In The Know: Indianapolis Colts

In The Know is an ongoing series with the opposing team's beat writer. Matt Taylor, with the Colts Radio Network, gives insight on the Texans upcoming opponent.The Colts wins against the Bears and the Chargers were both very close games. While the losses were close too, but what's been the difference in those two wins for Indy?
Taylor: It's a good question, and I think if the Colts knew the answer to that, they'd have more wins. Like you said, all five games for the Colts have come down to the last two minutes and D'Qwell Jackson, their starting inside linebacker, joked after the Bears game. He said, 'After the first quarter of the season and one game, I don't have any more hair left because they are just so stressful.' 
I think if extrapolate the two wins against the three losses, some of the common denominators are: (QB) Andrew Luck had massive games and also (WR) T.Y. Hilton had some massive games. Over 170 yards receiving for T.Y. and two wins. I think in the three losses, he's averaging just a little bit over 50 yards receiving, so you take 173 receiving yards on average in two wins and 52 in three losses, that's a huge bullet point for the Colts and they want to get him going early. 
The Colts kind of flirted with going up-tempo a little bit earlier in games, especially in that Chicago game last Sunday. They scored touchdowns on drives in which they went a little bit up-tempo, a little bit hurry-up, kind of changing some things at the line of scrimmage, recognizing what the Bears were doing at the point of attack. 
Amongst the fan base, that was a big conversation starter because the Colts were having to come back and go no-huddle and go with a quicker tempo in the fourth quarter because they were getting behind. It was no more evident in that one game in the fourth quarter against the Jaguars. They were down 23-6, came back and pulled within three points twice because they got some big plays within their no-huddle offense, so it'll be interesting to see if the Colts start to use that quicker or earlier in games. See if they use that on Sunday night against Houston, but in two wins compared to three losses, definitely Andrew Luck has had some big games statistically and also T.Y Hilton has gotten open.
Andrew Luck also has been sacked an NFL-high 20 times this season, and Chuck Pagano said that has to change. How to they plan to improve the pass protection for Luck?
Taylor: It's been an issue for a couple years now, and as you said, Luck has been sacked a league-high 20 times. He's also taken 40 hits. Right now, Andrew Luck is on pace to be sacked a career-high 64 times, which would be the fourth-most ever. A quarterback hasn't been sacked 60 times since Jon Kitna was sacked 63 times back in 2006. 
Some of it has been some of the shuffling and some of the injuries they've had on the offensive line. Two games ago against Jacksonville, they were missing their starting right guard and right tackle. Last week, instead of putting (T/G) Joe Reitz back in the lineup, who had been out with a back injury, they inserted the rookie (T) Joe Haeg, who they are high on, but he allowed three sacks last week against Chicago. 
Right now, they are going through some growing pains up front on their offensive line because they have so many young pieces that they are counting on. Ryan Kelly, their first-round draft pick out of Alabama, is starting at center from all counts. He's looked sharp and it looks like he's going to be the real deal and a guy they can depend on, be the center of the future and pair him up with Andrew Luck long-term. 
But you're right. The Colts will simply not go where they want to go until they take some of the pressure off of Andrew Luck, and some of it is, people like to point out the sack numbers and that's all well and good, you definitely don't want to take sacks as quarterback. If you just look squarely at the Chicago game, yeah, Luck was sacked five times. He's been sacked 11 times in two games, but other than that, Luck was only hit twice not on sacks. He was only hit twice, other than those pressures, so Andrew Luck still, for the most part against Chicago, had plenty of time to make some decisions in the pocket which led to his big game statistically. 
Texans fans are certainly very, very aware of one guy that seems to always have a big day against Houston, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. How has the injury to Donte Moncrief affected his numbers and the wide receivers? Are there other targets that have stepped up in his absence?
Taylor: As soon as Donte went out in Week 2 and T.Y. kind of got off that slow start statistically after the first couple of games of the season, he stood by his locker heading into Week 3 contest against San Diego and basically put the onus on himself and said, 'I need to start making plays. Without Donte, I need to start having big games.' Going out against San Diego, he did. He had 174 yards and then he kind of had a down-week in London against Jacksonville, and the followed that up with another 170 yards receiving game against Chicago on Sunday.
Outside of Donte Moncrief, some of the guys that are stepping up from a personnel standpoint, you have (WR) Quan Bray, who has sort of been this team's kickoff and punt return specialist, but he's been forced into some action against Chicago. Also, (WR) Chester Rogers, who's an undrafted rookie free agent made the team. He has seen some time at wide receiver. Between those two guys, Andrew Luck targeted them a combined nine times against the Bears and each of them had a handful of catches, so they are filling in admirably, but it's hard to replace a guy like Donte Moncrief with his savviness, his dimensions being a tall, lanky receiver that has a good speed to, that – just from a repertoire standpoint – can do just about anything as a wide receiver. 
You're not going to be able to replace that, but T.Y. Hilton has made it a point to make sure that he and Andrew Luck have that chemistry and that bond that they have. He has made it a point to make sure that is on full display. Like I said, that's been sort of a common denominator in two Colts wins compared to three losses.
Much has been said of the Colts defense struggling this year. What has been the biggest strength and the biggest weakness of the Colts defense?
That is a good question. I would say, right now, the biggest strength is in their safety play. They are getting outstanding play from (S) Mike Adams, who's a two-time Pro Bowler. They've also gotten (S) Clayton Geathers back, who's in his second year. He missed basically the entire training camp and preseason with a foot injury, but now he's back and the team is just incredibly high on him. Always at the right place at the right time, a big, physical player, comes from a long lineage of football players, NFL players in his family. 
An area the Colts I am sure would like to improve on is just eliminating the big plays and also getting after the quarterback. The Colts allowed the Bears to rack up for 522 yards, Brian Hoyer threw for a career-high 397 yards. Chicago racked up 25 first downs on 62 plays. I know opposing quarterbacks are competing about 70 percent of their passes, and is it because they have time in the pocket to do so? Maybe, probably. The Colts have only racked up seven sacks. Robert Mathis does not have any sacks in over 200 snaps. I think a lot of people are surprised by that. So, I would say getting after the quarterback is something that the Colts would like to see more production from their front seven.

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In The Know is an ongoing series with the opposing team's beat writer. Matt Taylor, with the Colts Radio Network, gives insight on the Texans upcoming opponent this week. *

The Colts wins against the Bears and the Chargers were both very close games. While the losses were close too, but what's been the difference in those two wins for Indy?

**

Taylor:** It's a good question, and I think if the Colts knew the answer to that, they'd have more wins. Like you said, all five games for the Colts have come down to the last two minutes and D'Qwell Jackson, their starting inside linebacker, joked after the Bears game. He said, 'After the first quarter of the season and one game, I don't have any more hair left because they are just so stressful.' 

I think if extrapolate the two wins against the three losses, some of the common denominators are: (QB) Andrew Luck had massive games and also (WR) T.Y. Hilton had some massive games. Over 170 yards receiving for T.Y. and two wins. I think in the three losses, he's averaging just a little bit over 50 yards receiving, so you take 173 receiving yards on average in two wins and 52 in three losses, that's a huge bullet point for the Colts and they want to get him going early. 

The Colts kind of flirted with going up-tempo a little bit earlier in games, especially in that Chicago game last Sunday. They scored touchdowns on drives in which they went a little bit up-tempo, a little bit hurry-up, kind of changing some things at the line of scrimmage, recognizing what the Bears were doing at the point of attack. 

Amongst the fan base, that was a big conversation starter because the Colts were having to come back and go no-huddle and go with a quicker tempo in the fourth quarter because they were getting behind. It was no more evident in that one game in the fourth quarter against the Jaguars. They were down 23-6, came back and pulled within three points twice because they got some big plays within their no-huddle offense, so it'll be interesting to see if the Colts start to use that quicker or earlier in games. See if they use that on Sunday night against Houston, but in two wins compared to three losses, definitely Andrew Luck has had some big games statistically and also T.Y Hilton has gotten open.


Andrew Luck also has been sacked an NFL-high 20 times this season, and Chuck Pagano said that has to change. How to they plan to improve the pass protection for Luck?

**

Taylor:** It's been an issue for a couple years now, and as you said, Luck has been sacked a league-high 20 times. He's also taken 40 hits. Right now, Andrew Luck is on pace to be sacked a career-high 64 times, which would be the fourth-most ever. A quarterback hasn't been sacked 60 times since Jon Kitna was sacked 63 times back in 2006. 

Some of it has been some of the shuffling and some of the injuries they've had on the offensive line. Two games ago against Jacksonville, they were missing their starting right guard and right tackle. Last week, instead of putting (T/G) Joe Reitz back in the lineup, who had been out with a back injury, they inserted the rookie (T) Joe Haeg, who they are high on, but he allowed three sacks last week against Chicago. 

Right now, they are going through some growing pains up front on their offensive line because they have so many young pieces that they are counting on. Ryan Kelly, their first-round draft pick out of Alabama, is starting at center from all counts. He's looked sharp and it looks like he's going to be the real deal and a guy they can depend on, be the center of the future and pair him up with Andrew Luck long-term. 

But you're right. The Colts will simply not go where they want to go until they take some of the pressure off of Andrew Luck, and some of it is, people like to point out the sack numbers and that's all well and good, you definitely don't want to take sacks as quarterback. If you just look squarely at the Chicago game, yeah, Luck was sacked five times. He's been sacked 11 times in two games, but other than that, Luck was only hit twice not on sacks. He was only hit twice, other than those pressures, so Andrew Luck still, for the most part against Chicago, had plenty of time to make some decisions in the pocket which led to his big game statistically.


**

Texans fans are certainly very aware of one guy that seems to always have a big day against Houston, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. How has the injury to Donte Moncrief affected his numbers and the wide receivers? Are there other targets that have stepped up in his absence?**
Taylor: As soon as Donte went out in Week 2 and T.Y. kind of got off that slow start statistically after the first couple of games of the season, he stood by his locker heading into Week 3 contest against San Diego and basically put the onus on himself and said, 'I need to start making plays. Without Donte, I need to start having big games.' Going out against San Diego, he did. He had 174 yards and then he kind of had a down-week in London against Jacksonville, and the followed that up with another 170 yards receiving game against Chicago on Sunday.

Outside of Donte Moncrief, some of the guys that are stepping up from a personnel standpoint, you have (WR) Quan Bray, who has sort of been this team's kickoff and punt return specialist, but he's been forced into some action against Chicago. Also, (WR) Chester Rogers, who's an undrafted rookie free agent made the team. He has seen some time at wide receiver. Between those two guys, Andrew Luck targeted them a combined nine times against the Bears and each of them had a handful of catches, so they are filling in admirably, but it's hard to replace a guy like Donte Moncrief with his savviness, his dimensions being a tall, lanky receiver that has a good speed to, that – just from a repertoire standpoint – can do just about anything as a wide receiver. 

You're not going to be able to replace that, but T.Y. Hilton has made it a point to make sure that he and Andrew Luck have that chemistry and that bond that they have. He has made it a point to make sure that is on full display. Like I said, that's been sort of a common denominator in two Colts wins compared to three losses.


**

Much has been said of the Colts defense struggling this year. What has been the biggest strength and the biggest weakness of the Colts defense?*
Taylor: *That is a good question. I would say, right now, the biggest strength is in their safety play. They are getting outstanding play from (S) Mike Adams, who's a two-time Pro Bowler. They've also gotten (S) Clayton Geathers back, who's in his second year. He missed basically the entire training camp and preseason with a foot injury, but now he's back and the team is just incredibly high on him. Always at the right place at the right time, a big, physical player, comes from a long lineage of football players, NFL players in his family. 

An area the Colts I am sure would like to improve on is just eliminating the big plays and also getting after the quarterback. The Colts allowed the Bears to rack up for 522 yards, Brian Hoyer threw for a career-high 397 yards. Chicago racked up 25 first downs on 62 plays. I know opposing quarterbacks are competing about 70 percent of their passes, and is it because they have time in the pocket to do so? Maybe, probably. The Colts have only racked up seven sacks. Robert Mathis does not have any sacks in over 200 snaps. I think a lot of people are surprised by that. So, I would say getting after the quarterback is something that the Colts would like to see more production from their front seven.

In The Know airs in its entirety during Friday's Texans All Access on SportsRadio 610.

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