Andrew Luck and company are really getting things together. Kyle Posey breaks down what the San Diego Chargers expect from the Indianapolis Colts offense tonight.
When the Colts signed offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton back in January my first thoughts were, "Yup, they'll be back in the playoffs." Hamilton has long been one of my favorite play callers and is a true genius with his play designs. The thing is, he's running plays that most of us are familiar with. But the difference is he's doing it out of unbalanced lines, or adding subtle twists to these plays. All of which I will get into shortly. Having worked with the Ravens, Jets, 49ers, and Bears — not to mention Stanford — It's easy to see where Hamilton gets his power offense from.
It also doesn't hurt to have the most underrated quarterback in the league: Andrew Luck. Underrated you say? Yes, I would argue that Luck has played on a level that is close to that one guy in Denver. Watching him, he makes "wow throw" after "wow throw". The numbers don't really do Luck justice for the season he's having so far. Whether he's scrambling left and throwing back across his body and hitting his receiver in stride, or he's dropping the ball into an area where there is nothing that the defender can do to stop it, he's a special once–in–a–generation type player.
Okay, back to the offense. How do they match up against the Chargers?
The Colts offense ranks 2nd in yards per drive. San Diego's defense ranks 32nd in yards per drive allowed. Any questions?— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) October 10, 2013
They're good. They're efficient. They're balanced. Before we get into Hamilton's power run game, let's take a look at some of the Colts potent passing formations.
The Colts really like to attack the intermediate middle of the field area. They also like to use their receivers in a "stack release" to avoid them being jammed at the line of scrimmage, allowing them to run freely and avoid their route being disrupted.
The 3 staple routes I saw in this offense were:
Out of trips, which is a favorite of this offense, they love running a "follow" route. Let's take a look at how they get so open.
The receiver to the top of the trips formation runs a drag route across the middle. The second receiver runs a "rub" route, trying to get contact with the cornerback who is guarding the drag route. This receiver is more of a decoy on this route. Reggie Wayne, who is the insider receiver, waits until both routes have clean and then runs a slant route over the middle.
A very tough route combination to guard.
2 defenders jumped the drag route, creating a wide open throwing lane for Luck. Easy pitch and catch. This play ended up being a gain of 31 yards.
I was thinking about how the Chargers would go about guarding this bunch formation that the Colts like to pass out of. Derek Cox is a completely different — and worse — corner if he can't play press against you. In the slot, I would put Eric Weddle on Wayne, honestly. I would ask Donald Butler to take away all the underneath routes. We'll see how they go about stopping these formations, but man coverage makes it awfully hard with these rub routes.
The Colts also like to stretch the field vertically and take shots. Luck is very good at diagnosing the coverage quickly, and taking advantage of his speedy receivers on the outside. Specifically: T.Y. Hilton.
The last speedy receiver the Chargers faced, Desean Jackson, gave them fits. But there is really no other corner on the team besides Shareece Wright that can even rival the speed of Hilton. If the Chargers are to play any single high safety again, there will be enormous pressure to not get beat deep by Hilton, who showed off his speed last week.
Here, the Colts run 2 verticals to the top of the screen, and the tight end runs a deep post, to occupy the safety.
Because this is Cover 3, the corner is now guarding two routes, and must choose which route to guard.
The corner shows the slightest hesitation, and jumps on the inside vertical route, Luck sees that, and makes him pay.
The corner was almost in a catch–22 situation there. If Wright is faced with this same situation, you have to honor your man to the outside. The slightest misstep, and Hilton has you beat.
Of course, they have wrinkles to their vertical passing game. We will see corner routes to Hilton deep down the sideline as well.
Here is the last route — the "clear out" route — that I noticed quite a bit; this is a true zone beater.
Hilton is the receiver to the top of the screen running the deep cross. Wayne is the receiver who is bee–lining towards the outside shoulder of the safety; he didn't even look back towards the ball. Darius Heyward-Bey runs the double move to the bottom of the screen. If your linebackers don't get depth here, it's a free 20 yards for the offense.
There's no one within 10 yards of Hilton.
For the Chargers, Butler/Te'o will have to "find work" against the Colts. Very important for them to take their appropriate drops.
If you love the power run game, then you enjoy watching a Pep Hamilton–led offense. The old school "Packer Sweep" where the center and tackle both pull? He runs it. Power plays with an unbalanced line? Of course. Counter runs to the weak side of the formation, just in case you want to overload to the strong side? You bet.
There are two run plays that I want to focus on. They aren't exactly "new" plays. They're just plays that every offense runs, with a more innovative approach.
Every team runs it. The trap is a good play that works well against defensive linemen that explode off the ball.
Corey Liuget is fantastically quick off the ball. Kendall Reyes and Cam Thomas both like to "shoot the gap" on plays. The trap is perfect as it basically uses their aggressiveness against them. That's where the "trap" term comes from: the offensive line invites you upfield, only to get blocked.
The Colts do a good job at executing here. The trap is the one play that I feel could give the Chargers problems due to the lineman wanting to get upfield in a hurry. It's hugely important for the nose tackle to command a double team and for Te'o and Butler to not guess the wrong gap, or else it will be a big gain as seen above.
Here's another example to the other side. Not a "big" gain, but 6 yards and a well–executed play.
Usually it's not technically a "sprint." But the Colts literally run a sprint draw. I don't recall ever seeing this before.
There's no pressure from the defense and it creates big running lanes. The Colts ran this sprint draw play against the 49ers because they are a bigger defense, trying to get them out of position and create running lanes. It worked hereand I expect them to bring this play out again against the Chargers.
Conversely, there is a simple way to stop it: defenders just need to win 1-on-1 and get pressure. The 49ers did that on this next play.
Defensive Coordinator John Pagano loves to blitz the A-gap up the middle. That could work either really well for this play. Or it could cause the defense to get out of position, allowing a big run. If the Colts ran this play to the strong side where Jarrett Johnson plays, I wouldn't be worried at all. But running it to the weak side is asking Larry English to maintain outside leverage, something he hasn't done this season against the run.
There is good news, however.
This is something I agree with. Richardson isn't the same scary running back he once was. He's running hard, but not making anyone miss, nor is he breaking tackles. If everyone flows to the ball, I think the Chargers will be able to stop the run.
If they want to stop this offense, they need to make them one–dimensional. Luck struggles when you pressure him up the middle or off the right tackle. That should be the gameplan: to get him off his spot and make him move left. If not, this could be a long night for the Chargers and they might give up their first "40 burger."