out of last week’s loss was the continued growth of rookie receiver Alec Pierce. Pierce caught four passes for 80 yards, including a 44-yarder that was encouraging to see. We can expect Michael Pittman, Jr. to bounce back from a slow week, but the question remains: Will Parris Campbell emerge as the playmaker that he was drafted to be?

The Broncos receiver room is incredibly talented. This group has to be thrilled to be playing with a former MVP. Cortland Sutton and Jeudy both caught touchdown passes, and Hamler caught his first pass of the year in style. We should expect this group to continue to improve over time. Luckily for the Colts, it’s a short week.

Advantage: Broncos


Not much prettier than a @DangeRussWilson deep pass. 🎯 📺: #DENvsLV on CBS 📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/qvpR1tCMp1 pic.twitter.com/tXjeZ5wf79 — NFL (@NFL) October 2, 2022

Tight Ends

Indianapolis finds themselves in a unique position. They have three tight ends making plays in the passing game. Mo Alie-Cox led all Colts receivers in targets, catches, yards, and touchdowns against the Titans. Kylen Gransen caught four for 62 yards, and Jelani Woods caught a 33-yarder. The Colts clearly miss Jack Doyle’s blocking, but this group has been crucial to the passing attack.

Denver’s tight end situation isn’t as promising. After losing Noah Fant in the trade that landed Wilson, the team looked to Albert Okwuegbunam to take over. So far, the 2020 fourth-round pick has caught six passes for 45 yards. Last week, Eric Saubert caught his second pass of the season.

Advantage: Colts


The #Colts tight ends accounted for 50.5% of the passing yards. That effort was led by Mo Alie-Cox with 6 receptions for 85 yards and 2 touchdowns. pic.twitter.com/BDYcrIsbet — Cody Manning (@CodyTalksNFL) October 4, 2022

Offensive Line

Pass. In all seriousness, the offensive line is the biggest issue with the Colts’ offense. Some could argue that the spike of turnovers directly results from the poor protection up front. Quinton Nelson and Ryan Kelly are being asked to help cover assignments, which hasn’t held up. The Colts have questions to answer at both the right guard and left tackle spots.

Denver hasn’t looked great here, either. The Las Vegas Raiders came into their game with only two sacks for the season. They added three to that total last week against the Broncos. Denver has given up 12 sacks this season compared to the Colts’ 15.

Advantage: Broncos


The Broncos will be in a tough spot without Javonte Williams if they don't get improved play from the offensive line. Across the past three weeks, Denver ranks 27th in yards per carry before contact (0.75), 25th in pressure rate allowed (34.9 percent) and 29th in sack% (10.1). — Nick Kosmider (@NickKosmider) October 3, 2022

Colts vs. Broncos: Defensive Comparisons

Front Seven

DeForest Buckner was a full participant in Monday’s practice. The defensive line accounted for all three of the Colts’ sacks last week and will be asked to provide that pressure again this week. Kwity Paye has 12 tackles and three sacks so far. Shaquille Leonard is out this week with multiple injuries. The Colts will look to Zaire Franklin and Bobby Okereke to fill that void.

Randy Gregory is going to miss time with a knee injury. Bradley Chubb will make things difficult for Indianapolis up front. Linebackers Joey Jewell and Jonas Griffith each had over 10 tackles last week. Josh Jacobs ate this group up to the tune of 144 yard and two touchdowns.

Advantage: Colts


Great timing on this stunt by DeForest Buckner and Kwity Paye. Paye finishes it off to get his third sack of the season. pic.twitter.com/WndiagevTq — Cody Manning (@CodyTalksNFL) October 4, 2022

Defensive Backfield

The Colts give up seven yards per pass attempt on average. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 68% of their passes against this secondary. Indianapolis has allowed seven passing touchdowns and forced only one interception. Kenny Moore II had five tackles last week, and Stephon Gilmore has 14 for the season. Julian Blackmon did not practice Monday with an ankle injury.

Denver’s secondary has put up decent numbers to start the year. They’ve given up six yards per attempt through four weeks and held David Carr to 188 yards passing. Although, 101 of those came from Davantae Adams alone. Patrick Surtain II and Kareem Jackson are the players to watch in this group, along with K’Waun Williams, who had five tackles and a sack last week.

Advantage: Colts


RODNEY MCLEOD PICKS IT OFF TO SEAL THE GAME FOR THE COLTS! pic.twitter.com/E47nL5l7tB — NFL (@NFL) September 25, 2022

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