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Film Study: Colts running game

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With the shock news of Andrew Luck‘s retirement on the eve of the 2019 NFL regular season, the Colts gameplan shifted suddenly. No longer were they to rely on their swashbuckling all-pro quarterback slinging the pigskin across the field for 350 yards and 3 TD’s a game. The Colts had to adapt to a far more run heavy, more ‘game-manager’ type game plan.

The shift was not that drastic for Frank Reich and co. as University of South Florida alumni Marlon Mack rushed for 908 yards and 9 touchdowns on an average of 16 rush attempts per game last year. With Mack having the fifth most rushing yards in the league (862 yards already) it is clear to see that the Colts coaching staff have made the run game the crux of their offence.

With a march towards the play-offs underway, let’s take a look at the Colts running game against AFC South rival the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week Eleven.

The first play we’ll look at is a 13 yard gain by Mack. The Colts line-up in 11 personnel (1 RB & 1 TE) and run an inside zone with the TE being the primary blocker on the play. Mo Alie-Cox is one of the premier run blockers in the NFL and is quintessential to this efficient Colts run game.











Alie-Cox’s ability to block bigger defensive linemen allows the Colts premier o-line to reach the second level and open up a running lane enough for a first down.


Here we see the Colts once again in 11 per., except this time the receivers are lined up in bunch formation closer to the offensive line. This time, #21 Nyheim Hines goes in motion towards the right side of the play.

You’ll notice the Jaguars linebackers shuffle over and bite hard on the jet sweep fake. Myles Jack completely misses his gap assignment due to the play-fake and Mack exploits the hole. You’ll even notice that #64, Colts RG Mark Glowinksi goes untouched.











Any time you can run the ball out of 11 per. you’re automatically at an offensive advantage due to the opposition defence being in its nickel package (3 CBs, 2 LBs), its the offensive equivalent of getting pressure with the front four on defence.

Here we have the play of the game, Marlon Mack’s 13 yard touchdown run highlight. This play the perfect example of player skill taking over when the play breaks down.

As with the two previous plays, we see Jacoby Brissett under-centre and Mo Alie-Cox going in motion in order to block. The Jags do a good job of sealing the edge and forcing Mack into the traffic inside. Now normally, the play would break down and the Colts would have a nice 7 yard gain in the redzone.












However, Mack takes over and hits the spin button on Madden not once, but twice. An instant comparison for Mack is Jets running back Le’Veon Bell. Mack shares the same type of ball carrier vision, quick cut explosiveness and elusiveness. Mack, similar to Bell, does not have ‘breakaway’ speed, but his explosiveness and ability to shift is body weight and leverage within the box is almost unparalleled.

Next we find the Colts early in the second quarter just outside of midfield. This time, Myles Jack and the Jags defence does a better job of staying disciplined and sticking with the ball carrier. The entire time Jack has his eyes fixed on Mack.











Even when the Jags do a good job on defence, the run still goes for 13 yards. This, similar to Bell, is where Mack really shines. As mentioned previously, Mack maybe doesn’t have the breakaway speed, but the Colts will wear down defences with 7, 10, 13 yard gains all day long.

Unfortunately for the Colts immediate future, Mack is expected to miss a week or two with a fractured hand. However, let’s take a quick look at why Frank Reich’s game plan will be more than enough to keep the run game going in the next two weeks.

Here we see Marlon Mack’s likely replacement, #33 Jonathan Williams. Williams is a talented runner with similar jump cuts to Mack, although Williams is slightly smaller and faster.











Pre-snap motion is a key concept in the Colts running game and it is executed to perfection here. #21 Nyheim Hines fakes out of the backfield as if he’s about to receive a bubble screen. The Jags D seemingly did not learn from earlier and bit hard on the fake. Jack once again misses his gap assignment and Williams runs right through.

The Colts run is high efficient, modern and effective. Shades of Kyle Shanahan, Sean Payton and Kliff Kingsbury can be seen through the amount of pre-snap motion and trickery. In Marlon Mack they have the perfect runner for their system, someone who is elite at reading running lanes and avoiding tackles inside the box.

If the Colts achieve any sort of success this season, Mack and the run will be at the core of it, not T.Y. Hilton and Andrew Luck.

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