QB Andrew Luck is ruled out of the season opener, and the Indianapolis Colts will go on the road with QB Scott Tolzien. When the announcement was made, everyone locked the Los Angeles Rams in for a Week 1 victory.
It’s hard not to feel that way. When asked what they expect from Tolzien, head coach Chuck Pagano just wants him to be a manager.
Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski on the otherhand....
Chud on Tolzien: "He doesn't have to be Andrew Luck. He needs to be the best Scott Tolzien he can be."— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) September 7, 2017
The last time Tolzien was the best Tolzien he could be, the Colts lost a lopsided game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 12 of the 2016 season. During that game, Tolzien has a quarterback rating of 26.5.
Despite his passer rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio (1:2), Tolzien was fairly accurate. He completed 60 percent of his passes and ran the offense out of the gun for most of the day. He handled play-action decently, and even had his share of scrambles which caught the Steelers off-guard nearly every time. Although, they stopped him touchdown scrambles both times, which isn’t hard since Tolzien is very slow (SURPRISE!).
A surprising observation? The Colts are not afraid to throw it deep with Tolzien, whose deep-pass attempts were in the double-digits. What makes this surprising is the fact that Tolzien is as accurate as he is fast (not very).
On this play, the Colts send WR T.Y. Hilton deep towards the middle of the field. The route called for Hilton to cut in, then turn up the field to create separation. When Tolzien finds him, Hilton is in a decently-sized bubble.
Tolzien is way off target, which was one of the key themes in this game and what the Rams defense could benefit from a lot during this game. The Steelers defense were lucky quite a few times during this game thanks to Tolzien making some poor throws.
On this play, WR Donte Moncrief runs down the field, takes a step inside, then cuts towards the left sideline. Tolzien moves around in the pocket, but has a clear opportunity to make a pass.
He overthrows Moncrief, who had a corner beat and a deep safety nearly 15 yards away.
The Colts were put into a handful of fourth-down situations. On this play, the Colts need a touchdown. Not only does the linebacker read Tolzien’s eyes and nearly disrupt the pass, Tolzien throws it too far up and behind the receiver on what would have been a lucky touchdown.
Tolzien’s bad decisions
On this play, Tolzien has twin left, with a single receiver to his right. Both outside receivers run GO-routes, while Hilton runs a post. Steelers rush five, but the offense is able to create a decent pocket, enough for Tolzien to make a good decision. But unfortunately for the Colts, he doesn’t and nearly gets Hilton killed.
The decision to throw to Hilton was bad. But when Tolzien made the decision was worse, in my opinion.
By the time Hilton runs 10 yards into his route, Tolzien makes the decision to throw it where Hilton should be by the time the ball lands. However, Hilton is blanketed by the corner, and the lone safety is free to roam, and picks up Tolzien’s eyes and moves towards Hilton.
Meanwhile, the tight end spins the linebacker off of him and runs an out, open for the short-yardage play.
With friends like these, who needs a defense?
The Colts were bad last season, even with Hilton and Moncrief, and Sunday will be no different. If it’s not Tolzien shooting his offense in the foot, it will be his receivers.
The offense did not bow to the Steelers defense in this game. They went deep and went deep often. However, a lot of drives and touchdown attempts were thwarted thanks to the drops of Tolzien’s receivers.
Hilton had six drops in 2016. He had two of them against the Steelers.
No easy win
As stated before, this is not a write-in victory. The Rams defense will need to come prepared to shut down Tolzien. Even with dumb passes and drops like these, Tolzien still completed 60 percent of his passes against the Steelers, who were an average pass defense last season.
Tolzien’s favorite targets are deep passes and middle-of-the-field targets to his tight ends. The corners will need to come prepared to sprint downfield all day, and the linebackers need to make sure their zone-coverage is tight. Tolzien completed a lot of passes in wide-open space.