Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why has the Colts Running Game Improved?

The Colts running game has approached adequate in the last three games.  This has been noted by many observers, but I have yet to see anyone really asking why?  What changed?

Clearly something has changed, but what?  This does not seem to be a personnel issue.  Five games ago Mike Pollak regained his starting right guard spot.  He had been replaced by Jeff Linkenbach (who is listed as a tackle) for a large part of the season.  This was reportedly to help improve the running game.  It certainly did not improve the running game and Linkenbach proved to be a clear and present danger to the heath and safety of Peyton Manning.

In re-watching the last three games, nothing really jumps out at you.  About the only thing that seems to be a trend is that the Colts have changed the kind of run plays they call.  Mostly you see two types of plays now:  "quick hitters" and draw plays.

On a quick hitter play, the quarterback will quickly pivot once he receives the snap and hand it to a running back who is already on his way to a predetermined hole that the offensive line is supposed to be creating.  The idea is that by quickly creating a hole in the defensive line and getting your back into it immediately, that it will be difficult for the linebackers to get to that hole in time to stop the run.

The advantage to this kind of play is that the offensive line only has to hold their blocks for a short time and it is less imperative that the offensive lineman away from the point of attack run block effectively since their defenders will not have time to get to the play.

When they run draw plays, they also have started to run quicker hitting ones.  Usually a draw play is a slow developing play where the quarterback takes a shotgun snap and appears to look downfield - then hands the ball to a running back who has lingered in the backfield.

Now what they are running as draw plays are more like a inside hand-off from the shotgun formation.

The pass blocking has also improved, but the reasons are also not obvious.  Generally it is easier to pass block if the defense has to be worried about the possibility of a successful running play, so that might be why.

Going into this Jets game, it will be more important than ever to run the ball.  Breaking a few long runs against the Jets blitz will slow them down and give us more time to throw.