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The Colts roster has been assembled. Trades have occurred, free agents have been signed, and rookies have been drafted. Now that we have a very strong sense of the Colts roster, we can finally project how it will produce in 2022. We begin this series with: the Colts Passing Projections.

 

This offseason, the Colts traded away Carson Wentz and subsequently traded for veteran QB Matt Ryan to replace him. Ryan is a 14-year starting NFL QB with 232 games of experience (including playoffs) and a former MVP in 2016. While Colts fans shouldn’t expect Ryan to return to MVP form of yesteryear (despite this current Colts team being one of the best supporting casts he has ever had in his career), a bounce-back year can be expected. After all, he is coming from one of the worst rosters in the NFL with the 2021 Falcons, and the “Reich Bump” should make him a more efficient QB.

Before we can accurately project what Ryan’s stats will look like, let’s examine what the average Frank Reich QB has been asked to do in his offense since 2018. With four different starting QBs in that time frame, there is enough sample size with various passers to get an accurate estimate of his usage and various production:

  • 33.9 Passing Attempts Per Game

  • 7.1 Yards Per Attempt

  • 4.95% TD%

  • 1.77 INT%

  • 7.55 Average Depth of Target

These stats are ones that can be affected by a QBs decision-making on the field, of course. Still, the scheme, play design/play calls, and what responsibilities a QB is given in certain situations (especially in the Red Zone) can significantly affect these numbers in particular.

After incorporating elements of these stats with Matt Ryan’s career averages during times of similar talent around him, we can project Matt Ryan produces the following stat line (with how this would rank among QBs in 2021 in parentheses):

  • 576 Attempts (10th)

  • 394 Completions (8th)

  • 68.4% Completion % (t5th)

  • 4,205 Passing Yards (10th)

  • 7.3 Yards Per Attempt (t14th)

  • 29 TDs (10th)

  • 10 INTs (t10th)

  • 5.03% Passing TD % (12th)

  • 1.74% INT % (t7th)

  • 99.05 Passer Rating (9th)

  • 7.55 Average Depth of Target (t18th)

With this projected stat line, Matt Ryan would be a top 9-12 passer in the NFL with solid usage & efficiency stats, but not overwhelmingly elite. He will be a highly accurate, predominantly pocket passer with an above-average release speed. Ryan is smart with the football and is a proven QB who won’t force balls much, barring his team being in desperate situations late in games. He’s still got plenty of arm talent left and can make nearly any throw with good accuracy, placement, and velocity. He will play at franchise QB caliber but not at the upper echelon of QB play.

However, Matt Ryan isn’t the only passer I am projecting this season. As I expect, a surprise passer will emerge for at least one play to see if he can help the Colts score a TD. Reich is unafraid to use unorthodox play calls in short yardage and red zone situations. He has used TEs as rushing threats in motion at the goal line, RBs turned wildcat QBs, eligible OL as receivers downfield catching a TD, and a variety of reverses and sweeps with interesting efficiency as a changeup in his play calling to catch opposing defenses off guard.

 

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I anticipate former QB-turned-TE Jelani Woods will be used in a few of these ways, particularly as a wildcat QB with a threat to throw a TD or run it in himself with his 4.61 speed. Jelani could very well use this as an opportunity to use his passing chops, possibly throwing a short TD inside the five on an RPO to give the Colts an easy TD. After all, with Coach Frank Reich calling the plays, you have to expect the unexpected.

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The Colts getting an efficient passing season with less erratic play and a higher volume passing attack that is more trusted to analyze defenses correctly and make the right reads pre and post-snap would be a welcome sight. Matt Ryan can certainly provide that for the Colts in 2022, and thus that should be the expectation.

 

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