The Los Angeles Rams are set to open the regular season at home against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. With four players listed out for the Colts including QB Andrew Luck, it’s a bit of a must-win situation for the first Week 1 start for QB Jared Goff and new Head Coach Sean McVay.
So to get a better understanding of what we’re up against tonight, I linked up with Matt Danely from Stampede Blue, the SB Nation community for Colts fans.
Clearly, the big story for this game now is the injuries on your side. How are they being taken by Colts fans? Given how long QB Andrew Luck's shoulder injury has existed, is there any reticence at having waited until he did to undergo surgery?
For the most part, Colts fans are being realistic about them, which when you consider how disappointing not having your franchise quarterback on the field anything less than a total freak out is a plus. I think fans largely are looking at the situation similarly to the team – they prefer to let Andrew Luck heal and keep him around for the next decade versus getting him back to save this season and risk long-term difficulties.
I don’t think the organization was wrong in waiting, nor do I think it was some secretive process. Rather, I think it was just the process of going through different opinions from doctors and finally Luck decided to get it over with to ensure his health heading into the future.
For the remainder of the team’s injuries, they realize that the young talent on the roster is the wave of the future, but they are getting agitated with the frequency of these year in and year out. Undoubtedly it’s just a part of the reality that is the NFL, however, there’s a clear understanding of what this team is this year.
With Luck tabled for a bit to start the season, you guys traded WR Philip Dorsett to the New England Patriots for QB Jacoby Brissett. What's the fan approval rating for that one? Dorsett may not have lived up to first-round billing after you guys took him two years ago, but did he have more value for you guys than a guy who will be your QB3 when Luck returns?
For the most part, Colts fans are in favor of the trade – Dorsett wasn’t a fan favorite by any means. With that, there’s an acknowledgment that the team may not have used him in a way to reap the most success from his skillset either. There’s no question that Dorsett failed to live up to the expectations that come with a first-round selection, however, he did have an elite trait that could have been used to maximize the receiver corps goals.
In the end, Dorsett was on the block, he may or may not have made the 53-man roster. Chris Ballard did the one thing that Bill Polian failed to do to keep his job past 2011 – he took a chance on a guy who he feels is potentially one of the better backups of the future in the league. Brissett will be Luck’s backup from here on out once he is up to speed and should any further injury issues arise, Ballard will have Luck a talented backup waiting in the wings for at least the next three seasons on the cheap.
Defensively, the last two years' Colts defenses have been...well, I'll let you fill in the blank. But it's not a good blank. You guys went heavy on defense in the draft. How are things shaping up on that side of the ball?
Two years? You’re a kind soul. But, yes, they did – and they were….awful. This was something that has been needed for the past couple seasons and the previous regime failed to do it with any dedication. The defense is still very much a work in progress, however, there is some very workable talent on that side of the ball now that can legitimately impact the game for the Colts.
Ballard also brought in some talent through free agency and spent wisely, working in intelligent contracts to younger pieces in order to see if they can expedite the growth of the draft selections. Some of those who were retained between regimes have shown immense improvement while other have been more modest in their development, but understanding that it is a multi-year rebuild makes fans feel that they are well on their way to building a real defense that can be significantly better in all of the areas the team has fallen short in recent years.
After three straight 11-win seasons to start Luck's career, the last two years at 8-8 have seen you guys on the outside of the playoffs looking in. With Head Coach Chuck Pagano on the second year of his contract extension and a new general manager in Chris Ballard, what's the overall health of the franchise? Obviously, the next four months will represent the most recent evidence to support any conclusion, but what trajectory do you feel the Colts are on over the next few years?
I think it’s well accepted that Chuck is going to be coaching for his job from here on out. The relationship between Pagano and Ballard is a quality, working relationship for now, but these two are not a good match. The organization is only as healthy as the pieces working together towards the same goal, and if there’s a failure to connect, the pair will be working on borrowed time with Pagano getting his walking papers.
The relationship appears to be a professional one, with both of them trying to make it work in the short term, but Ballard isn’t a guy who looks at anything other than the big picture, and Pagano isn’t in that portrait pending a miracle coaching exhibition this season. Ballard is the key, and his ability to continue to bring in the right pieces to the puzzle may take some time, but his eye for talent is unmistakable and he needs a coach to squeeze the most out of the talent he brings in. Pagano isn’t that guy.
What do you know about the 2017 Week 1 Colts? What do you think Rams fans need to be prepared for? And what sensible surprises do you think have a chance of developing?
The Colts are going to do whatever they can to hide Scott Tolzien. They can’t afford to allow him to be the mistake that crumbles any chances to get a win in their first game of the year. There will be a real focus to take chances in the secondary, to risk some things in the short term aspect of the game in order to get some key plays out of it at some point.
The ball skills in this secondary is the best they’ve had in years. The components are in place to be better at getting pressure on the quarterback and to stop the run theoretically. Chemistry will be the real challenge for this unit though.
Rob Chudzinski has a streak in which he gets very predictable during games. He also shows some true innovation at times. Consistency, and understanding that Tolzien cannot do nearly as much as Luck can under center, and coaching him as such will be paramount to the effectiveness of the offensive gameplan as well.
Brandon Williams will be a big part as he’ll hold down the role that was vacated when Dwayne Allen was traded, and Donte Moncrief will be as well with his need to be a producer in between the 20s instead of just in the red zone this year.
The real question with this team, until they prove otherwise, will be: Can they do the grunt work, the stuff that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet to get this roster into good positions. If they can, look out, because the flash talent is there and could take many by surprise given a special set of circumstances.
Thanks to Matt for the time.