JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2022 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.
Up this week:
Mike Chappell – longtime Colts beat writer for the Indianapolis Star for 25 seasons now with Fox 59 – on the Colts as they enter Sunday's 2022 Week 6 game against the Jaguars at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind.
Q: The Colts are 2-2-1 with a 12-9 Week 5 victory over the Denver Broncos. They're in second place in the AFC South and a half-game out of first place behind the division-leading Tennessee Titans. How do the Colts feel entering Sunday?
A: The way they have played, they're in about as good a position as they could expect. They have not played well in any game, even considering they beat the 4-1 Kansas City Chiefs (20-17) at home in Week 3. This offense can't get out of its own way. [Colts Head Coach] Frank Reich pointed out this week that they have had worse starts than this in recent seasons and he's right: They were 1-5 [in 2018] and 1-4 [in 2021], and they made the playoffs in 2018 and should have made it last season. The difference is in the past you could see how they could get out of the slow starts. I don't see how they get out of this one until they get the offensive line fixed – and it's busted.
Q: The Colts traded with the Atlanta Falcons for quarterback Matt Ryan in the offseason. Assess him to date.
A: It's hard. He has been good enough to have them possibly be 4-1. He led them back in Week 1 against Houston and they would have won if not for a missed 42-yard field goal in overtime. They came back and beat Kansas City, and they came back and beat Denver. He brought them back from 24-3 down against Tennessee in Week 4. The problem is, he had a lot to do with them being behind. But he gives them a chance. He has 44 game-winning drives in his career, and you see why. He doesn't flinch – and this season, he's under constant siege. While you give him props for being at his best in the fourth quarter and overtime, he's tied for first in the NFL in interceptions with seven, tied for first in sacks with 21 and he leads the NFL with 11 fumbles. The interceptions, a couple of them you just scratch your head. You want to stop the game, go down and say, "Walk me through that. What did you see?" You want to give him credit for having the team where it could be a lot better, but he has put them in some bad situations and some of that is simply on him.
Q: You mentioned the offensive line. There's a perception nationally that it's among the NFL's best.
A: They're not great anymore. They have not been great probably for two years. The national narrative is wrong. They were a very good run-blocking team last season. [Running back] Jonathan Taylor rushed for 1,811 yards and 18 touchdowns. You don't do that on your own. Pass protection wasn't very good at all. They brought back three-fifths of it with right tackle Braden Smith, guard Quenton Nelson and center Ryan Kelly. But they sort of put a lot of faith in the rest of the line and there wasn't any training camp competition as much as it was, "These are the guys." It didn't work out. They changed three fifth of it going into this last game, and how often do you do that – particularly considering it was a short week with a Thursday night game and one walkthrough? That shows you the level of concern. It was almost like, "Anything but what we've got, we'll try it." None of them have played well. It's the highest-paid line in the league, but it's not playing like it. Last season you could say, "At least they're running the ball." But they're not running well either.
Q: Taylor, who led the NFL in rushing last season, missed Week 5 with an ankle injury. His status this week?
A: It will be 50-50. They knew he wasn't going to play at Denver [last Thursday]. It was just too soon. He was in a boot Tuesday. Even though he's not off to a great start, he still gives them the threat when healthy. I don't think we'll get a clear indication this week.
Q: It sounds like they're OK defensively so far.
A: They're playing well – maybe a "OK-plus," or a little better. But [Jaguars quarterback Trevor] Lawrence diced them up and Tennessee got up on them 24-3 [in Week 4]. We made a big deal about the defense keeping it winnable by shutting them out in the second half, but it was 24-3. They played really well against Denver. The problem is there's a good chance [defensive end] Kwity Paye may not play Sunday. [Linebacker] Shaq Leonard won't play and he may go on injured reserve. And [safety] Julian Blackmon may not play. They have played well considering they're missing some key components. The defense has played pretty well.
Q: You mentioned that this team has climbed out of early-season holes in the past. Is this the kind of team that can do it again?
A: If they get the offensive line even semifixed, but how many 12-9 games are you going to win? It's just not very sustainable. They're last in the league in scoring and have gone seven consecutive games with 20 points or fewer. The last time they did that was in 1998, [former quarterback] Peyton Manning's rookie season. If you can't score, it's just hard. But they have a chance. We'll see. It's doable because you're probably not going to be out of it in the AFC South this season. But they have to show something to give themselves a reason to believe they can come out of this.