Changes are coming quickly for the Indianapolis Colts defense.
With the recent hiring of former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano as the Colts’ new head coach, it’s pretty much a given that there will be a shift away from the team’s Cover 2, 4-3 alignment to a hybrid 3-4 system.
While the Ravens had a lot of success with Pagano’s ultra-aggressive hybrid 3-4 this past season, Indianapolis doesn’t have all the pieces in place just yet to facilitate a quick move to a new system. So the change will be a gradual one in many respects.
“I’ve got to dive into this and evaluate every player in that locker room. I’ve got to look at every player on defense. I’m not going to be hard-headed enough — and certainly the defensive coordinator and coaching staff that we bring in here; we’re not going to jam a square peg into a round hole,” Pagano said about the transition to a 3-4 scheme.
“We’re going to find our strengths of this unit and the weaknesses. We’re going to put them in the best possible position to be successful and win games. If we can move toward the type of defense, the brand of defense that we’ve been playing where I came from, we can evolve to that.”
That’s the key. The Colts are expected to try and re-sign unrestricted free agent defensive end Robert Mathis, who teams with defensive end Dwight Freeney to give Indianapolis two of the best pure pass rushers in the league. Mathis may wind up being franchised, although team officials would like to get something worked out as soon as possible.
Starting with Mathis and Freeney, Pagano and newly hired defensive coordinator Greg Manusky already have a starting point with the move to a new defensive set.
“If Wade Phillips can go to the Houston Texans [as defensive coordinator] and install the 3-4 with no offseason and make [defensive end] Mario Williams an outside linebacker and stand up on early downs, [with] the two explosive, great athletes we have on the edge here, I don’t see an issue,” Pagano said.
Flexibility will be the key to the Colts defense under Pagano and Manusky.
“Our motto is simple me, complex you. To say I’m a 3-4 guy, we want to build a defense that’s flexible. It’s going to be simple for our guys to execute, but when offenses prepare for it on Sunday’s it’s going to look very complex to them,” Pagano previewed.
“Having said that, just because we line up and they say we’re a 3-4 team, we may be a 4-3 team on first down, we can be an odd 3-4 look on second down and the Lord only knows on third and 7-plus. That’s our goal.”
There was some thought that in recent years, the Colts’ defense — which has been known as small in stature but blessed with athleticism and speed — would sometimes hamstring itself by sitting back and reacting to what the opposing team’s offense would try to do. Not anymore.
“We just cut our guys loose. We’ve got some special guys here with some special talents and dominant traits. There are some explosive athletes and we’ll evolve as the drafts go by and free agency goes by. That was their nature and we kind of got away from that a little bit.,” Pagano voiced.
“I think players like to play that way. We called it ankle-weighting our players, meaning we never gave them too much where we thought they were out there thinking and not reacting. This is a reaction game. You don’t have time to think. You see, you react, you anticipate, you have responsibility and then you run and then you hit. We’re going to have those types of guys.”
In addition to Mathis, other key defensive free agents include linebackers Philip Wheeler and Ernie Sims; defensive linemen Eric Foster, Jamaal Anderson and Tyler Brayton; and cornerback Jacob Lacey. Additionally, the team may decide to part ways a pair of key veterans who have battled injuries the last two seasons, middle linebacker Gary Brackett and strong safety Melvin Bullitt.
“We want to be aggressive [defensively] and dictate the tempo,” Pagano said. “We want them reacting to us and not vice versa. We will have schemes in place that allow our players to play and be very aggressive, but at the same time, be fundamentally sound.”
• Athletic quarterbacks — Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, expected to be the first two quarterbacks taken in the 2012 National Football League draft, put on a show Sunday morning during on-field drill work at the National Football Scouting Combine.
While neither player participated in the passing drills — preferring to wait until their respective on-campus pro days at Stanford and Baylor — Luck and Griffin displayed just how talented they are athletically.
Griffin was timed unofficially at 4.41 and 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. Luck, meanwhile, had unofficial times of 4.66 and 4.59. When the official numbers for their best runs were released later in the day, Griffin had a 4.41 while Luck was at 4.69. Not too shabby.
In other drills, Griffin had a vertical jump of 39 inches while Luck was at 36 inches. Griffin’s broad jump was 10 feet and Luck’s topped out at 10-feet-4.
Their numbers overall were either equal or better than those produced a year ago by 2011 No. 1 pick Cam Newton, who was drafted by Carolina and earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors this past season.
Questions were raised whether Griffin’s 40-yard time was the second-best ever for a quarterback at the combine. There were reports that Michael Vick had a 4.33 in 2001, but confusion as to whether Vick actually took part in the running event.
Newton’s official best time last year was 4.59. Denver’s Tim Tebow had a 4.72 in 2010. Texas A&M’s Reggie McNeal officially had a 4.35 in 2006.
When comparing Luck’s best time with the quarterback he is expected to replace in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning had a 4.81 in 1998.
• Harnish getting looks — Former Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish is steadily moving up the charts in terms of where he might be drafted.
Harnish, who played for former Indiana State quarterback Jeff Miller at Norwell High School, volunteered for extra passing work during the combine, which had to please many of the scouts in attendance. Ex-North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates did the same thing a year ago and that boosted his stock in the 2011 draft.
Overall, Harnish — who earned Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors last fall — finished second in cone drill, fourth in the shuttle and seventh in three drills: 40, vertical jump & broad jump.
• Defensive lineman, linebackers work today — As the combine winds down to its final two days at Lucas Oil Stadium, the defensive linemen and linebackers will go through tests and drills today. Cornerbacks and safeties will close out the combine on Tuesday.
Defensive line is expected to a big area of interest for the Colts since the team will be looking for a 3-4 nose tackle. Dontari Poe of Memphis — who is 6-foot-3 and 335 pounds — figures to be the best of the bunch.
Poe can play a regular defensive tackle role in a 4-3 alignment, as he did at times as a senior in college, but his primary position is as a 3-4 nose tackle. He has been compared favorably to Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl nose tackle Haloti Ngata.
Other candidates are Washington’s Alameda Ta’Amu (6-3, 336), Alabama’s Josh Chapman (6-1, 316), BYU’s Hebron Fangupo (6-1, 330) and Baylor’s Nicholas Jean-Baptiste (6-2, 335).
Changes are coming quickly for the Indianapolis Colts defense.
Luck having fun with his first OTAs
A year ago, quarterback Andrew Luck was unable to attend the Indianapolis Colts’ organized team activity practices due to school commitments at Stanford.
Luck, though, went on to have a stellar year for the Colts despite the lack of summer work with the team. Still, in a sense, he is a rookie during this year’s OTA workouts.
“These are my first OTAs. I missed these last year, so I think it’s great. It’s great to get on the field with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff. Obviously, some of us ran some of this stuff [offense] at Stanford [under new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton]. But to get out there with the defense and trouble-shoot some stuff is good,” Luck said Wednesday as the team wrapped up its first week of on-field voluntary practice sessions.
Colts' coordinators enjoying getting rookies acclimated
While the Indianapolis Colts put their rookies and a handful of second-year players through workouts this weekend at the team’s Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, a pair of first-year coordinators are getting a chance to do some valuable on-field work as well.
Werner, 36 others open Colts’ mini camp
The Indianapolis Colts welcomed 37 players to the start of the team’s rookie mini camp Friday at the West 56th Street headquarters.
Colts hoping for more high marks on draft picks
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts received high marks for the impact players the team added through the NFL draft.
Of the 10 players selected, five ended up either starting or seeing extensive playing time (quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard) during the Colts’ 11-5 season.
While this year’s class may not rival that group in terms of name recognition and flash, it may produce just as many major contributors once the 2013 season gets underway.
Werner at top of game
Bjoern Werner was a late comer to football. But after being selected in the first round of the 2013 National Football League draft by the Indianapolis Colts, Werner realizes that he has reached the pinnacle of the sport in a relatively short amount of time.
Colts select pass rusher Werner in first round
The Indianapolis Colts selected Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. The 6-foot-3, 266-pound defensive lineman can also play left outside linebacker.
Colts in wait-and-see mode for tonight’s NFL draft
As the 2013 NFL draft gets underway tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the Indianapolis Colts are continuing their wait-and-see stance in regard to the first-round pick.
The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
As it stands now, Indianapolis does not have a second-round pick. It was traded to Miami last fall in exchange for veteran cornerback Vontae Davis. But second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has nut ruled out the possibility of trading down from the first round if the Colts aren’t satisfied with the players available.
Direction clear for Colts in 2013 draft
The Indianapolis Colts head into the 2013 NFL Draft with some definite plans.
Colts veteran among those excited to see Luck's growth in 2013-14
Veteran defensive end Cory Redding is a big fan — literally and figuratively — of Indianapolis Colts second-year quarterback Andrew Luck.
Redding, who has become one of the Colts’ lockerroom leaders after just one season with the team, thinks he has some reasonable expectations of Indianapolis’ former No. 1 draft pick.
Heyward-Bey feeling fortunate to hook up with Luck
Add one more player to the list of veteran free agents signed by the Indianapolis Colts this offseason.
Former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey agreed to a a deal with the Colts late Monday evening. Bey, who played collegiately at Maryland, was the seventh player selected in the first round of the 2009 National Football League draft.
Colts sign nose tackle
Another day, more player signings for the Indianapolis Colts.
Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin agreed to terms with the Colts on Tuesday evening and officially signed with the team Wednesday. Franklin (6-1, 315) is a 10-year NFL veteran with stops in Baltimore (2003-06), San Francisco (2007-10), New Orleans (2011) and San Diego (2012).
Colts sign Matt Hasselbeck to back up Luck
The Indianapolis Colts’ roster moves just keep coming.
While the Colts haven’t yet added that big-name wide receiver that team owner Jim Irsay hinted at in tweets over the weekend, Indianapolis has addressed one area on offense.
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had agreed Monday night to be the Colts’ primary back-up to second-year starter Andrew Luck. He officially signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team Tuesday morning.
“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Matt Hasselbeck,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “His body of work, intangibles, and extensive league experience speak for themselves. Those factors, plus his familiarity with our offensive scheme, will make him a great asset to our team and its vision as we move forward.”
Colts likely done signing free agents, for now
With the possible exception of adding a few lesser-priced players, the Indianapolis Colts’ big-time foray into the veteran free-agent marketplace is pretty much done.
Landry, Jean Francois join Colts defensive unit
After adding five veteran free agent players to the Indianapolis Colts roster on Tuesday, general manager Ryan Grigson plucked two more plums late Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.
New York Jets safety LaRon Landry and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois both signed contracts with the Colts. Landry, a strong safety who appears to be a bigger version of former Indianapolis Pro Bowler Bob Sanders, and the versatile Jean-Francois are expected to make immediate impacts on the Colts’ defensive unit.
Colts introduce free-agent signees
What the Indianapolis Colts accomplished last season — posting an 11-5 record and earning an AFC wild-card berth with a young team plus having that kind of success without its head coach on the sidelines for 12 games — didn’t go unnoticed by players around the NFL.
That was especially true for the five veteran free agents who were added to the Colts’ roster Tuesday. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (Detroit), cornerback Greg Toler (Arizona), outside linebacker Erik Walden (Green Bay), offensive guard Donald Thomas (New England) and linebacker Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta) admitted as much Wednesday.
“I felt like this would be the best fit for me at this point in my career. I really liked what I saw was happening with the program here and the way things have taken shape. I feel like we have a really great team here and it’s on the rise. I really wanted to be a part of that,” Thomas said during a teleconference interview with the Colts’ media.
Colts sign five free agents, filling needs at offensive line, cornerback
The Indianapolis Colts were a busy team on the opening day of the National Football League’s veteran free agent market, which got underway at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Jeff Saturday retires as a Colt
An Indianapolis Colt for life. Pencil in Jeff Saturday for that honor.
The 14-year veteran center in the NFL put an official stamp on a career Thursday that began in Baltimore in 1998 and ended in Green Bay in 2012. But it was those 13 seasons in between — from 1999 to 2011 in which he played for Indianapolis — when Saturday earned his greatest rewards.
Saturday thrilled to retire as a Colt
The 14-year veteran center in the National Football League put an official stamp on a career Thursday that began in Baltimore in 1998 and ended in Green Bay in 2012. But it was those 13 seasons in-between — from 1999 to 2011 in which he played for Indianapolis — that Saturday earned his greatest rewards.
Saturday to retire as Colt on Thursday
Former Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday will make his retirement from the National Football League official on Thursday.
Indianapolis franchises punter McAfee
A week ago, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said it was a priority that the team retain the services of punter Pat McAfee.
McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who’s contract is due to expire March 12, was designated as the Colts’ franchise player Friday. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team’s special-teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed,” Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. “We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks.
Colts GM enjoying time at combine
Indianapolis Colts second-year general manager Ryan Grigson makes no bones about it. He enjoys watching prospective football players strut their stuff.
Colts keeping eye on large crop of talented linemen in NFL Draft
According to most National Football League draft observers, this year’s crop of prospects is deep with quality offensive and defensive linemen.
Among the offensive line candidates who have been showcasing their talents at the National Football Scouting Combine, which began in earnest Thursday and wraps up on Tuesday, the spotlight has been on the offensive tackles. Offensive left tackles in particular.
Colts' Pagano back to full work schedule at combine
Back and ready to go.
That’s the attitude Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is taking during the National Football Scouting Combine, which completed its second day of operations Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. During a wide-ranging press conference at the combine, Pagano confirmed that he is back to a full work regimen after missing 12 games last fall as he battled a rare form of leukemia.
After undergoing cancer treatments that featured heavy doses of chemotherapy, the second-year head coach was able to return to the sidelines for Indianapolis’ final regular-season home game against Houston and for the team’s AFC wild-card matchup with eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
Colts looking forward to different approach to draft in 2013
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts had the first overall pick in the 2012 National Football League draft.
It was a foregone conclusion that the Colts would select former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the selection. While Indianapolis front office and player personnel officials certainly had to do their due diligence in preparing for the draft, the Colts find themselves this year in a bit different situation.
The team will have the 24th overall pick in the first round, which is a double-edged sword. Indianapolis picks lower in the round due to a successful season. But the pool of available can’t-miss talent isn’t quite as plentiful as drafting earlier in the round.
Former Pro Bowl selection Freeney won't return to Colts
The news coming out of the Indianapolis Colts headquarters Friday afternoon was not totally unexpected. Team officials have confirmed that two veteran players – former Pro Bowl defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney and wide receiver Austin Collie — will not be returning for the 2013 season.
Colts’ new offensive coordinator will offer variety
Quarterback Andrew Luck running the Pistol offense? Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton lining up in the Wildcat?
Colts moving on to the off season
Moving on. That’s the immediate plans for the Indianapolis Colts as they head into the off season.
Baltimore ends Indy’s playoff run early
The Baltimore Ravens want one long final ride for Ray Lewis. Having disposed of Andrew Luck and the Colts, they now face a more imposing challenge.
Next up, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
Switching sides: Colts-Ravens matchup includes old friends on new teams
Just as Baltimore Ravens players and coaches will be seeing some old friends returning to M&T Bank Stadium today, several Indianapolis Colts veterans will also have an opportunity to renew acquaintances with a familiar face.
Pagano prepares Colts for tough crowd in Baltimore
As a former resident of Baltimore, Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano knows all about the hard feelings that still run strong about the move of the Colts franchise to Indianapolis in 1984.
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