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Colts need to quit testing Jacoby Brissett’s durability

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 17: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the Indianapolis Colts runs downfield against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 17, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – No one should question Jacoby Brissett’s resolve, or resilience.

The Jacksonville Jaguars gave him every opportunity to offer a No mas! Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. There were the 10 sacks, tied for the second-most allowed by the Colts in their 65-year history. And there were 10 other occasions the Jaguars’ pass rush engulfed the still-evolving quarterback.

At one point in the fourth quarter, Chuck Pagano approached his beaten and battered QB about exiting the game and turning things over to Scott Tolzien.

“He wasn’t coming out of that game,’’ Pagano said.

Not a chance.

“I’m the quarterback,’’ Brissett said. “I can’t come out.’’

That stubbornness hadn’t subsided earlier this week.

“You’ve got to pull me off on a stretcher for me not to get up,’’ he said.

Now that everyone truly understands how Brissett’s wired, it’s incumbent upon the Colts to ensure there isn’t a repeat Sunday when they face the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadiums.

The Bengals aren’t the Jaguars, who lead the NFL with 33 sacks after their four-quarter assault on Brissett. But the presence of Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, rookie Carl Lawson and a few others, coupled with the Colts’ mess of an offensive line, amplifies the potential risk Cincinnati poses.

Again, it’s up to the Colts to make life easier – or as easy as possible – for a 23-year old quarterback who was a New England Patriot until the Sept. 2 trade.

“There’s no magic answers,’’ offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski said Thursday. “There’s no magic plays. There’s no magic schemes.

“We have to block. We have to get the ball out. We have to catch. We have to make plays and execute.’’

Pro Bowl wideout T.Y. Hilton singled out the offensive line for its culpability in the lack of productivity against the Jaguars. The Colts suffered their first regular-season shutout in 24 years.

But that was not a single-issue fiasco against Jacksonville, and a portion of the blame rests with Brissett. While there’s no denying the constant pressure he was under, he compounded matters appearing hesitant and indecisive.

How can Brissett do a better job of avoiding so many hits?

“Get the ball out of my hands so they can’t hit me,’’ he said with a wry smile. “You’ve just got to trust it. You’ve got to trust that the plan is the plan for a reason, and I’ve got to do a better job of that.’’

Chudzinski described the Jacksonville game as a “great learning experience’’ for Brissett. He’s noticed a different quarterback in practice this week, one more conscious of making quicker decisions and getting rid of the football quicker.

“Those experiences you see him learning from, and (those) signs are encouraging to me,’’ he said.

It’s worth remembering Brissett’s experience with the Colts consists of 55 days and six starts. He’s still learning the nuances of his receivers, how they come out of breaks and how they work against press coverage or zones.

Priority 1 with the Colts offense is ball security, which Brissett has quickly embraced. He hasn’t suffered an interception in the last two games and has just three on the season.

But Brissett also has only three touchdown passes. That’s tied for the fewest in club history after seven games.

It’s as if Brissett’s desire to avoid interceptions is impeding the aggression a quarterback needs at certain points in a game. Occasionally, he isn’t willing to trust his receivers to get open or anticipate they will.

That leads to hesitation, and that contributes to pressure and sacks.

It’s “the familiarity he has with things, the trust, the time spent on task with the receivers and the anticipation,’’ Chudzinski said. “Those are all things you work for to improve to get the ball out quicker, or quick.

“It’s time in practice and the experience, being together on that. Those are things that are coming. We have to expedite that process as much as we can to get it where it needs to be and where we want it to be.’’

Clearly, something needs to change, and improve.

Consider Brissett’s last six quarters against the Jaguars and Tennessee Titans: 31-of-57 (54.4 percent), 293 yards, no touchdowns, no interceptions, a 68.8 passer rating.

“It’s part of that natural process of the ups and downs of a new player, a young player,’’ Chudzinski said. “I think he’s learning every week. You see the strides that he makes.

“I see improvement. I see progress being made in those areas, in understanding and applying. It’s not always consistent, which we need it to be. That will come in time.’’