The Colts ended a losing streak against a divisional opponent in week 5 and are looking to double down this week in Jacksonville with a win over the Jaguars. As most, if not all, Colts fans know by now, Indianapolis has failed to leave Jacksonville victorious since 2014.
Head coach Shane Steichen has the opportunity to break a streak that Colts fans are exhausted of hearing about. After prevailing against the Titans, something the team hadn’t done since the 2020 regular season, Steichen and this new-era Colts team are set up for something that’s been lost from the franchise for quite some time: competitive normalcy within the division.
Whoever wins the battle on the ground likely prevails on Sunday. The Jaguars outrushed the Colts 105-65 yards in their first contest. Rookie QB Anthony Richardson made up most of Indy’s rushing output, totaling 40 yards on 10 carries. The non-AR ballcarriers however produced just 25 yards rushing on 16 carries, a 1.6-yard average per carry.
Although Richardson has since made a trip to the IR so his threat in the run game won’t be something to worry about, Zack Moss and Jonathan Taylor are both back and healthy. The Colts will need to ride the highs of Moss’ regular season performance thus far as they, “look to ramp up,” Jonathan Taylor’s usage in the coming weeks. If Indy can limit Jaguars RB Travis Etienne Jr. from explosive plays, coupled with a more imposing rushing threat this time around, the Colts have a great chance of dethroning the Jags at TIAA Bank Field.
The interim starting QB for the Colts moving forward, Gardner Minshew, is known for his efficiency and they will need an on-brand performance from him in this game especially. The Colts barely lost the turnover battle in their season-opening matchup with the Jags, so tying and/or winning this area of the game on Sunday will likely prove fruitful for Indy.
The aforementioned highly potent running game that the Colts present this time around will not only need to follow suit in terms of efficiency, but ball control is the most important factor in winning this game. If Minshew and Co. can limit drive-killers (such as sacks, penalties, etc) and turnovers, a losing streak may finally be on the horizon.
On the defensive side of the ball, Kwity Paye is back to help DeForest Buckner and the rest of the defensive line set the tone for this game. In week 1, the Colts’ front 7 produced 2 sacks and 7 TFLs. For the majority of the game, they had the run game in check. That is until Travis Etienne Jr. broke off a 26-yarder which put the Jags up 10 late in the fourth quarter and would be the eventual game-winner. This Colts front 7, which is healthier than it has been in recent weeks, needs to establish control in the run game so that they can focus on getting to the QB on obvious passing downs.
The biggest test of the game for Indianapolis’ defense will be that of its rookie tandem at cornerback. JuJu Brents and Jaylon Jones have been slotted as the team’s starting boundary corners after Darrell Baker Jr. was benched early this season and after Dallis Flowers’ season-ending achilles injury.
JuJu Brents made his season debut against the Baltimore Ravens in week 3 and has been a productive and reliable player since. He has been great in coverage and has shown that his presence in stopping the run game is no joke. He has looked the part of an NFL starting corner since his debut and has shown no signs of slowing down, though his hardest test lies this Sunday as the Colts defensive backfield will face its toughest opponent for the second time this season.
More from The Blue Stable: