With the Seahawks set to host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night, Seahawks.com reached out to Colts.com writer Andrew Walker to learn more about this week's opponent. Here are his answers to five questions we asked about the Colts:
Q: We'll start with the obvious question: just how big of a blow has it been to the Colts to start their season without Andrew Luck?
Walker: "I'll state the obvious: it isn't ideal that Andrew Luck hasn't been able to play yet after undergoing surgery to his throwing shoulder in January. But because Luck—who inked at that time the biggest contract in NFL history last season—is clearly the future of the franchise, the Colts have decided to be very conservative and careful in how quickly (or how slowly, I guess) they've brought him along. So I think the team definitely has faced the possibility that Luck could've missed regular-season time from the outset, and was always careful to never really publicly put a timeline on his return because of it. Unfortunately for the Colts, their initial backup plan, veteran Scott Tolzien, just didn't work out. The hope was that with an entire offseason, training camp and preseason working with the No. 1 offense, Tolzien would be able to at least hold down the fort until Luck's return, but Tolzien's debut against the Los Angeles Rams—one in which he threw two pick sixes—showed that the team needed to make a change, and make one fast. So they threw Jacoby Brissett, who had been acquired just two weeks prior in a trade, into the fire, and he's responded well in his first two starts. So, yes, the Colts want their franchise quarterback back on the field as soon as possible, but Brissett's emergence has, I think, calmed the team down."
Q: With that in mind, what has Jacoby Brissett brought to the offense since arriving in a trade with the Patriots? What kind of challenges are the Seahawks defense looking at?
Walker: "One word you hear over and over again when describing Brissett, whether it's head coach Chuck Pagano or offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, is "poise." And he's definitely got it. He's a cool cucumber both on and off the field, and nothing really seems to faze him. That's not particularly surprising, given how as a rookie last year for the Patriots, he had to step in for a suspended Tom Brady and an injured Jimmy Garoppolo to start a couple games in New England, and he actually won his debut, 27-0, over a pretty good Houston Texans defense. But seeing it up close this month has really been impressive. He was acquired Sept. 2, had to play the fourth quarter of the Colts' opener a week later, and then a week after that he's all of a sudden the team's starting quarterback. And while he has shown a really good arm, the Seattle defense should definitely be weary of Brissett's ability to make plays with his feet. He's not Russell Wilson when it comes to escaping the pocket and making those magical plays either with his feet or his arm, but Brissett has shown a really good sense of when the pocket is collapsing, and an escapability to at least live to play another down. And then, of course, he had two nice touchdown runs last week against the Cleveland Browns, one of which featured the best spin move in Indianapolis since Dwight Freeney was here sacking quarterbacks. So while Brissett definitely has more to learn and work on—being more productive in the second half of games, for example—he's been a welcomed addition for this Colts offense."
Q: How big of a concern is the Colts defense, which has allowed 369.3 yards and 30 points per game?
Walker: "I think the Colts' defense is something that isn't causing too much alarm around here—yet. Perhaps unbelievably, the Indianapolis defense Week 1 of this season featured 11 new starters from the previous season; literally every position. It was a huge point of emphasis for new general manager Chris Ballard this offseason to bring in a ton of new free agents and draft picks and unsigned college free agents to compete on that side of the ball, and they're seeing some really nice individual efforts. Outside linebackers John Simon and Jabaal Sheard, for example, really seem to be nice pieces for this defense, and were guys that were rotational-type players in really good defenses elsewhere that are entering the primes of their careers and deserved starting roles with new teams. Malik Hooker, the team's first-round pick out of Ohio State, looks every bit the ballhawking safety he was for the Buckeyes last year, when he led the nation in pick-sixes. Fifth-year veteran Rashaan Melvin (two picks last week vs. Cleveland) has filled in nicely for injured No. 1 cornerback Vontae Davis, who expects to return for his 2017 debut on Sunday night. What I think has happened to this point was you have an outlier Week 1 against the Rams (whose offense, as we know by now, is for real) in a 46-9 loss. But the defense was on point, for the most part, against Carson Palmer and the Arizona Cardinals, and did what it needed to do to hold off the Browns. So it's my belief that those averages will slowly go down as the season progresses."
Q: The Colts lost a lead in a loss to Arizona, then nearly did in last week's win over the Browns? Are there any specific issues leading to that, and how big of a focus is finishing for this team?
Walker: "It all goes to mistakes. I mean, that's really the story there. There's been really ill-timed penalties that have either killed the Colts' drives or extended the drives of their opponents, or it's things like not being able to keep ball carriers contained in bounds when you tackle them to keep the clock running. But another factor could be the limited play-calling available early on with Brissett as the team's quarterback. The Colts were admittedly conservative on offense in the second half the last two weeks against the Cardinals and the Browns, but it was especially noticeable against Cleveland just because Brissett and T.Y. Hilton seemed unstoppable together in the first half. The Cardinals game—hey, I just think you saw a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Palmer finally realize, 'Oh, hey, I better get this thing going or else we're going to lose.' So I think the team can open up the playbook a little bit more in the second half of games in which they have a lead now that Brissett knows more of the playbook, but most of all, the Colts just need to cut down on the silly mistakes that, over time, allow teams to get back into ballgames."
Q: Chuck Pagano mentioned the youth of his team and noted most of the players haven't been to CenturyLink Field. How big of a topic will crowd noise be for the offense this week?
Walker: "The crowd noise has been a big topic around here this week, and that's probably because the last time the Colts played the Seahawks in Seattle was in 2005, so the organization as a whole doesn't have any recent games to go off of when it comes to experiencing the CenturyLink Field crowd. Indianapolis does have a couple good resources it can go to if there are any questions about how to deal with the Seahawks fans: running backs Frank Gore and Robert Turbin. Seattle knows all-too-well what Gore has done to them in the past, while Turbin, who played for the Seahawks from 2012 through 2014, certainly can give his perspective. One fact that just blows my mind, however, is that Adam Vinatieri, who is the oldest player in the NFL at 44 years old and is in his 22nd year in the league, has never played a game at CenturyLink Field. How does that happen? But, anyway, the crowd has definitely been a huge point of emphasis for Pagano and his staff, so much so that the team received complaints from neighbors around the Colts' facility about how loud the music has been at practices this week, so they're obviously trying their best to simulate that kind of atmosphere."