Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Jeff Saturday's Game Management, Jonathan Taylor's Usage, Quarterback Depth Chart

The Colts Mailbag returns for Week 13 with questions on the end of Monday night's game, why Jonathan Taylor isn't always on the field and more heading into Sunday night's matchup against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. 

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The Colts Mailbag is back! readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here, or by taking part in the Forums. You can also send your questions to @JJStankevitz on Twitter.

Let's get after this week's questions:

Terry Wilson, Greenwood, Ind.: What happened at the end of the Steelers game? Why didn't Saturday call a timeout?

JJ Stankevitz: So the situation was: After Matt Ryan picked up 14 yards on a scramble, there were about 50 seconds left on the clock with the Colts facing a third and three at the Steelers' 23-yard line. Saturday elected to not call a timeout and get the offense into a run play both he and playcaller Parks Frazier felt good about. It took the Colts a little longer than they anticipated to get set for the play, and Ryan snapped the ball with 34 seconds left. Running back Jonathan Taylor was tackled for no gain with 30 seconds to go, and at that point, Saturday called timeout.

On Tuesday, Saturday addressed his decision-making.

"I wish I had that third down back," Saturday said. "In all honesty, I wish I would've used a timeout. Just looking at it on film – I looked at it last night again, looked at it this morning again. From a time perspective, I felt good but you could tell we were in disarray. I just didn't have a great feel. Parks made a great call. I still like the call. Right away, I told him to have one ready and as soon as he went down he had the call in place. His was on, but then we had the formation and personnel – we had guys running across.

"Again, looking back it's a learning experience. I didn't meet my expectations. Again, I hold the guys accountable, I'm accountable for that. That one is the one that is going to stick with me. So, use it as a learning experience, hopefully get better at it but frustrated with myself on that. Again, when you look back, you hate to say it but that's execution, and that one's on me. I talk about, I preach about accountability and execution, and I'm living by the same words. So, I've got to be accountable to it."

Matthew Valli, Zionsville, Ind.: Regards our running game, it seems rather futile to run up the gut for minimal gain in the hopes that JT might break one. Why not go wide every now and then? Why not bring back the stretch play or pitch it to JT and let find the edge? Are our TEs not capable of going in motion to deliver a wham block, like Jack Doyle, and break JT free? Also, Why was JT not part of the 2-minute package? That seems like a poor decision to have your best back on the sidelines during crunch time. Happy to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

JJ Stankevitz: Lots of questions here. Let's take them one-by-one.

The Colts are, and have been, a primarily zone running offense (these numbers are per Pro Football Focus). Last year, 63 percent of Taylor's runs were inside or outside zone; this year, it's 59 percent. And most of those are inside zone concepts – in 2021, 31 percent of Taylor's carries were inside zone; in 2022, it's 43 percent.

You are right that the Colts are using less outside zone (16 percent) than they did last year (33 percent), but there are a few big differences personnel-wise at left tackle (Eric Fisher in 2021), right guard (Mark Glowinski/Chris Reed), tight end (Jack Doyle) and wide receiver (Zach Pascal). Those departures were always going to lead to the Colts installing tweaks and changes to their run offense throughout 2022. But it's also notable that Taylor is having more success on inside zone (5.1 yards per carry) than outside zone (3.6 yards per carry) in 2022.

The Colts' tight ends are capable of doing that, by the way – Mo Alie-Cox did to spring Taylor's 67-yard touchdown in Week 10 against the Las Vegas Raiders, for example.

And finally, this is a fair question on Taylor's usage in two-minute situations. But if you notice, this isn't anything new:

Table inside Article
Year Player 2-minute snaps
2022 Deon Jackson 42
2022 Nyheim Hines 28
2022 Jonathan Taylor 24
2022 Phillip Lindsay 14
2021 Nyheim Hines 107
2021 Jonathan Taylor 22
2020 Nyheim Hines 103
2020 Jonathan Taylor 14
2020 Jordan Wilkins 7

Plenty of teams use certain players in specialized third down/two-minute situations based on their pass-catching and pass-blocking acumen.

Ron Preston, Richmond, Va.: JJ, with the offense still struggling can Jeff Saturday get them going over the last 6 games? Seems there are glimpses of cohesion but it's not consistent. Watching Nick Sirianni and his fire; was he that "FIRE" for the Colts as their OC? Chemistry change cost Frank Reich his job!

I had season tickets for the first two in Indy. Really miss seeing live action. Even have to go to a local Pub now when game isn't on in Richmond, VA. Thanks for all your media team does to keep us informed.

JJ Stankevitz: Glimpses of cohesion is a good way to put it. The Colts have plays and drives where things are clicking and the offense is able to be explosive or get into a rhythm. The issue continues to be negative plays – the Colts have 122 plays that've resulted in zero yards or lost yardage, tied with the New England Patriots for the most in the NFL. As for how it gets fixed, I'm not sure, but I can tell you that the Colts are still working at it.

"It is a league of where the margins are small," Ryan said. "Too often we have found ourselves on the wrong end of it, but you just have to keep pushing forward. You have to prepare really well. I thought today in the walk-through the intensity and the mindset was good. It's the combination of trying to refine things in practice, refine the things during meetings and in our walk-throughs, but also maintaining the self belief that you're going to make the plays in certain situations even though some of those things haven't gone your way throughout the year. That's part of being a professional is getting yourself back up and having that strong self belief that you're going to make those plays."

Cooper Franklin, Fort Wayne, Ind.: What are the chances of Matt Ryan being benched again?

JJ Stankevitz: This is not a consideration for the Colts right now. Saturday re-iterated this week that Ryan is the team's starting quarterback, and that he hasn't given any thought to re-working the depth chart to elevate Nick Foles to be his backup.

Mike Hudson, Indianapolis: Is Parks Frazier's use of Frank Reich's play book the problem with the Colts inability to score touchdowns once inside the 30 yard line?

JJ Stankevitz: Just a quick reminder that this isn't a video game where you can swap out an entire playbook in the middle of a season. The Colts spent months installing this offense, and to go to another playbook right now would mean using plays the team hasn't practiced. You'd probably see a lot of operational penalties (false starts, illegal shifts, delay of games) and not any more success. It's just not something teams do during a season.

Having said that, the bye week – which the Colts will finally reach after Sunday's game – is usually an opportunity for a coaching staff to make some bigger-picture scheme tweaks. That doesn't mean blowing up the playbook, but it could mean some changes to certain aspects of plays here or there.

My Cause, My Cleats celebrates the positive impact that players make in their communities by providing them with a unique opportunity to highlight the charitable partners that they are passionate about on their cleats. On December 4 at the Dallas Cowboys, 58 members of the Colts organization, including players, interim head coach Jeff Saturday, General Manager Chris Ballard, and the Irsay family will sport custom-designed cleats.

B Harsh, Columbus, Ind.: I think the Colts would make the playoffs if they had a top-tier kicker. Why not use a draft pick to get the best kicker? It's the surest way to win more games. Has the GM ever talked about this?

JJ Stankevitz: The surest way to win games is to be efficient and explosive on offense, and to be stifling on defense. Also, the Colts have been solid at kicker this year – Chase McLaughin is 20/25, and has made six of nine kicks of 50-plus yards.

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