Why the Matt Ryan commerce makes the Colts an AFC contender

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As bizarre because the 2022 NFL offseason has been, I don’t suppose anybody noticed the Atlanta Falcons buying and selling away Matt Ryan earlier than one other quarterback was introduced in. It felt just like the inevitable conclusion to Atlanta’s ill-advised pursuit of Deshaun Watson, and whereas that potential deal would have ensured Ryan’s exit, the commerce on Monday which despatched the winningest quarterback in Falcons’ historical past to the Colts took everybody abruptly.

We knew the quarterback shuffle within the NFL was going to be jarring, however this one was a heck of a twist — and it would simply be sufficient to push Indianapolis into the AFC’s elite.

Let’s face it, this has been a wierd few years for Indy on the quarterback place. The franchise nonetheless hasn’t recovered from Andrew Luck’s shock retirement in 2019 and located itself in limbo. The Colts tried to run again to the playoffs with Philip Rivers, and to their credit score it labored, however when Rivers retired the group was at a crossroads: Tear the whole lot down and rebuild, or maintain looking for solutions?

Why Carson Wentz didn’t work

We now know this newest try failed. Carson Wentz was a wonderfully serviceable quarterback in 2021, however “serviceable” isn’t going to push a group deep within the playoffs until they’ve an astounding protection and different x-factors just like the 49ers. Wentz put up stable numbers, however the satan was within the particulars. He was barely above-average in his accuracy, didn’t stretch the sphere, and whereas he didn’t get intercepted rather a lot, he made a ton of ill-advised throws that wouldn’t lengthen drives the best way the group wanted to.

Wentz would try a “dangerous move” on virtually 19 p.c of his dropbacks, in accordance with Professional Soccer Reference’s superior passer metrics — and this got here regardless of having a median of two.5 seconds to throw the ball. By comparability, Joe Burrow solely had 10.4 p.c of his throws labeled as a “dangerous move,” whereas getting 2.2 seconds of time to throw on common.

That may appear small distinction, however it was way more pronounced contemplating how Indianapolis preferred to run its offense. A rarity within the NFL, the Colts are very a lot a throwback type offense — which sounds cringeworthy contemplating being “old fashioned” on this sense solely dates again 15 years. It is a group that likes to run the ball, throw off play motion, and grind down the clock. Over a 3rd of Wentz’s passing yards in 2021 got here off play motion passes, and this could actually be the place a QB can eat — particularly with a again like Jonathan Taylor to pretend the handoff to. As a substitute, Wentz averaged 8.6 yards-per-attempt on these throws. Not horrible, however not adequate.

The Colts had been intimately conscious that Wentz wasn’t the man. No less than not the man who may take them on a deep playoff run. It was a foul deal that took away the Colts’ first spherical choose this season in an exceptionally deep draft, however not less than they acquired some return, buying and selling him away to the Washington Commanders. For some time it appeared the rebuild would start now, a sluggish march into desolation earlier than a brand new quarterback could possibly be discovered.

Why Matt Ryan is totally different

Okay, so no person is complicated Ryan in 2022 with Russell Wilson in relation to promise and hype, however he matches so profoundly effectively into the Colts’ offense that this feels prefer it was meant to be.

In 2020 with Todd Gurley as his characteristic again, Ryan averaged 9.8 yards-per-attempt on play motion. Clearly Taylor is vastly extra intimidating for defenses, so this quantity ought to improve with the brand new QB on the helm. Ryan has additionally pushed the ball downfield extra all through his profession, and is much extra cautious with the soccer. Even final season he solely tried a “dangerous move” on 14.5 p.c of makes an attempt, and this was whereas he was needing to power throws to try to generate offense.

Whereas Ryan isn’t a cannon-armed quarterback who can take over a recreation at this level in his profession, he’s nonetheless higher than anybody left available on the market. There’s additionally a good argument to be made that Ryan is best proper now than Rivers was when he joined the Colts in 2020, and that bodes extraordinarily effectively contemplating Indianapolis went 11-5 that season and solely misplaced be three factors to the Payments within the Wild Card spherical.

In any occasion, Ryan is the suitable QB on the proper time, and located himself in the suitable place. As painful as leaving Atlanta will likely be, it was the sort and honest factor to place him on a fringe playoff group vs losing considered one of his last seasons within the doldrums of the NFC South solely to lose to Tom Brady.

Now, Indianapolis must be considered as one of many favorites to win its division. Outdoors of Tennessee, who’ve been stable however unspectacular with Ryan Tannehill below middle, there’s actually no problem within the AFC South. The window is now open.

Ryan is the proper match, however issues are removed from good on offense

There’s no identification disaster in Indianapolis, however that doesn’t imply they’ll afford to neglect the necessity for one more vast receiver. Michael Pittman Jr. is a stud No. 1 who will put up huge numbers with Ryan, however extra must be executed.

With $16M in cap area remaining, there’s room for Indy to signal not less than another top-flight receiver. The obvious reply that simply makes an excessive amount of sense is Julio Jones. Jones is at some extent the place he’ll doubtless signal a “show it” deal, simply to point out he can transition right into a veteran position. After a disastrous season in Tennessee he’ll be dying to point out the NFL he nonetheless has expertise, and there’s no higher manner that reuniting him with Ryan.

Outdoors of Jones, there may be some stable expertise left available on the market. Odell Beckham Jr. is but to resolve his group, and the Rams seem to have moved on by signing Allen Robinson. OBJ could possibly be a very nice slot in Indy. There’s additionally Jarvis Landry, who’s seeking to show himself as effectively — and to a lesser extent Will Fuller.

Any of those gamers would pair properly with Pittman Jr. and fluctuate the assault sufficient, that with Taylor as the focus of the offense there could possibly be profound success.

What’s the restrict for these Colts?

I’m actually bullish on this commerce. Indianapolis was already a extremely good group that was slept on an excessive amount of in 2021 as a result of everybody knew Wentz wasn’t going to hold them far. Now with Ryan on the helm, I believe there’s severe potential for Indianapolis to make noise.

Naturally, that is simpler stated than executed. The Bengals took main strides in free company following their breakout season, the Chargers acquired markedly higher as effectively, the Chiefs and Payments will stay forces — and the wild card within the AFC is now Denver, who’s all-in with Russell Wilson.

Nonetheless, I’m having a tough time not seeing the Colts in that firm, if the group can get some extra weapons. Frank Reich has been a great coach, the group has nice chemistry, and I believe sleeping on Indy is an enormous mistake. If the Colts make a significant run this 12 months I gained’t be shocked, and it’s superb that one commerce can do this.

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