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Knee injury impacted Jacoby Brissett’s mechanics, performance

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - DECEMBER 22: Jacoby Brissett #7 of the Indianapolis Colts against the Carolina Panthers at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Great Jacoby Brissett Debate rages on, and will continue to do so until Chris Ballard does something in the offseason – one way or the other – to quiet the noise

Is the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback of the present also their quarterback of the future?

Is a Jacoby Brissett with another season under his belt – and without the rash of injuries that depleted his top-end options in the passing game – good enough to be the guy to lead the Indianapolis Colts back to the playoffs in 2020, and beyond?

Here’s another topic of debate: How much has the sprained MCL in his left knee muddied the question?

Throughout Brissett’s dramatic second-half fade, he and Frank Reich routinely have dismissed the notion the knee injury has impacted Brissett’s performance.

Thursday, offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni and quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady offered more clarity.

Yes, the knee, sprained when Quenton Nelson was pushed back onto it in the second quarter of the Nov. 3 game at Pittsburgh, has been an issue.

Listening to Sirianni and Brady Thursday and it was clear the left knee is at the root of Brissett’s significant drop-off in performance. The knee might be 100 percent at this point, but it impacted his technique and still could be doing so.

“I know he’s going to tell you ‘No,’’’ Sirianni said. “I’ve seen that the last two steps of his drop have been a little bit different since the knee injury, yes, which messes up timing a little bit. That has to do with his knee.

“I know exactly what he’ll say, but I’ve noticed the last two steps have been a little bit affected.’’

Brissett has been especially off the last three games: 51-of-97 (52.6 percent), 535 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, a 75.8 rating. He’s completed less than 53 percent of his passes in three straight games for the first time in his brief career, and that includes the forgettable 2017 season.

Brady, who’s hands-on with Brissett on a daily basis, revealed the knee injury bothered Brissett for “about five weeks. He kind of had to just go through it. It was nothing you could fix. It was an injury.’’

Brissett missed the Nov. 10 game against Miami after Reich wasn’t satisfied with his work in the pocket, primarily his lateral movement.

When Brissett returned, the left knee initially impacted his throwing mechanics.

“You have to plant and throw,’’ Brady said, “and it’s hard because you don’t want to follow through as hard. That’s where some of the high throws come into play.’’

That certainly was the case against the Saints when Brissett was wild high on early throws to Zach Pascal, Jordan Wilkins and T.Y. Hilton.

Players and teams seldom are revealing when it comes to discussing injuries. Remember Adam Vinatieri and his left knee issues?

Prior to the Dec. 16 trip to New Orleans, Reich was asked if the knee injury was impacting Brissett’s play.

“Could it be affecting him? I suppose,’’ he said.

After Brissett completed 18-of-34 passes (52.9 percent) for 165 yards in the 34-7 loss to the Saints, the issue again was raised.

“I think his knee is fine,’’ Reich said.

There have been contributing factors in Brissett’s decline, including injuries to T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell and Eric Ebron. But here’s where we apply Occam’s Razor, a principle that holds the most likely explanation for an event is usually the simplest explanation.

The simplest explanation for the dramatic change in Brissett’s performance: the sprained knee and how it affected the foundation of his techniques.

Prior to the injury, the Colts were atop the AFC South and in the mix for a favorable seeding in the AFC playoffs. Brissett had completed 64.8 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns, three interceptions and a 99.7 rating.

In six post-MCL starts, Brissett has completed 57.5 percent of his passes with four TDs, three interceptions and a 75.8 rating. The Colts are 2-4.

Brissett never has been an overly-aggressive QB who pushes the ball down the field. He averaged 6.98 yards per attempt prior to the injury, and that’s dropped to 6.1 after the injury. He was at 6.6 in 2017, and Reich’s benchmark is in the 7.5 range.

Again, Ballard’s offseason actions will speak volumes, most notably whether there’s a quarterback in the April draft that’s either worth taking in the middle of the first round – the Colts currently sit 16th in the process – or merits upward and expensive movement.

At least publicly, the Colts remain supportive of Brissett.

“We’re 100 percent confident in Jacoby and the things he can do,’’ Sirianni said. “He’s really special when he has the ball and things break down (like with a) couple of those big plays that he created in the game on Sunday when the pocket broke down.

“A great leader. So our confidence hasn’t wavered in him.’’

Ditto, Brady.

“There’s a lot to love about him,’’ he said. “His leadership, his command of the offense, his control of the huddle, his control on the field . . . he’s been great in the pocket avoiding pass rush, moving the chains with his feet.

“And he shows flashes that he can consistently move the ball up and down the field.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

And be sure to catch the Colts Blue Zone Podcast:

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