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Most Important Guys You’ve Never Heard Of: Colts Edition

The recent history between these teams is mostly positive for the Bolts, but that really does not mean a thing for the Monday Night game. While Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis are still Colts, this team has turned over a lot of people since the last game against the Chargers. Meet this week’s Most Important Guys You’ve Never Heard Of (MIGYNHO), heartland style.

Peter Aiken

On the Offense

Looking at the Indianapolis Colts offense, two things stood out to me: The first is a nearly perfect symmetry between passing and rushing offense by the Colts this season. Within the nearly symmetrical overall offense, the balanced individual production among the Colts’ rushers and receivers is borderline spooky. The second thing that jumped out at me was the efficiency of the offense. What the Colts offensive stats tell me is that the entire unit is a superbly coached. For reasons that will be detailed, my pick for the Colts offense Most Important Guy You’ve Never Heard Of (MIGYNHO) is the 1st year Offensive Coordinator, Pep Hamilton.

Why He Is Important

The offensive balance is seen in the number of passing and rushing TD’s scored in the Colts first five games; seven in each category. The Colts have attempted 159 passes and rushed 151 times in the first 5 games. Even when the offense makes mistakes, the mistakes are balanced between rushing and passing, with two INTs and two lost fumbles. In a pass-happy league, this balance leads to some interesting statistical anomalies; the Colts are near the top of the NFL in many rushing statistics, but are near the bottom in many passing statistics.

Within this distribution of plays, the opportunities for the team’s play makers are also spread out in a nearly perfect display of getting everyone involved and productive. The Colts have three running backs with more than 150 yards rushing; Andrew Luck has chipped in another 135. The two starting WR’s have only 23 receiving yards separating them; Reggie Wayne leads with 365. Although Reggie Wayne has 8 more receptions than T.Y. Hilton, Hilton is the clear deep threat with a 17.1 yard per reception average compared to Wayne’s 13.0. The passing game has not neglected the slot WR or TE either; both Darius Heyward-Bey and Coby Fleener have gotten 14 touches in the first five games.

The efficiency of this offense has been amazing so far this season. The Colts offense leads the league in the following categories:

% of drives ending in a score (45.1%)
Average time per offensive drive (3:08)
Average plays per drive (6.5)
Average yards per drive (35.5)
Average points per drive (2.5)

The Colts are also 2nd in the league with fewest turnovers (4). The final sign of the efficiency of this offense is that the Colts are 13th in the NFL for total yards, but 6th in scoring offense.

Pep Hamilton’s offense will present a difficult challenge for the brother of his head coach. The offense does not depend on doing one thing to beat the opponent’s defense; they do all things well and are comfortable attacking a defense with their running game or with Luck, Wayne, Hilton, and Fleener.

It is not surprising that Hamilton has gotten the results he has with his offensive unit in his first year. His prior job was the offensive coordinator and QB coach at Stanford University from 2010 to 2012, helping to develop Andrew Luck. It obviously did not take him long to mesh with his QB. Hamilton is not just a college guy, either. He has had previous stints dating back to 2003 as QB coach for the Bears, Jets, and one year (2006) for the 49ers, under an offensive coordinator that shall remain un-named.

Honorable Mention

Anthony Costanzo; Left Tackle #74 – The one flaw that the Colts offense has showed so far this season is that they have allowed 12 sacks on Andrew Luck. This extrapolates out to 38 over the entire season, which is not horrible, but certainly leaves some room for improvement. Costanzo is entering into his 3rd year in the league after being selected out of Boston College as the 22nd overall draft pick in 2011. If the Bolts can manufacture a pass rush on Monday Night, it will probably be through or around Costanzo. He is the new kid on the Colts line and is responsible for making sure Luck is not blindsided.

On the Defense

In the true spirit of this post series, nobody satisfies the criteria of obscurity coupled with importance better on the Colts defense than their Will ILB, #50, Jerrell Freeman. The former undrafted free agent out of Division 3 University of Mary Hardin–Baylor took a circuitous route to the Colts. The route included:

Leaving his D3 School a year early after being named the best D3 defensive player in the country in 2008;
Signing as an UDFA with the Titans,
Getting cut;
Playing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the CFL from 2009 through 2011, and finally
Signing a contract with the Colts prior to the 2012 season, after leading the CFL in tackles in 2011.

Why He Is Important

After leading his team in tackles in 2012, he is leading his team in that defensive statistic again this season. 29 solo tackles (with another 14 assists), 3 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. That is Freeman’s stat line after 5 games. The 6’0", 220 pound Freeman does not have blazing speed, eye popping strength, or intimidating size. In fact, his measurements contributed to his difficult road in getting into the league. His size suggests safety, but he has linebacker speed.

Freeman's game is based on short area quickness, fantastic instincts, and nearly perfect tackling technique. If there is a play between the tackles, Freeman will shed (or avoid) his block and be there to bring down the ball carrier. If another player stands up the runner, he will go for the strip. If there is a pass on early downs, he’ll blitz.

On Monday Night, even if you are simply following the ball when you watch the game, you will notice Freeman. Chances are, you will notice him quite often.

Honorable Mention

Gregory Toler; CB-#28 – Toler leads his team in passes defended and has one interception in 2013. Toler is often the target of choice for opposing teams in the passing game, as he is perceived as being less capable than former 1st round pick Vontae Davis. While Davis may be faster and the better athlete, Toler has developed a good technical skill set for an NFL CB. He is also less prone than Davis to gamble on balls thrown against him. Vincent Brown and Keenan Allen, especially Allen, may be able to outmuscle the 5’11" 195 pound Toler on jump balls or if Toler is asked to play press coverage. The Colts are depending on Toler to turn in another solid defensive performance on Monday Night.