Colts’ Carson Wentz, Michael Pittman Jr. not to be overlooked by Cardinals
Dec 23, 2021, 12:04 PM
(Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TEMPE — There’s no denying running back Jonathan Taylor is what makes the Indianapolis Colts go.
But he’s not the only threat offensively the Arizona Cardinals have to contend with.
Colts quarterback Carson Wentz has quietly turned in a productive season in his first year with the team, completing 62.7% of his passes for 3,005 yards and 23 touchdowns to six interceptions.
His throwing yards may sit 19th among NFL quarterbacks, but for a heavy run team like the Colts, that’s more than enough to keep opposing defenses on their toes.
“Carson is playing good football, he’s managing the games for him, he’s putting them in good plays,” defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said Wednesday. “That’s his job and that makes it tough. … If certain pressures show, he can put them in a better play. We have to adjust, obviously, and understand what he’s checking to versus our pressures and out fronts.”
And on the other end of Wentz’s passes more times than not this season has been standout rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.
The wide receiver has reeled in 68 of his 104 targets for 889 yards and five touchdowns.
Outside of Taylor’s massive 93 first-down mark, Pittman is second on the Colts with 44.
“It’s Tennessee, they have a direct run game and they block and they run and they block and they run,” Joseph said. “Third downs again this week are gonna be — if it’s a short third down, it’s gonna be a run. Kinda like last week. Stopping the run is gonna be a premium this week.”
Beyond Taylor and Pittman, however, Indianapolis’ production takes a mighty dip.
Wideout Zach Pascal has just 36 catches on the year for 369 yards and three scores, second on the team in all categories.
Do-it-all running back Nyheim Hines is still proving to be an effective change of pace from Taylor, but even he has just 51 carries for 261 yards and two touchdowns while catching 33 balls for 270 yards and a score.
The Colts sit among the bottom-half of the league in passing yards per game with 204.4. They’ve taken just 404 attempts through the air, the seventh-fewest in the NFL.
For the Cardinals to flip the Colts’ script, they must limit Taylor on the ground and make Wentz beat them through the air.
Three of the team’s losses have come when Taylor has been kept to under 100 yards and Wentz has committed an interception. A similar blueprint is imperative on Arizona’s end.