The last time the Indianapolis Colts faced off against the Miami Dolphins, it was a record-setting day for then rookie QB Andrew Luck.
In that game last year, Luck dropped 433 yards on a struggling Miami defense. I won’t sit here and tell you that was the primary reason the Dolphins went out and signed a bunch of defensive help this off-season, but it had to be a mitigating factor for sure. The Dolphins added CB Brent Grimes, and LBs Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler to help improve a unit that ranked 21st in total defense and 27th in pass defense. You can guarantee the Dolphins will do everything they can to make sure Luck doesn’t have an encore performance in this week 2 match up.
One thing Colts fans need be concerned about is the supposedly revamped offensive line. Against a Raiders defense that really isn’t all that good, they allowed Oakland to sack Luck four times. That performance even drew the ire of Colts owner Jim Irsay, who tweeted this little nugget of wisdom on Wednesday:
“Raider/Colts– we gotta protect #12 better..and that includes more than just OL…it’s backs,TE’s,coaches on blitz pick ups..I DEMAND better”
Last week against the Browns – who have one of the better offensive lines – also allowed 4 sacks. So its definitely one thing the coaches will be hammering into the team. If Luck has protection, he should be able to do all the damage necessary to repeat last year’s outing. If he doesn’t, the offense could stagnate again, just like it did against Oakland in the second half last week.
However, the most concerning issue now is a story that broke only yesterday: Starting running back Vick Ballard tore his ACL in practice, and has been placed on injured reserve for the season. That’s a huge blow for a unit that was relying on Ballard to carry the load while free agent signee Ahmad Bradshaw got comfortable in the offense after missing all of training camp while still recovering from his own injury problems. Bradshaw will now be forced into the starting role a little earlier than the team had anticipated. That also bumps up former first round draft pick Donald Brown to primary back-up, and rookie Kerwynn Williams was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster.
The Colts are expected to find additional depth at RB by signing a veteran free agent. The names I am seeing the most are Willis McGahee, Beanie Wells, Kevin Smith, and Tim Hightower. If I were a betting man, and if they actually look to free agency for depth, my money is on McGahee. He’s older, but more proven than the others despite the injuries and mileage he’s racked up in his career. But for now it appears the Colts will be going with Bradshaw, Brown, and Williams as their stable.
Finally, the defense Indy fielded against Oakland was just putrid. No one could get to Terrelle Pryor, let the likes of Denarious Moore and Rod Streater to consistently beat the coverage, and registered just one sack (by Robert Mathis, of course). The only real bright spot for the defense was the fact that they did pick off Pryor twice, including one by safety Antoine Bethea to seal the win. The Colts spent big money to make the defense better, but after one game it appears there’s still help needed.
Andrew Luck – We’ve already covered this. We know what Luck was able to do last year. If the offensive line can actually do its job this week, it could be a great day for Luck and the Colts passing game.
Offensive line - Giving up 4 sacks to the Raiders was inexcusable. I give them a bit of a pass because it was week one and the line is still trying to build cohesiveness and chemistry with each other. But they can’t keep letting Luck take hits they way he did last year. Especially with the amount of money the front office poured into that unit in the offseason. The line doesn’t have an easy go of it this week either, with the likes of Cameron Wake and rookie Dion Jordan.
Running game minus Vick Ballard - We haven’t really seen much of Bradshaw to this point to really have a grasp on how much of the offense he’s been able to absorb, but my thinking is that we will see him early and often to try and get the Miami defense to crowd the line, opening up the pass game. Donald Brown really isn’t a great runner or pass blocker, but could make some noise as a bail-out receiver. Williams really shouldn’t see the field much, if at all. The Dolphins will probably show little respect to the run game, rushing only four and sending the rest back in coverage. The X-factor in the run game will actually by Luck himself. Look for him to scramble more often than he did in week one.
My 5 Predictions
Luck – The story will be whether or not Andrew Luck can duplicate the performance he had last year at home against Miami. He should have a good game, but I don’t see him dropping 400+ yards against the Dolphins defense – at least not with the additions they’ve made. I say Luck complete just over 60% of his passes for 250 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick. I’ll also give him 6 carries for 45 yards and another score.
Ahmad Bradshaw – Again, I would expect the Colts to try and establish the run early. It won’t be easy against the Dolphins revamped defense, and Bradshaw probably won’t be up to par yet. He gets 50 yards on 16 carries.
T.Y. Hilton – If Luck has another day like he did last year, Hilton could be the main recipient of such. Hilton was basically ineffective last week, and will be looking to redeem himself somewhat. But as I suggested, the Dolphins may have six or even seven guys in pass coverage if the run game can’t get going. If T.Y. can break free, I see him catching seven passes for 120 yards and a score.
Colts defense – The big question mark. I am willing to give Indy’s defense a bit of a pass last game with the reduction in practices the new CBA allows and it being the first week of the season. But Tannehill had a decent day himself in the 2012 game, throwing for 290 yards and a score. With Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace, the ‘Phins could really give our corners fits. I see another tough one, with Tannehill going off for a repeat 290 yarder, throwing two scores to Wallace, who is going to be playing angry.
Final score – Last year, the Colts beat the Dolphins narrowly 23-20. All indications (lack of run games, questionable defenses) point to this beinganother air assault, and could be a close game again. I’m going to give it to Indy, 24-21.
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