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Breaking Down The Colts

Posted Sep 12, 2013

Examining the Dolphins opponent’s strengths and weaknesses



THE COLTS’ STRENGTH ON OFFENSE: This isn’t a great mystery. For years, the Colts were a passing team with Peyton Manning at quarterback and that hasn’t changed one bit now that Andrew Luck is the leader on offense. Luck, who was nothing short of spectacular against the Dolphins last season, had a very efficient season opener Sunday against the Oakland Raiders even though his passing yardage was modest. His favorite target, as is normally the case, was veteran Reggie Wayne, who has shown since the start of the 2012 season that he wasn’t just a product of playing with Manning. Wayne clearly is a guy the Dolphins must closely watch, but Luck has other dangerous weapons in the passing game, namely T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener — although Allen’s status needs to be monitored after he didn’t practice Wednesday because of a hip injury. For good measure, the Colts added speedster Darrius Heyward-Bey in the offseason. Making things more difficult for any defense is Luck’s scrambling ability, which was on full display on his game-winning 19-yard touchdown run against Oakland.

THE COLTS’ QUESTION MARK ON OFFENSE: The Colts have done a good job of surrounding Luck with playmakers since they made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 draft, but they’re still trying to piece together an offensive line that will provide consistent protection. Despite Luck’s mobility, he was sacked four times in the opener by an Oakland defense that isn’t likely to get confused with some of the best in the NFL. Colts owner Jim Irsay was bothered enough by the pass protection that he wrote on Twitter Wednesday: “We gotta protect #12 better … I DEMAND better.” The offensive line that started the opener included four players who began their career with other teams, including former Dolphins draft picks Samson Satele and Donald Thomas. The right tackle was former Detroit Lions first-round pick Gosder Cherilus. The Colts had decent success on the ground against Oakland, even without counting Luck’s scrambles, so there’s hope in that department, but the Dolphins pass rush could have some success against this offensive line.

THE COLTS’ STRENGTH ON DEFENSE: For a team that finished 11-5 and made the playoffs, the Colts’ numbers on defense in 2012 were not particularly impressive. They ranked 26th in total defense, 29th in rushing defense and 22nd in pass defense. Things didn’t get off a great start in 2013 Sunday against Oakland when the Colts had their problems stopping the Raiders’ mobile quarterback, Terrelle Pryor. The Colts did make a couple of significant defensive acquisitions in the offseason, most notably nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin and safety LaRon Landry. Landry and Antoine Bethea form a pretty solid safety tandem with playmaking ability — it was Bethea’s late interception that clinched the victory against Oakland. The most important player on the Indy defense, though, probably is outside linebacker Robert Mathis, the former defensive end who led the team in sacks in 2012 and had the Colts’ only takedown of Pryor on Sunday. He’s the one guy the Dolphins have to make sure is kept in check.

THE COLTS’ QUESTION MARK ON DEFENSE: Even though it didn’t show Sunday, the Colts are hoping the addition of Franklin will help shore up a run defense that was dreadful in 2012. Opponents averaged more than 5 yards per rushing attempt last season and that’s usually not a recipe for success. Indy also added former 49ers defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois to help in that department, but the Colts also need better production from a linebacking corps that clearly is more adept at pass rushing and coverage than stopping the run.

THE COLTS’ STRENGTH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Hilton isn’t merely a big-play threat on offense, he’s also a dangerous punt returner. He averaged 11.5 yards per return last season and scored a 75-yard touchdown against Buffalo. Dolphins punter Brandon Fields has to be careful not to outkick his coverage on Sunday. Then there’s Adam Vinatieri, who didn’t attempt a field goal in the opener on Sunday and is coming off a season where he made only 26 of 33 attempts. That said, he’s perhaps the best clutch kicker in the history of the NFL and the Dolphins certainly don’t want the outcome of Sunday’s game to come down to a Vinatieri field goal attempt.

THE COLTS’ QUESTION MARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Vinatieri’s inconsistency aside, the Colts’ biggest problem in the kicking game in 2012 was covering kicks. They ranked in the bottom third of the league in both punt return average and kickoff return allowed, and got burned for a touchdown on a punt return. Indy also has had to replace kickoff returner Deji Karim, who had a 101-yard touchdown against Houston late last season, but they didn’t get the chance to return a kickoff in the opener against Oakland because Sebastian Janikowski’s four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

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