After a 1-5 start to the season that looked like it all but put an ending to the Colts 2018 campaign, the team has suddenly won three straight games ahead of a key AFC South matchup at home against the Titans. This team was predicted by many (including me) to finish in last place in the division, and yet through 10 weeks it’s the previous year’s AFC South champs—the Jaguars—that are at the bottom of the barrel.
After Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels bailed on the Colts’ head coaching gig in the offseason, Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich was hired in what was considered a last minute option. But based on these last three games for Indianapolis that “last minute option” looks like a full hedged steal.
Anyway, the team has put up exactly 36 points per game on their three-game winning, and it turns out this game is more of a test for the Titans than we had realized. So for this edition of Titans Enemy Profile, we’re going to take a look at Frank Reich’s impact on the Colts offense.
So let’s get this started.
You may have noticed the efficiency of the Eagles offensive line has gone down significantly since Reich and former Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo moved on with their respective new teams. With Doug Pederson calling the shots, this came out of nowhere. But if the 4-5 start Philadelphia has had means anything, Reich and DeFilippo had more of an impact on that 2017 Eagles championship run than what was initially revealed. Nothing makes sense for Philly either way though.
Reich has apparently learned a lot from his time with the defending champs, because he’s given an offense that previously was on life support in the Andrew Luck era new life. Chuck Pagano couldn’t get a coaching staff to give Luck a competent quarterbacking environment, but through nine games, Reich already has.
As this switch concept illustrates, Reich’s scheme is a lot more modern than previous attempts. It’s a play fake against zone coverage and tight end Erik Swoope gets open easily thanks to the switch routes. The receivers are spread out in order to create space for the route combinations, and Luck fires to Swoope for the easy touchdown.
Luck’s offenses in the past were all about vertical shots with limited offensive lines and isolated route combinations, but Reich has made sure to send those concepts to the grave and has brought a more diverse scheme to Indianapolis.
This is a great play call enhanced by Luck’s eyes. The route combinations attack the middle of the field and the left, and Luck appears to target those areas, drawing the defense to that side. But Marlon Mack is the true target on this play, and Luck allows him to go out in space long enough to have a wide open lane for the touchdown.
You wouldn’t get a play call like this in the Chuck Pagano era, and that’s what’s concerning about Frank Reich. While Luck fits a more vertical scheme skill wise, he’s mixed it in by giving him easier and safer throws behind an improved offensive line. That’s crucial for a quarterback coming off two arm injuries.
It’s pretty crazy how Nyheim Hines is able to get a nice set of run blocking with misdirection (from the H-back) thrown in the mix. This has given the Colts life at the run game, where they rank in the top 15 in yards per attempt. The team has a capable backfield with Marlon Mack leading the way, and Reich’s efforts certainly give a boost to that unit.
The Jaguars defense has been a train wreck on their five-game losing streak, and defensive coordinator Todd Wash has been under fire for failing to get this group together. And a once suffering Colts offense smoked them in the first half of last week’s game.
Luck processes that the Jaguars have called a zone blitz on this play, and the route combos force three defenders on one guy. The other receiver running downfield, T.Y. Hilton, is cleared an easy path thanks to the route combo, and no one is even close to him.
The Colts are set at QB, RB, WR1, OL, and are certainly set at tight end, where they seem to be rich in talent. And head coach Frank Reich has maximized what little wide receiving talent this team had and has given this offense so much potential for the future.
The Titans defense is #1 in a few raw stats this season. Let’s see if that keeps up on Sunday.