As often as we can, we like to get the insider’s take on the team which the Jets are about to go up against. With the Colts on the slate this wild Wildcard Weekend, who better to talk to than Nate Dunlevy at 18to88.com? We asked the renowned Colts blogger about the defense, the loss of Collie & Clark, and much more … after the jump. If you like, you can see our answers to his five questions about the Jets on this post at their site.
TJB: Last year, the Jets defense knew that it was mostly going to come down to the pass, but still the Colts running game did it’s damage on the Jets when it needed to. The Colts offense looks more balanced this year … what’s changed since the Jets and Colts saw each other last?
Nate Dunlevy from 18to88.com: For the Colts, it’s the loss of Collie and Clark. Indy’s offense lacks a dynamic dimension over the middle without them. I do think the Colts run the ball better now than they did at this time last season. Having said that, the offense still stalls out too often, hurt by a league high 45 dropped passes.
TJB: What does the loss of some of the key elements of the receiving game mean for the Colts on Saturday night?
18to88.com: It means more short passes and lots of bubble screens. The Colts run fewer deep looks than they used to, mostly because teams simply don’t respect Blair White up the seam the way they do Austin Collie. Manning is accurate enough to be effective, but he is forced to work up the field with long drives.
TJB: The other day, I heard Trent Dilfer talking to Bill Simmons about the biggest problem with the Colts defense was that they can’t both play the pass and run simultaneously … that they’d have to be “all in” on one or the other to defend it. Do you agree with his assessment? Why or why not?
18to88.com: I’d say that’s accurate. The Colts have lost 3/4 of their starting secondary, and have suffered injuries to key linebackers as well. The young players that are subbing simply don’t have the experience to do multiple things well. Indy has become terrible at defending TEs and RBs on pass routes, for instance. That was always a strength before. It comes down to talent at some point, and the Colts have too much talent on IR to be a dominant defense on both sides of the ball.
TJB: The Colts have been dominant in the regular season for a long time now. From afar, they seemed to have a tougher time this season than they have in a long time. What was it about this year in particular that seemed to trip up the Colts?
18to88.com: Injuries and a few bad breaks (losing on a 59 yard field goal? really?). Mostly though the Colts team we all expected to see has rarely seen the field Indy lost:
3 of top 4 safeties
Top 2 corners
Top 2 LBs for long stretches
Dallas Clark AND #2 TE Brody Eldrige for a stretch
Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, and Wayne and Garcon were slowed by injuries as well.
All top 3 RBs missed games.
Indy’s been playing with guys like Gijon Robinson, Javarris James, Brandon James, Aaron Francisco, Cornelius Brown…
You aren’t winning 14 games with guys like that seeing major action.
TJB: Who are one or two players that most Jets fans might not know, but will definitely know their names (and why) by the end of the game?
18to88.com: I assume people know Antoine Bethea by now, but he’s the glue to the Indy secondary. The only starter to stay healthy.
Jets fans will also see Jacob Tamme, who has perfectly replicated Clark’s stats but not his affect on defenses. Tamme has had a huge season, and I hope Jets fans are sick of him by days end.