Each week Colts.com will speak with a writer who covers the team the Colts are set to play that upcoming Sunday.
In Week 6, the Colts are facing the Jaguars in Jacksonville. To gain more insight, we caught up with John Oehser, the senior writer for Jaguars.com.
Colts.com: It's been four weeks since the Jaguars opened the season against the Colts. Since that game, what have been some of the biggest changes you've noticed from the team in that time?
John Oehser: They're playing better. It's hard to see changes. They're pretty much doing the same stuff, [they're] just doing it better. They lost two games right after the Colts. They lost to the [Kansas City] Chiefs and Houston [Texans]. Confidence may be a little down after that game and they went to London and won two games back-to-back. The defense is playing better, the offense got it together and played really well this past week against Buffalo, which is really their biggest win of the season. So, I don't know that they're doing anything substantially different except that they're playing better in big moments and making big plays when it matters. Now, that's what they really weren't doing when they lost two of their first three games.
Colts.com: Calvin Ridley's tenure with the Jaguars got off to a great start with a 100+ yard receiving game against the Colts. However, prior to his resurgence Week 5 against the Bills, he'd been pretty quiet. What other element does he bring to this offense when he's clicking?
John Oehser: He brings a number one receiver. They have a lot of really, really good receivers in Christian Kirk, Evan Engram, Zay Jones, all of whom can produce in the NFL. But Ridley sort of brings a dimension of speed - probably the best way to say it is there's just some things he can do because he's so sudden, so fast and gets open so well that most receivers can't do. So, he gives you that. He scares you on every play and if you don't defend him, he's always a threat to score. So, that really strains a defense. They've always had other players like that, but he's sort of an extreme version of it.
Colts.com: With the exception of a 26-yard touchdown run from Travis Etienne Jr. in the fourth quarter, the Colts did a good job of keeping the Jags' run game in check. How important is it for the offense to get the running game to work in tandem with its potent passing attack?
John Oehser: It's important. I mean, the reason they beat the Bills is [because] they stayed with the run and as the game went on they got better in that area. Travis had 138 yards I think it was on Sunday against the Bills. 111 of them were in the second half. So, they are probably not a great running team start to finish in a game yet, but they stay with it and believe they have to have that element. So, they have been pretty consistent. If they can keep running in the fourth quarter like they did against Indianapolis when they sort of struck that one late, then they can get it going. I would anticipate them even if it doesn't work early, they will continue to force Travis Etienne Jr. on defenses because he's too good not to use. He's probably been their best offensive player, even though the stats don't show it. He's playing at a pretty high level, so they want to keep him involved.
Colts.com: Josh Allen has been a menace coming off the edge, already racking up six sacks through the first five games of the season. What do you think has led to his fast start to the season?
John Oehser: Well, I think he's doing what he's done before. He's in his fifth year. He's always been really good in terms of pressures. He hasn't always gotten the sacks to back it up. This year, the circumstances have sort of played his way a little bit to get him more sacks. But he is a good pass rusher off the edge, he's really good against the run, he's their best defensive player all-around and this year he has the sacks to sort of go with that. So, he's dangerous. He's gonna keep coming and if you're throwing the ball late in the game and they know you have to throw, he's the guy on this defense who can get there and disrupt things.
Colts.com: In Week 1, the defense had to face off against Anthony Richardson. This weekend, they will be playing against Gardner Minshew, whose playing style is very different. What is the biggest adjustment the defense has to make going from Richardson to Minshew?
John Oehser: Well, I mean it's an interesting matchup. This coaching staff didn't really work with Gardner, so there's not a whole lot there in terms of knowing his game past video review, of course. Saying the difference is kind of obvious - with Richardson, if you don't acknowledge his running ability, he's gonna beat you that way. He's one of the quarterbacks in the NFL who can win games with his legs. Gardner's mobile. He's really dangerous when he can work the pocket a little bit, but you probably don't worry about him going 80 yards. So, with Gardner, the defenses - you try to keep things in front of you. You try to make sure that he has to try to make big-time throws to beat you down the field and you try to keep him in the pocket and keep him from working magic because he's very capable when plays break down of making big plays happen. So, I think you try to keep him in the pocket and rattle him just like you would any quarterback.