INDIANAPOLIS — At 5-3 heading into Sunday's Week 10 matchup against the Miami Dolphins, the Indianapolis Colts have reached the midpoint of the 2019 season. Today, we examine which players rank near the top of their respective positions according to Pro Football Focus' grading system.
In order of highest grade first, here are the Colts players who currently sit among the top-10 graded players at their respective positions at the midway point of their season:
Guard No. 2 (88.0), 566 snaps (100 percent)
- 8 games: 0 sacks, 1 quarterback hit, 14 quarterback hurries, 1 penalty
It's not often that a non-skill position player has highlights, but you could make a whole mixtape out of the plays that Nelson makes every week. Nelson is currently the second-ranked guard, and the first overall left guard by an incredible 9.0 points.
Nelson's 87.2 run-blocking grade is first among left guards by a margin of 9.3 points. He is one of 17 guards who have played at least 50 percent of their teams' offensive snaps who haven't allowed a sack this season, and he is one of 24 guards who have allowed one or fewer hits. Nelson's best overall game this season so far was in the Colts' Week 5 Sunday Night Football victory over the Kansas City Chiefs (96.2) when the Colts ran for 180 yards and allowed no sacks. That game was also Nelson's best run-blocking game (93.6) and his best pass-blocking game (84.2).
Offensive Tackle No. 5 (81.8), 566 snaps (100 percent)
- 8 games: 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, 12 quarterback hurries, 1 penalty
During the offseason, Castonzo told reporters that some of the physical ailments he's had throughout his career had been figured out in the offseason and that he felt better than he ever had in his professional career, and his play has been reflective of that. He is currently the fifth-ranked offensive tackle, and the first overall left tackle.
Castonzo's 74.9 run-blocking grade is first among left tackles, and sixth among all tackles. His bookend, Colts' right tackle Braden Smith, is seventh among tackles (73.8) in that area. Castonzo's 81.8 pass-blocking grade is sixth among left tackles and seventh among all tackles. He is one of 30 tackles who have played at least 50 percent of their teams' offensive snaps who have allowed two or fewer sacks, and is one of 32 tackles who have allowed two or fewer hits. Castonzo's best overall (83.1), run-blocking (74.6) and pass-blocking (90.7) game was also the Colts' win against the Chiefs (83.1).
Behind Nelson and Castonzo, the Colts' offensive line has been overall very effective. They are tied for the seventh-fewest sacks allowed (16), and they are ninth in rushing (129.8 YPG).
Punter No. 4 (76.1), 106 snaps (49.8 percent)
- 8 games: 28 punts, 45.0 avg., 41.9 net avg., long-60, 12 inside-20, 13 returned for 66 yards (5.1 avg.), 1 touchback, 7 fair caught, 4.36 avg. hangtime
Sanchez's punting numbers aren't near the top of the league, but when it comes to overall punting, PFF has Sanchez listed fourth. So, what is Sanchez's criteria for successful punting if it's not all hung up on yards per punt and net average?
"I definitely feel like where I can become effective — and as a whole unit obviously when everybody's blocking and the gunners are doing their job, (because) obviously coverage is big — keeping the ball away from the returner is probably the most important thing," Sanchez told Colts.com.
In that area, Sanchez and the Colts are near the top of the league, ranking sixth in yards per punt return allowed (5.1 avg.). They are also tied for 10th in total punts returned by the opponent (13), but only two of those other punter kicked fewer times than he has. Sanchez is also one of only 11 punters who have done at least 50 percent of their team's punting who have one or fewer touchbacks.
"Obviously they're gonna study and they're gonna know which way I'm gonna go, but sometimes I give this offset where it makes it a little harder for them. It's kinda like an offset facing like I'm going right, but I kinda just wrap around where I kick the ball going left," Sanchez said. "Just little things like that. And obviously helping myself with the direction and the hangtime for guys to call a fair catch, and the gunner getting down there in time to cause that. It's obviously not just me, it's my whole team, so those things for sure."
Sanchez also handles kickoff duties for the Colts. He has 42 kickoffs with 28 touchbacks, and 14 have been returned for 311 yards (22.2 avg.). The opponent's average starting field position is the 24.8 yard line.
Kicker Returner Tied-No. 6 (69.4), 89 snaps (41.8 percent)
- 8 games: 10 kickoff returns for 263 yards (26.3 avg.), long-47
Pascal has recently emerged as a legitimate receiver, but he has also become a more effective kickoff returner this year as well. His kick return grade is third among players who have returned at least 10 kickoffs, and his return average is fourth.
"Zach is fearless. Returning kicks takes fearlessness, confidence, and then obviously that whole unit is really doing well," Colts head coach Frank Reich said. "We've got some really good players on that unit. Bubba (Ventrone) and Franky Ross are doing a great job getting those guys ready. And the players put a lot of time and effort into that to really pick the return game up, and Zach's the kind of guy you like having back there."
As a receiver, Pascal has 19 receptions (27 targets) for 321 yards (16.9 avg.) and four touchdowns, to go with one carry for 12 yards as well as one pass attempt.
JUST MISSING THE CUT
Rolan Milligan — Special Teamer No. 16 (84.0), 73 snaps (34.3 percent)
Justin Houston — Edge Defender No. 19 (81.2), 373 snaps (73.7 percent)
Malik Hooker — Safety No. 12 (79.7), 273 snaps (53.9 percent)
Braden Smith — Offensive Tackle No. 17 (72.1), 566 snaps (100 percent)
Eric Ebron — Tight End No. 17 (67.5), 225 snaps (39.8 percent)
Jack Doyle — Tight End No. 20 (65.8), 410 snaps (72.4 percent)
Ryan Kelly — Center No. 11 (65.2), 516 snaps (91.2 percent)