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This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Indianapolis Colts. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Josh Wilson from Stampede Blue and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "What do Colts fans think of Trent Richardson? Obviously, the trading of a first-round pick for him is seen as a terrible decision, right?"
Josh: "Yeah, it's absolutely viewed as a terrible decision by Colts fans. I think fans are honestly past the point of even debating the trade - it's just known that it was a bad trade for Indy. Now, it's all about whether Richardson can still provide value to the team. There are a lot of fans upset with Richardson, and in fact whenever he carries the ball at home he'll be greeted by a chorus of boos now. I'm on record as saying that the Colts need to bench him. Quite simply, he shouldn't be continuing to run the football that much for the Colts.
With all of that said, however, the reality is that the Colts will continue to give him playing time and I actually don't think that's a terrible thing - they just need to do so in a certain way. Richardson is easily the best pass protector at the running back position that the Colts have on their active roster right now, so he gives value there. He's also shown that he can make some plays as a receiving back, and while he won't be a star by any means he can still function as a third down type back at times. Furthermore, he should be used as a short yardage and goal line back. But other than that, giving him carries is basically giving up a play. The Colts will give him the snaps and I really don't think that's the issue, but continuing to give him carries is.
As for this weekend, I know he's very motivated to play the Browns, and if there was ever a week for him to have a big game it would be this one. But based on what we've seen from him, I doubt it will happen."
Chris: "Aside from the Broncos in Week 1, the Colts have not faced a top-10 pass defense all season. In fact, their schedule happens to be slanted against teams with rather poor secondaries -- the average ranking of the Colts' opponents' pass defenses comes to 21st in the NFL. Cleveland is ranked 8th in pass defense with a unit that has the 2nd highest interception rate in the NFL. Is there any trepidation among fans about what will happen against a good secondary like Cleveland's?"
Josh: "Not really, and it really doesn't have anything to do with the Browns' defense but rather the Colts' offense and Andrew Luck. If going by DVOA, the Browns will actually be the fourth top-ten pass defense the Colts will have faced this year. And no matter who the Colts play, Luck plays well and the offense scores points. There's no doubt that the Browns' defense prevents a tough challenge for the Colts, especially through the air. And, as you mentioned, they take the football away. The Colts have struggled to protect the football in recent weeks, so there is definitely a concern there. But I don't think Colts fans are overly concerned because of the guy the Colts have playing quarterback and because of the number of weapons the team has.
The Patriots did as good of a job as anybody at taking away T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne, yet Luck still threw for 300 yards and led the Colts to 20 points (a very low total for them this year). I think with the way the Colts' offense is structured, while the Browns will certainly provide a tough test the Colts should be able to put up some points regardless."
Chris: "The basic formula to beat the Colts seems pretty clear: you have to beat them in a shootout. The last time the Colts faced an AFC North opponent on the road, they gave up 51 points and 639 yards of offense to the Steelers. What is the biggest weakness of the Colts' defense in 2014?"
Josh: "This is a tough question because, well, there are several weaknesses that the Colts have on defense. Firstly, they're susceptible to the run game. If a team is dedicated to running the football and have a solid running game, the Colts will likely struggle with it. The problem for many opponents is that the Colts will put up enough points to cause them to go away from the run game a bit.
One of the biggest weaknesses the Colts' defense has is in defending the tight ends in the passing game. They haven't really been able to stop it yet this season and I don't expect it to happen against Jordan Cameron, as long as he plays. The Colts really, really struggle to defend the tight end in the passing game. The pass rush is also a concern, though not as big of a one because of the way they've been able to land blitzes and create pressure. But, of course, with the way they've been manufacturing that pressure there is a concern that perhaps it might not work (see the Steelers game). The Steelers went to more of a max-protect formation and completely eliminated the Colts' pass rush from the game, leaving their secondary out to dry.
As far as the secondary goes, they've actually been the strength of the defensive unit this season. But cornerback Vontae Davis is dealing with a concussion and at this point it's unknown whether he'll play or not. He has truly been playing at an elite level this year and the drop-off not only in the secondary but in the defense in general when Davis isn't in there is startling and very concerning. If he can't go on Sunday, add the secondary to a rather large list of concerns for this unit."
Chris: "D'Qwell Jackson leads the Colts in tackles. While fans liked him during his tenure in Cleveland, he often had the reputation of a good, but not great, inside linebacker (i.e. not a game-changer). How has he been for the Colts?"
Josh: "He hasn't done that well. His tackle stats are impressive, but he hasn't really done a great job as the inside linebacker. I will give him credit, however, by saying that the last two weeks have been better. Ultimately, I think the Colts knew who they were getting in Jackson at this point, and he's not the player that he was in Cleveland. He's a linebacker who will do a very good job when playing "inside a box," so to speak, and not having to move around a ton.
But that doesn't happen very often, so he has missed some plays and some tackles. He is terrible in coverage, and that's one of the main reasons the Colts have struggled to cover the tight ends. I don't want to sound too critical of Jackson here because he's a good guy and a good leader who can play well at times, but he's very limited and for the most part this season he has not been impressive."
Chris: "How did Colts fans react when the team first signed Josh Cribbs to return kicks and punts? And, two games into his Indianapolis career, how do fans feel about him now?"
Josh: "At the time Josh Cribbs was signed by the Colts a couple of weeks ago, fans loved the move, but I think the reason for that was mainly due to the completely ineffective return units the Colts have had for as long as many can remember. Fans were excited about Cribbs, but I think more so just compared to their other returners. But after the first game (and really, the first kickoff return), I think fans really began to be excited about Cribbs because of who he is as a player.
I think we all realize that he's not the player he used to be given his age, but it's been hard to tell it when watching him. He looks really good and in fact should have had a punt return for a score in his first game (there was a flag on the play but the NFL since apologized to the Colts for it). He looks much better than myself or most fans thought he would coming "off the street" like he did and I think almost all Colts fans are very excited about the return game for the first time in a long, long time."
Thanks again to Josh for taking the time to answer my questions.