INDIANAPOLIS – Areas of interest in the Indianapolis Colts’ meeting with the New York Jets Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium:
- Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.
- Broadcast: CBS4.
Is this T.Y.’s day?
We’re still waiting for T.Y. Hilton to go off. He’s two weeks into his ninth season and contract year and, unfortunately, he’s taking his nickname – the Ghost – to the wrong extreme. His seven catches are tied for the second-fewest in his first two games and his 81 yards are his fewest since his rookie season. And then there are the three drops.
“He’s the last person I worry about,’’ Frank Reich insisted.
That’s fine, but Hilton’s got to come out of this early funk. He’s the big-play component to the offense, and that role is magnified on the heels of Parris Campbell’s knee injury that has sidelined him indefinitely.
Hilton’s grandma dialed him up Monday after watching another un-T.Y.-like game against the Minnesota Vikings, including losing a 45-yard TD in the sun.
“She called me and told me that person that she’s seeing on TY wasn’t, you know, her grandbaby,’’ he said. “It hurt me for her to tell me that.’’
“Now I’m back to being me, back to having fun,’’ Hilton said. “You’ll see a more exciting person out there on Sunday and I look forward to it.’’
The Jets’ secondary is in tatters. Cornerback and ex-Colt Quincy Wilson is out with a concussion. Safety Ashtyn Davis is out with groin injury. Another ex-Colt corner, Pierre Desir, started the opener but was benched in favor of Wilson in week 2. Yet another ex-Colt corner, Nate Hairston, was a healthy inactive in week 2.
If not Sunday, when?
Filling Campbell’s void
Since we’re talking about the Colts’ passing game, it’s worth wondering how Reich and coordinator Nick Sirianni will compensate for the loss of Campbell as their primary slot receiver. The 2019 second-round draft pick had flashed his big-play potential in the opener before damaging two ligaments in his left knee against the Vikings.
There is no singular answer when it comes to replacing the size (6-0, 208 pounds), speed and power of Campbell.
“It’s a by-committee thing,’’ Sirianni said.
Zach Pascal probably is the top option when the Colts are in their three-receiver set with Hilton and rookie Michael Pittman Jr. outside. But Hilton might work out of the slot at times as well as running back Nyheim Hines or one of the tight ends. If Jack Doyle returns to the lineup, Sirianni might consider giving Mo Alie-Cox some reps in the slot after the damage he did against Minnesota (five catches, 111 yards).
Which offense this week?
Pass-heavy one week, run-heavy the next. Now what? We’re betting on Reich’s approach against the Jets being closer to week 2 (40 rushes, 25 pass attempts) than week 1 (22 rushes, 46 Rivers’ passes).
That would be the common-sense approach considering the Jets’ run defense is giving up 140 yards per game and 4.6 yards per attempt, but that’s really the way Reich and Sirianni prefer things. Allow the offensive line to assert its will on the Jets, feed Jonathan Taylor – with occasional doses of Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines – and control the game.
Taylor shouldered 26 carries and posted what should be the first of many 100-yard games in his first career start, and probably will be given every opportunity to come up with a suitable encore.
Leaning on Frank?
This is where the Jets are offensively: Sam Darnold’s best option might be his 37-year old running back. That would be Frank Gore. Yes, another ex-Colt.
Darnold will be without his top three wideouts: Jamison Crowder (hamstring), Breshad Perriman (ankle) and rookie Denzel Mims (on IR with a hamstring injury). Feature back Le’Veon Bell is on IR with a hamstring injury.
Who’s left? Frank Gore, of course.
“I was not here when he was here, but I was hearing legendary stories about Frank Gore everywhere I’ve been,’’ Reich said. “This guy is a unique mindset. What he has done at his position… I mean if you’re a football guy, you have to have the massive amount of respect that you can have for this guy. To be productive as he has been for as long as he has been playing that position, it’s incredible.’’
Gore is the NFL’s version of the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps going and going and going. He’s in the 16th year of what will be a Hall of Fame career. He ranks 3rd all-time with 15,434 yards and 3,575 attempts. He’s rushed for at least 1,000 yards nine times. Only Emmitt Smith (11), Walter Payton (10), Barry Sanders (10) and Curtis Martin (10) have more.
But in fairness, Gore isn’t the back he once was. He’s averaged 4.3 yards per attempt in his career, but has been at 3.9 or lower in four of his last five seasons. He’s the Jets’ leading rusher with 87 yards, but is averaging just 3.2 yards per attempt.
More from the D
Coordinator Matt Eberflus’ defense, maligned after allowing Gardner Minshew’s ridiculous 19-of-20 sniping in the opener, got its act together against the Vikings. So, after two weeks, his D ranks 1st in the NFL in fewest yards (208.0) and yards per play (4.4).
The 416 total yards are the fewest allowed by the Colts in their first two games since their relocation in 1984 and the 3rd-fewest in the NFL in the first two games since 2011.
A lapse against the Jets would be inexcusable. Darnold is engineering an offense that is categorically the NFL’s worst: 32nd in total yards, 30th in yards per attempt, 31st in rushing, 30th in passing, 31st in points.
A lapse would be inexcusable.
And the winner is
Colts 31, Jets 13. We made this mistake before. It was just two weeks ago, and the Colts were heavy favorites to take care of business at Jacksonville. We won’t bother reminding you how that turned out. Maybe they learned a painful lesson. The Jets are an absolute mess. Injuries have decimated the top end of their roster and deprived Sam Darnold of a good portion of his proven supporting cast. This is one of those games the Colts need to get out to an early lead and keep the pressure on. Don’t give a struggling opponent any reason to believe it can pull the upset.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.