Key Matchups To Watch: Rams At Colts
The Los Angeles Rams head to Indianapolis this week to take on the Colts, in what looks like another favorable matchup for Sean McVay’s squad. Here are the key matchups.
Wentz vs Colts Offensive Line
Carson Wentz looked good when he wasn’t under pressure against the Seahawks. Unfortunately for him, he was under pressure 14 times in the game, fifth-most in week one. Wentz was able to connect 25 times for 251 yards and two touchdowns. But with this amount of pressure Wentz had to keep his passes short to the tune of only 4.4 intended air yards per attempt, 32nd in the league. He was unable to target his best receivers or make any explosive throws.
This, of course, falls directly on the offensive line. This unit was projected to be one of the best. Left guard Quenton Nelson and right tackle Braden Smith are highly regarded as elite linemen. Center Ryan Kelly and right guard Mark Glowinski aren’t far behind that level. Other than Nelson, none played up to expectations against the Seahawks. Although the biggest liability was at right tackle. Julien Davenport allowed two of the three sacks and was given a 42.5 pass-blocking grade by Pro Football Focus.
The good news for Wentz and Indianapolis is that he shouldn’t be starting much longer. The Colts added Eric Fisher in the offseason after Anthony Castonzo retired. Fisher joined the Colts after surgery to his achilles tendon, an injury he sustained in the AFC Championship game and one he is still recovering from. He is currently listed as day-to-day. Given how poorly Davenport played, Fisher’s return may be fast-tracked.
The Rams will likely face improved protection if Fisher is able to play and the coaching staff is able to get the rest of the offensive line heads on straight. Last week the Rams faced a less talented offensive line against the Bears but were unable to generate consistent and meaningful pressure. The Rams pressured Andy Dalton just five times while blitzing the sixth-most in the league. Contrast that to Pittsburgh who blitzed once yet generated pressure 18 times. Against Dalton this isn’t an issue, he throws short regardless of pressure. But Wentz is a much better quarterback in a clean pocket.
Raheem Morris and the defense will have to become more efficient pass rushers against this offense. This could result in a big game for Justin Hollins. He generated two of the five pressures and picked up two sacks on each of his blitzes. It will also be very important for Leonard Floyd to get to Wentz. Against the Bears, he had zero pressures, despite blitzing three times
Kenny Young vs Jack Doyle and Zach Pascal
The Bears’ passing game targeted one of the Rams’ defensive strengths: their secondary. And that was not good for them. Jalen Ramsey and Co. allowed 6.6 yards per target, swatted away four passes and David Long came up with a heads-up interception. Indianapolis took a different approach when attacking Seattle. They went after their linebackers. Wentz targeted Jordyn Brooks 11 times and Bobby Wagner 5 times, resulting in 88 yards. Neither are great in coverage, but against the Colts they got the job done.
Rams linebacker Kenny Young did a fantastic job in week one, but he wasn’t asked to drop into coverage much. He was only targeted once and Troy Reeder, the only other linebacker targeted, was thrown at twice.
The Colts will certainly challenge Young’s ability to cover either tight end Jack Doyle or slot receiver Zach Pascal. Young appears to have taken a huge leap over last season. He has improved to the point that the Rams kept him in the game for every single one of their 69 defensive snaps.
That being said, he did struggle in coverage responsibilities last season where he gave up 176 yards after the catch, third-most on the team despite being targeted eighth-most on the team. He also allowed the highest completion percentage on the team of any player targeted more than 10 times.
Young’s improvement has been incredible and the proof is his standout performance against the Bears. But he hasn’t been tested and the Colts will go after him. Furthermore, Young isn’t as complete of a linebacker as Wagner or Brooks. So, this game will prove if Young’s improvement is legitimate.
Frank Reich vs Fourth Down
On the first drive of the game last week, the Colts dinked and dunked the ball down the field all the way to the Seattle three-yard line. On fourth and goal from the THREE, Frank Reich trotted Rodrigo Blankenship out to secure three points on a chip shot field goal. Three points are fine, but do you know what is better? Six! Especially against a high-powered offense like Seattle or let’s say the Rams. Despite his reputation as an aggressive fourth-down decision-maker, Reich displayed odd tendencies last week.
There was another example of this at the beginning of the final quarter. The Colts were able to move the ball for the first time in the half and they had gotten to the Seattle 33. Reich then called four passing plays in a row that got them to the 18-yard line setting up a fourth and two. Reich called another passing play, this time in shotgun with an 11 personnel package. Seattle recognized it as an obvious pass set and sent pressure and was able to sack Wentz.
The Seahawks pass rush had been mauling Wentz all game. The Colts only needed to pick up two yards and the running backs were both averaging more than that. They had also run the ball well on this drive. Keeping the drive alive is the right way to play when you are down by 11 in the fourth quarter. Pick up the two yards and live to fight another four downs.
Reich can’t afford to leave points on the field, especially on fourth down. Stafford will definitely go after the safeties as Russell Wilson did. That is to say, make some deep throws and try to hang up some touchdowns early in the game. The Colts will have to score when they are able to move the ball if they want to keep up with the Rams.