Pep Pushes Passing

Posted on Sep 24 2014 - 12:23pm by Luke Schultheis

hakeem nicks big

In Week 3, the Colts opened up the offensive playbook against a woeful Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense that coming into last Sunday had allowed the most points (37.5 ppg) and was 29th in ypg allowed (434.5) in the NFL. The results paid dividends as QB Andrew Luck threw for 4 TD’s on 370 yards passing, and the boys in blue cruised to a 44-17 win over the Jaguars.

The Colts’ 2nd-year Offensive Coordinator, Pep Hamilton, has taken his fair share of criticsm for his play calling in the sometimes inept Colts’ offense. Occasionally, even deservedly so. However, on Sunday, even his staunchest critics had to give the man his due. He called a great game, and the results showed. 

Colts' Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton opened up the passing attack in Week 3 against Jacksonville, featuring more of wideout Hakeem Nicks.

Colts’ Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton opened up the passing attack in Week 3 against Jacksonville, featuring more of wideout Hakeem Nicks.

The team still ran the ball, and ran the ball quite well at that as Running backs Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw combined for 122 rushing yards on 23 carries for a healthy 5.3 ypc. However, the Colts didn’t just try to run the ball down Jacksonville’s throats. Rather, they established the running game early, and then picked their spots, maintaining offensive balance well throughout the afternoon.

It was a stark contrast to Week 2 versus the Philadelphia Eagles, where the Colts’ lined up with a fullback and two to three tight ends in power-run formations for much of the evening and ran…ran…and ran some more. While the Colts’ were looking to slow down the Eagles’ fast-paced offense, almost literally, it came at a price. The offense’s explosive and big play ability was severely diminished.

What we saw this past Sunday was more of an offensive balance. How I like to tell whether the Colts are running more or passing more (beyond simply the eyeball test) is the inverse relationship of snapcount usage between H-Back Jack Doyle and 3rd Wideout Hakeem Nicks. Theoretically, if Doyle is getting more playing time, it means the Colts either have a fullback or 3-tight ends in, both of which depict a power-run formation. However, if Nicks’ is in, it oftentimes means that the Colts have a 3-wideout set, which is clearly a passing formation.

Let’s take a look at the breakdown of the snapcount participation between H-Back Jack Doyle and WR Hakeem Nicks in the past two weeks:

nicks vs. doyle usage finalAs you can see, there’s clearly a positive inverse relationship between Hakeem Nicks and Jack Doyle’s snap counts. When one is used more, the other is consequently used less. In Week 2, the Colts offense utilized a heavy dosage of H-Back Jack Doyle, looking to slow the Eagles down and attack their smaller defensive front.

In contrast, during Week 3, we saw the Colts use more 3-wideout sets with Hakeem Nicks, albeit at the expense of Jack Doyle’s playing time. The offense was clearly looking to exploit the Jaguars’ woeful pass defense on a grander scale.

It’s not always absolute, as both players have played at the same time occasionally. However, it’s a reliable indicator of the type of formations the Colts are typically using on a week-to-week basis, whether it be more run or pass heavy.

It will be interesting to see what the Colts’ offensive plan of attack versus the Titans will be this weekend. Stay tuned.



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