Colts’ Key Players in Contract Years Face Turning Point in Week 3

Frank Reich

Getty Several Indianapolis Colts players must start to play better soon for head coach Frank Reich.

The Indianapolis Colts entered the 2022 season with several players in contract years that had something to prove. While the first month of the season has yet to end, 2 of those players face what could prove to be a turning point for their seasons and thus careers during Week 3.

Of the 6 players that NFL writer Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report included on his NFL players “facing make-or-break” scenarios in Week 3 list, 2 of them were Colts — defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and left tackle Matt Pryor.

The Colts are likely going to need better performances from both of those players to beat the Kansas City Chiefs on September 25.

Colts Need More Pass Rush From Yannick Ngakoue

After trading for the veteran pass rusher, Indianapolis was expecting a minimum of 8 sacks from Ngakoue this season. After all, that’s been his floor in each of his 6 previous NFL season.

He may very well still record 8 sacks. But Ngakoue doesn’t have any sacks through 2 games and only 1 tackle for loss and 1 quarterback hit. He also has 4 combined tackles.

Without Ngakoue producing early this season, the Colts pass rush has largely been non-existent.

“The Colts are 27th in pressure percentage and 22nd in pass-rush win rate,” Ballentine wrote. “The elements are there for them to develop a nasty pass rush, but Ngakoue has to be a part of it.”

Indianapolis recorded 3.0 sacks against the Houston Texans in Week 1 but none versus the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second game.

“Against the Washington Commanders, Trevor Lawrence was pressured on 24.4 percent of his dropbacks and threw nine bad throws, according to Pro Football Reference’s data,” Ballentine wrote. “Against the Colts in Week 2, he was only pressured on 13.3 percent of his dropbacks and had zero bad throws.

“That’s the difference in the Colts’ star pass-rusher not being able to get home. If the Colts are going to turn things around it’s going to be because Ngakoue starts playing more effectively or they find someone to take some of his snaps.”

Interestingly, Sports Illustrated’s Zach Hicks did call for someone to take some snaps from Ngakoue. He argued on September 22 that the edge rusher is playing too many snaps against the run, which is hurting his production in pass rushing downs.

Whether or not the Colts make an adjustment to their defensive line rotation, Indianapolis needs more in the pass rush from Ngakoue.

Matt Pryor Facing Scrutiny

The Colts offensive line is one of the more underperforming units around the league to begin the 2022 season. As expected in that type of situation, Ballentine claimed “there’s plenty of blame to go around.”

But the offensive linemen who takes the most blame in that type of situation is usually going to be the least established player of the unit. That’s Pryor at left tackle.

“Matt Pryor is off to a bad start while rotating with rookie Bernhard Raimann. Pryor has registered a PFF grade of 58.6 with one sack allowed on 115 snaps,” Ballentine wrote. “In contrast, Raimann has a 73.2 grade across 31 snaps.

“In some cases, the Colts just don’t have an answer. Braden Smith is struggling at right tackle, but there is no clear replacement for him.”

“There is for Pryor, and he’s going to find out if his protection is not much improved against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.”

Despite that being true, there won’t be a viable replacement for Pryor during Week 3. The Colts ruled out Raimann for Week 3 because of an ankle injury.

It will be up to Pryor to hold down Ryan’s blindside in the team’s home opener. How well he does could impact how much he plays once Raimann returns healthy.

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