Return of “Smashmouth”

Posted on Sep 18 2014 - 2:13pm by Luke Schultheis
Jack Doyle scored his first career touchdown last night, as he played extensively with the offense.

Jack Doyle scored his first career touchdown on Monday Night, as he played extensively with the offense at both tight end and fullback in power run formations.

This offseason, when Pep Hamilton preached of having a balanced Colts offense, many Colts’ fans expected that the passing game would open up a bit. With the return of Wideout Reggie Wayne and Tight end Dwayne Allen, as well as the free agent signing of receiver Hakeem Nicks, the team now had a multitude of weapons at QB Andrew Luck‘s disposal.

Colts' Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton promised to open up the passing game this offseason. What we saw on Monday Night was the return of an attempted "smashmouth" running game.

Colts’ Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton promised to open up the passing game this offseason. What we saw on Monday Night was the return of an attempted “smashmouth” running game.

Instead, what we saw on Monday night was a large serving of power run formations. Tight end Jack Doyle played at both TE and primary Fullback last night, and he played on 36 of 75 of the team’s offensive snaps (48%). This means that nearly 50% of the time, the Colts had either a fullback or 3-tight end set in their offensive formations (when you consider that both Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener are ahead of Doyle in the tight end pecking order).

To put that in perspective, WR Hakeem Nicks only played in 31 of 75 of the team’s offensive snaps (41%) on Monday Night, compared to 59 of the team’s 76 offensive snaps (78%) just a week prior against the Denver Broncos.  Doyle was utilized more in the offensive attack than Nicks in Week 2 versus the Eagles.

With 3-tight end sets or the high usage of a fullback, the Colts have really diminished the opportunity to have the 3-wideout sets that we envisioned to start the year, featuring Wayne, Nicks, and T.Y. Hilton. One has to wonder whether if it ultimately limits the offense’s big play ability. There is no question that Jack Doyle played well on Monday night (scoring his first career touchdown), but is he as explosive as say Nicks or Hilton would be in a 3-wideout set?

While the direct impact of the power run formations were encouraging on the run game, with both Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw rushing a combined 34 times for 149 yards (4.4 ypc), one has to wonder if it’s truly sustainable on a week-to-week basis. The Eagles’ are not an overly big defensive front for a 3-4 defense, with their biggest defensive lineman, NT Bennie Logan, weighing only 309 lbs (for comparison purposes, the Colts’ NT Josh Chapman weighs a listed 340 lbs).

Colts' Wide Receiver, Hakeem Nicks, was largely an afterthought in the team's offense on Monday Night. He finished with just 1 reception for -4 yards against the Eagles.

Colts’ Wide Receiver, Hakeem Nicks, was largely an afterthought in the team’s offense on Monday Night. He finished with just 1 reception for -4 yards against the Eagles.

Not only this, but with the Colts’ offensive personnel in the inside of Center(s) Holmes/Shipley, LG Jack Mewhort, and RG Hugh Thornton, it doesn’t seem to me like we’re going to suddenly morph into the “smashmouth” Pittsburgh Steelers of old. It’s a group that so far has largely exceeded expectations, but it may be “fools’ gold” for Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton and the offense to truly believe they can simply run-over opposing defenses every week. The Colts will run into heavier and stouter defenses that they may not be able to overpower like they often did to the Eagles on Monday night.

It’s an interesting situation worth monitoring as the season progresses. However, what Colts’ fans saw on Monday Night wasn’t an “opened up” offense. Rather, it was the return of Pep Hamilton’s presumed “smashmouth football”. Whether the Colts plan to continue this power-running trend, remains to be seen. However, it’s unclear what the Colts’ true offensive indentity is at this juncture, leaving many to wonder whether “smashmouth” is here to stay for good.

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