New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Indianapolis Colts

The New York Jets’ lone scheduled prime time game for the 2021 season comes in Thursday night fashion against Indianapolis.

The Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
The Date:
Week 8, November 4, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network (@ IND)
The Series: 
Colts lead 43-32 (last meeting: 2020, 36-7 IND)

Much like the original cast of another metropolitan staple, Saturday Night Live, the modern New York Jets could well be described as “Not Ready for Prime Time Players”.

The Jets’ only prime time game of the 2021 season (discounting a morning game against Atlanta in London) is a Thursday night contest against the Indianapolis Colts. Former division rivals will square off for the second straight season: the Jets will be seeking revenge for a 36-7 shellacking they endured at Lucas Oil Stadium, one that showed how far they had fallen since the 2018 trade that put Sam Darnold on a green path.

Both the Jets and Colts have made changes at quarterback since last season’s showdown: no trade was necessary for the Jets to choose Sam Wilson second overall in April while the Colts have opted for another veteran in Carson Wentz after Phillip Rivers’ retirement.

The Skinny On the Colts

The Colts have managed to make the most out of meandering in franchise quarterback purgatory after Andrew Luck’s infamous abrupt retirement. That’s been made possible by a reliable offensive line anchored by Quinton Nelson, one that has protected its stopgap throwers like Rivers and Jacoby Brissett. Running back Jonathan Taylor has likewise flourished, as the rookie broke through for 1,169 yards last season. A fearsome defense is headline by three-time All-Pro Darius Leonard.

Indianapolis has built its consistency through the draft, an endeavor that partly started through its fateful deal with the Jets. The picks sent to the Colts eventually yielded horseshoes for several vital contributors, including primary blockers Nelson and Braden Smith, defenders Kemoko Turay and Rock Ya-Sin. Rusher Jordan Wilkins, the final portion, has also proven to be a reliable depth option, working with Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack (who missed nearly all of last season with a torn Achilles).

Eight Indianapolis starters have been acquired over the last three drafts prior to 2021. At least one more should be added to that tally with Michigan pass rusher Kwity Paye arriving at 21st overall last spring. NFL agents recently named Colts general manager Chris Ballard the best talent evaluator and in a poll conducted by Ben Standig of The Athletic. Both Ballard and head coach Frank Reich were recently granted contract extensions that will keep them in Indianapolis through the 2026 season, high honors for the first-time GM and lead headset man.

Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay was proud to keep continuity in Indianapolis in addition to the sense of consistent stability that could’ve been lost in the wake of Luck’s franchise-altering departure.

“When you bring in two people like Frank and Chris who had never been general manager-head coach before, you invest in their growth,” Irsay said, per team reporter JJ Stankevitz. “You invest in the fact they’re going to mature and become better than they were when they started…that’s what continuity does, it brings the day where you can read the growth of a person’s professional track as they grow.”

“They’re outstanding men in our community, they’re the type of men that our players can look up to and truly see as mentors where they know their feet go where their words go. That means a lot to me.”

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New In Indianapolis?

The new hope for the Colts is Wentz, who’s seeking to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career after the good times in Philadelphia fizzled out. Indianapolis was perhaps the best place for him to land: the Colts have let up only 52 sacks over the last two seasons…in comparison, Wentz was sacked 50 times alone in 2020, and he missed four games after he was benched for Jalen Hurts.

Indianapolis lost of one of its blocking staples this offseason through Anthony Costanzo. The Colts made up for the loss through the signing of Eric Fisher, Kansas City’s top overall pick from 2013, but he’ll be out for the team’s Sunday opener against Seattle (1 p.m. ET, Fox). Paulsboro, NJ native and recent signee from Houston Julien Davenport is scheduled to take over. The rest of the group is otherwise the same. Both Nelson had late foot issues that were addressed, but each is scheduled to be a full-go for Week 1.

Right guard Mark Glowinski once against spoke about how important Colts chemistry and continuity was in another report from Stankevitz. It’s exactly what Wentz needs to gain some long-sought protection and for Taylor to keep up the momentum from his freshman campaign.

“We still find ways to learn from one another and make it interesting,” Glowinski said. “We’re still able to use the same jokes and still laugh and stuff like that. It’s kind of funny being able to be together for this long but we’re just working. Like I would say every year, you’re working on the same blocks and everything. You just find another way to get better at those and you can keep developing new ways to do your job. It’s pretty cool to be able to be with all those guys for that long though.”

While Reich was made a staple on the Colts’ staff, several assistants departed, some joining former offensive coordinator and new Philadelphia boss Nick Sirianni. Quarterbacks coach and three-time CFL champion Marcus Brady takes over in Sirianni’s wake, while the Colts were able to keep defensive boss and popular head coach interviewee Matt Eberflus. The arrival of Paye partly settles pass-rushing quandary: the departures of Denico Autry and Justin Houston cost the Colts 15.5 sacks from last season.

How To Beat Them

-Corral the Pass Rush

Indianapolis’ pass rush was hit or miss even with Autry and Houston in tow. DeForest Buckner fulfilled expectations in his first season in blue while inside man Grover Stewart played his way into an expensive extension. Mekhi Becton will likely get first dibs at the legendary Leonard. The group will have to step it up in the early going, as Rutgers alum Kemoko Turay will miss Sunday’s opener.

But even with the Costanzo-sized on the offensive line, the Colts felt that needed to address the area through the selection of Paye out of Michigan. Thus, it’ll be up to the Jets’ blockers to keep sowing doubt when they meet up for their nationally televised matchup.

“Kwity pops off the tape, one, with his athleticism and his speed, but also with his effort,” Ballard said of the choice to draft Paye over a lineman, per Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. “This kid, he already plays the way we want to play. He’s going to fit in pretty quickly.”

-Wentz Turnovers Cometh

Part of the reason why Philadelphia moved on from Wentz was his increasingly troubling turnover issues: his 15 interceptions were a league-worst in 2020 and he fumbled 10 times…the latter mark was an improvement after putting 16 on the grass last season.

As with so many other areas of their horrid 2020 season, the Jets struggled to force turnovers, picking up only 19. Upping the pressure on Wentz could lead to those struggles resurfacing and the Jets have the front seven to do so, even with the oft-cited red flag of Carl Lawson forced out for the year.

This time around, Wentz’s turnover issues could be partially cast aside by the idea that the Colts have the additional weaponry to get by, namely the multi-pronged run game. The Colts were 1-3 when Taylor, Hines, and Wilkins were held to under 100 yards rushing

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Three ways the Carson Wentz trade affects the New York Jets

One green team’s move has ripple effects on another. Find out how things have changed for the New York Jets’ QB situation.

The NFL offseason offered an early bird special this week, as it appears a potential starting quarterback vacancy has been filled.

The Philadelphia Eagles dealt beleaguered franchise man Carson Wentz to the Indianapolis Colts on late Thursday morning. Indianapolis, fresh off a brief appearance in January’s NFL postseason, is looking to fill a thrower’s void left behind by the retiring Phillip Rivers. A pair of second-day draft picks (a third in 2021 and a conditional second in 2022) are on their way to the City of Brotherly Love in return.

Fans in the metropolitan area no doubt wonder what this means for a certain green team…ok, maybe two, as Giants fans look toward a Wentz-free landscape for their biggest rival. But fans of the New York Jets, eager for clarity on their own franchise’s passing situation, will likely wonder what this means for their own man on the hot seat, Sam Darnold.

So how does this change things? ESM investigates…

One Trade Partner is Off The Market

A Jets-Colts trade during the offseason seemed to be a football certainty on par with Giants-Cowboys on Sunday night. It was, of course, a pre-draft deal that put Darnold on a New York path in 2018, and several veterans have made the switch from blue to green in recent seasons through both deals and free agency (i.e. Matthias Farley, Quincy Wilson, Pierre Desir).

Darnold potentially ending up in Indianapolis could’ve been on the table. The Colts have reasonably recovered from what could’ve been a disaster from a franchise-standpoint, the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck. Indianapolis is also situated in a division that could well be up for grabs soon. Jacksonville’s rebuild is ongoing, nothing more needs to be written about the Texans, and the Colts tied with Tennessee for the division title.

With Rivers leaving, a serviceable quarterback option like Darnold in a much better situation could’ve made a strong union. It might’ve come at the sacrificing of draft picks, but with the AFC potentially up for grabs after Kansas City’s Super Bowl no-show, putting Darnold behind their strong line possibly could’ve helped earn a home playoff game. It appears, however, that the Colts will instead embark on that possibility with Wentz instead.

Darnold’s Trade Value Potentially Weakens

NFL history was forever altered on September 23, 2001, when the Jets’ Mo Lewis laid down a crushing hit on New England Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe, leaving some unknown backup named Tom Brady to go into the game to finish things off. The Jets won that game and little else since, because that backup named Brady got it together pretty quickly.

It’s very much fair to wonder, likely on a smaller scale, to wonder what divergence was created in the NFL timeline on December 10, 2017, when Wentz, gunning for MVP honors during the Eagles’ magical Super Bowl run, tore an ACL in a win over the Rams. This is more or less a long way of saying the narrative that Wentz was a Philadelphia bust is ridiculously overblown. The 2020 season was brutal, but it’s Wentz’ only season that could objectively be called bad.

Nobody knows just how much the Adam Gase era stifled Darnold’s development. But, even without the Gase handicap, it’s safe to say Wentz has had a stronger and more impactful career than Darnold to date. So if his value is a pair of second day picks, the Jets probably shouldn’t keep their hopes high when it comes to Darnold, who has, like Wentz, had issues in playing a full 16-game season (unfair as injury-prone labels may be).

Part of the reason Wentz didn’t produce a high yield was the infamous contract extension the Eagles bestowed upon him after the 2018 season ($107 million guaranteed). But one can’t help but wonder if teams will be a little more reluctant to deal anything truly valuable when it comes to a hypothetical Darnold deal.

The Likelihood of Darnold Staying Might’ve Increased

This offseason is unique in that there could possibly be a dozen teams vying for a new starting quarterback. The Jets appear to be one and two more could also reside in their division (Miami and New England). So the Colts trading for Wentz isn’t the end of the world if they’re looking to truly deal Darnold.

But, a combination of one team off the board, one that is undoubtedly searching for a new quarterback, and teams perhaps being wary of trading high capital, the possibility of Darnold sticking around just raised ever so slightly.

Something that should be kept in mind as the Jets start to navigate through what could be a fateful offseason is that they’re anything but a “quarterback away” from mere postseason contention, much less the Super Bowl. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons Deshaun Watson hasn’t made his way over just yet. They have many, many areas to address, and while there’s a big offseason budget to work with, if they have a relative solution in Darnold, they could take care of other issues like the changes they need to make in their back seven, blocking, and weapons.

Time will tell exactly what the future holds for Darnold, but, for the time being, the Colts and Eagles’ bargain might’ve ensured, for now, that Jets fans need not ditch their No. 14 threads just yet.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Giants: Comparing Daniel Jones’s turnovers to the rest of the league’s quarterbacks

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

Over the past two years, one major criticism has surrounded New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones: he is a turnover machine. Jones simply could not stop putting the ball in harm’s way in his rookie 2019 campaign. He threw 12 interceptions in 13 games and fumbled the football an absurd, league-high 18 times in that same span.

Daniel Jones suffered from a severe case of “fumble-itis” in his rookie season. In 2020, though, Daniel has still been criticized for his tendency to turn the ball over. He is still regarded as a turnover machine just a little over halfway through his sophomore season.

But is this a fair criticism of Daniel Jones in 2020? Has he really been turning the ball over at an extreme rate when compared to the rest of the NFL’s quarterbacks?

The NFL’s biggest turnover machines in 2020

This year’s top turnover machine is not Daniel Jones. Instead, it is another NFC East quarterback: Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz not only leads the league in interceptions (14 in 10 games), he also leads the league in fumbles (10 in 10 games). While Daniel Jones fumbled the ball at an extreme rate last season, he never threw interceptions at the rate that Wentz has this season.

There have been plenty of other, more-talented quarterbacks turning the ball over at a high rate in 2020. MVP-candidate Russell Wilson is fourth in the NFL with 10 interceptions. The G.O.A.T., Tom Brady, has thrown 9 interceptions, already surpassing his interception total from 2019 (8).

Many of the league’s top turnover-committing quarterbacks in 2020 are widely considered some of the best players in the sport. But they do not get trashed and disregarded the way that Daniel Jones does. The biggest reason why: wins. Jones has struggled to win football games in his career. But, coming off of a two-game win streak with no turnovers, Jones has an opportunity to flip this narrative.

Daniel Jones turnovers in 2020

Daniel Jones still ranks towards the top of the NFL in total interceptions + fumbles. But with all of these highly-talented quarterbacks turning the ball over at a higher rate than Jones, it is confusing to see why he faces so much criticism that other quarterbacks do not.

Daniel Jones has thrown 9 interceptions in 10 games. He has also fumbled the football 7 times in that span. Only 5 of those fumbles have been lost, though, meaning Jones has turned the ball over a total of 14 times in 10 games.

Turning the ball over more than once per game is not a sustainable winning formula. The Giants have learned this in recent weeks. Jones has gone two straight weeks without turning the ball over and won both of those games. If he can continue to play at this level, Daniel Jones can get rid of this bad reputation and begin to establish himself as a legitimate quarterback in the NFL.

New York Giants: Carson Wentz struggling ahead of crucial Week 10 matchup

The New York Giants will host the Philadelphia Eagles at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday for a crucial divisional matchup. The last time these two teams faced off was in Week 7 on Thursday night as the Giants suffered a heart-breaking defeat on primetime.

The Giants have not beat their rival Eagles since 2016. New York is looking to end that divisional losing streak this week. Luckily for them, Philadelphia’s quarterback, Carson Wentz, has struggled throughout the 2020 NFL season. The Giants could look to exploit this and come out on top in Week 10.

Carson Wentz’s 2020 Struggles

The Philadelphia Eagles sit atop the NFC East with an overall record of 3-4-1. The Eagles, like the rest of the NFC East, have struggled to find wins in 2020. Philadelphia has suffered from some key injuries this year, making things especially difficult for quarterback Carson Wentz. Wentz has not had many playmakers to share the football with and has had to endure plenty of injuries on the offensive line. This has led to plenty of struggles this season for Wentz.

Carson Wentz has a completion percentage of 58.4%, the 32nd ranked in the NFL this season. But Wentz ranks towards the bottom of the league in multiple statistical categories. Carson leads the NFL with 12 interceptions and, according to Pro Football Focus, the most turnover-worthy plays in the NFL this season. PFF has Wentz graded as the 31st overall quarterback in the league.

Luckily for Wentz and Philadelphia, the offense will be replenished with a couple of healthy playmakers returning to the lineup. Miles Sanders and Alshon Jeffrey will return to the lineup this week to aid Carson Wentz and the offensive attack.

Currently, the Eagles are the team to beat in the NFC East. They have a narrow lead in the division, but the Giants could make up some serious ground with a win on Sunday. A win over Philadelphia could keep the Giants in the playoff hunt.

New York Giants: Injury-riddled Eagles give Giants a chance to win again in Week 7

The New York Giants are coming off of their first win of the 2020 NFL season. New York beat the division-rival Washington Football team en route to its first win in Week Six. Now, in Week Seven, the Giants are preparing to play their third-straight divisional game on their schedule.

After losing to Dallas then beating Washington, the Giants are now traveling to play the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. With a win this week, the Giants can enter their hat in the playoff race and tie for first in the NFC East.

The Eagles, while having a poor 1-4-1 record, are the favorites to win on Thursday night. But Philadelphia’s pile of injuries could give the Giants a chance to upset their rivals on prime time.

Philadelphia’s Injuries

Key starters on both sides of the ball will be OUT on Thursday night for Philadelphia. Starting running back Miles Sanders, tight end Zack Ertz, and wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey are all out this week, leaving quarterback Carson Wentz without his best playmakers.

On defense, safety K’Von Wallace is out, as well as defensive tackle Malik Jackson. Philadelphia also has other key players dealing with injuries that have not been officially ruled out yet but could struggle if they play in Week Seven. All-Pro offensive tackle Lane Johnson is one of those battered players.

The Giants’ defense has been a pleasant surprise all season long. James Bradberry and Blake Martinez have helped the unit find great success and shut down opposing offenses in both phases of the game. While Carson Wentz poses a threat, the Giants’ defense does not have much to worry about when defending against the Eagles’ offense. Head coach Doug Peterson will need to come up with a creative offensive scheme to supplement the absence of his injured players.

Doug Pederson: The Sky is the Limit for Giants’ Daniel Jones

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

When the Philadelphia Eagles drafted quarterback Carson Wentz with the second overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, they felt they were getting their franchise quarterback for the next decade and beyond. Even though they’ve won a Super Bowl with Wentz laid up on the sidelines, they still feel as confident with him under center as the day they drafted him.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, speaking to the Giants’ beat pool via a conference call on Wednesday confirmed that the team, which is poised to win the NFC East this Sunday with a win over the New York Giants, made the right choice in Wentz.

“I think back to 2017, his second year, and just the difference he had from year one to year two, from his rookie season into his second full year there, just from the standpoint of running and just executing our offense. He had a full offseason with our guys that year, went in with a lot of high expectations, a lot of high hopes, and there’s really not one particular play or a game, I think it’s just how efficient he was playing the quarterback position for us that just showed his maturity in our offense. And listen, he’s still learning and still growing, but I think from year one to year two and the jump he made, for me, was sort of a moment that led us to believe that the guy we drafted was Carson and he was going to be the leader of our team for a long time.”

Pederson was asked if he felt Daniel Jones was that same player for the Giants.

“I do, and I think the Giants feel the same way, otherwise they wouldn’t have taken him when they did,” he said. “I’ve always liked Daniel. Coming out of college, I really liked him, and I think he’s a type of guy that will make big strides going into year two—having a full offseason to work with his players and work with the guys around him, and then having the chance to be possibly the day one starter. So, I think the sky’s the limit with him, and something that the Giants are looking forward to, I think, moving forward.”

The two young guns will face off for the first time this Sunday at MetLife Stadium. Jones was injured three weeks ago for the Giants’ first matchup with Philly this season, a 23-17 overtime loss at Lincoln Financial Field. Eli Manning starter that game.

Pederson was asked the difference in preparing for rookie Jones instead of the veteran Manning.

“I really think the only difference with Daniel over Eli is Daniel probably moves around a little bit better,’ said Pederson. “The other thing is, like I said earlier, he’s definitely getting the ball out of his hand. I think they’ve kind of reconfigured the offense to be more conducive that way, obviously using the backs in some of the shorter screen passes, things of that nature. But it really doesn’t change our planning at all from that. We’ve still got to get ready for a good football team.”

New York Giants: Cowboys Could Overspend In Wentz-Prescott Contract Battle

The Dallas Cowboys are not just a historical rival of the New York Giants but one of their main competitors within the division, and anything that hurts the Cowboys’ chances of winning the division again is something that benefits the Giants. Dallas won the NFC East in 2018 but they weren’t considered a strong division champion compared to others from the same year – in fact, the entire NFC East lived up to the ‘NFC Least’ moniker that it’s gained during some years.

But winning the division again isn’t a given for the Cowboys, even if the other teams are moving slowly when it comes to turning themselves into divisional contenders. Still, both the Giants and the Redskins have made strides, and it looks like the Cowboys might have been dealt a blow in the form of the contract demands of their quarterback, Dak Prescott. According to the Star Telegram, Prescott is looking for a contract worth $34M annually, which would make him higher paid than Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz.

Wentz recently signed the biggest deal that the Eagles have ever made, worth a total of $128M. The per season amount comes to $32M, which is two million a year less than what Prescott is looking for.

Prescott is in the final year of his rookie deal but it remains to be seen what the Cowboys are going to do with his contract after failing to contend for the NFC title with both Prescott and star running back Ezekiel Elliot on their roster, alongside other teammates who have varied in quality depending on the year.

If the Cowboys do sign Prescott to the large deal, it will tie up funds and prevent them from using them on other players – which could be especially harmful if Prescott fails to perform as well as other franchise quarterbacks who are making such numbers. While Prescott has definitely been good throughout his career, his career hasn’t been without struggles at times, even recently.

The New York Giants on the other hand should save on the quarterback position after keeping Eli Manning around and drafting Daniel Jones as an eventual successor. Jones will obviously cost less as a rookie compared to veterans such as Wentz and Prescott, and Manning may be off the payroll in the coming years following retirement. However, the most important thing isn’t the salary cap, but winning. And we’ll see in a year or two if the Giants’ cap savings, and Daniel Jones himself, are enough for them to win with.