Grigson Looking for Better Blocking, Fewer Backfield Jailbreaks
Ryan Grigson has been a busy man. The Colts General Manager has worked tirelessly this offseason to improve a roster that went 11-5 last year but lacked talent and/or depth at several key positions.
One of those areas in need of improvement was the offensive line, a group that struggled to run block, and, more importantly, pass block allowing Andrew Luck to be sacked a franchise record tying 41 times (Jim Harbaugh went down 41 times in 1997).
Grigson’s full quote really drives his point home. “Again, we said it before, we have to do a premium job of protecting our quarterback,” he began. “He’s obviously an outstanding player. We don’t need him running for his life. We need him to feel as comfortable as possible. Now Andrew’s (Luck) the type of guy that if he has a jailbreak every down, he’s the type of player that could still find a way to get something done. We want to just have the conditions be optimal for him because that’s the only way it’s going to really develop him to the player that he can be.”
For the casual football fan (and it’s okay if you are a casual fan), a jailbreak is exactly as it sounds: all or nearly all pass rushers manage to shed their blocks and/or come running free after the quarterback. Luck saw far too many of those last season, and better pass protection will be key to his development moving forward.
No Stopping to Smell the Roses
Overall, the Colts have added no less than 11 NFL free agents (Aubrayo Franklin, Lawrence Sidbury, LaRon Landry, Erik Walden, Gosder Cherilus, Donald Thomas, Greg Toler, Matt Hasselbeck, Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Ahmad Bradshaw – if I’m not forgetting anyone), one AFL free agent (LB Caesar Rayford), one Army officer (Josh McNary), and 7 draft picks, not to mention trades and UDFA’s.
But they won 11 games year, right? Correct. However, they reached that record with a thin and depleted roster. Moreover, as Grigson eloquently puts it, standing pat while everyone else tries to become better would be a career-killing mistake.
“It’s like when I walked in here for the first time and you see all those banners, we want to build off that,” Grigson said. “We set the bar high; our owner sets the bar high. We expect greatness and I feel like any time you take your nose off the grindstone or you stop and smell the roses, it’s not far after that that you’re out of this league. That’s the mindset. It’s a blue-collar mindset. How can we tell the players to adhere to that type of thinking and way of life if we’re not doing it at the top? So that’s how we do it.”
No Time for Rest before Training Camp…Well, Not Much, Anyway
After yesterday’s practice, the Colts will be off for a few weeks until they report to Training camp in late July. This, however, is nothing like the end of the season, when many players go on vacation. This is a time to further get into shape and study the playbook.
“Nothing changes for me,” Reggie Wayne said of the downtime between now and camp. “I’m still working out at 5:30 in the morning up until training camp. If anything, for me it gets turned up a little bit more. I don’t have the bones of a 24-year old. I can’t sit down too long. So, same intensity, same thought process, just turned up a little bit more.”
Chuck Pagano drove the point home a bit further. “You got to stay in the mental part. You got to stay in the physical part,” he said. “You can’t just stop. As coaches and as players, if you get totally away from it, you’re going to come back and you’re going to be lost. You don’t want to come to training camp and use training camp as a means to get in shape. You don’t want to use training camp as a means to re-learn the playbook.”
Pagano told the players that there’s still some time for family and rest, but he also reminded them, in so many words, to stay out of trouble. “So the big thing was number one, make great choices,” he said. “This time off, spend time with family, recharge, do what you have to do mentally, physically, but make great choices. Don’t put yourself in a bad situation because really the only thing that will derail us from having a successful training camp and the start of a great season is a distraction, having something bad happen. We see it all the time, we read about it all the time, so those are the things we emphasized.” Dear Athletes, Don’t do anything stupid with your free time; Sincerely, Coach.
We can rebuild him. We have the technology. Okay, references to 1970s TV shows aside, once promising offensive lineman Ben Ijalana has undergone 5 surgeries in his short NFL career, including repairs on two consecutive ACL tears. In short, the guy whom experts said could become better than Anthony Castonzo hasn’t had the best of luck as a pro.
Pagano made it clear that Ijalana will have his chance to prove himself, health permitting, and that the coaches are appetent to see what he can do. “Well, Ben’s just got to stay healthy,” Chuck Pagano said of the third year lineman. “Poor kid’s just been snake-bitten. He’s got talent, he’s big, and he’s athletic. We all know the measurables. He’s been snake-bitten. He’s just got to stay healthy. Nobody’s faced more adversity than Ben and he’s handled it like a pro and like a champ.
“He’s come back and he’s kept that axe swinging. As long as you don’t drop that axe and you keep that axe going, that tree will eventually fall. So he’ll show up to training camp, be healthy, hopefully stay healthy, and have an opportunity to show everybody what he can do. We’re eager to see that. I’m eager to see that.”
Leftover Quotes: New Offense, Experienced Luck, ‘Old Dog’ Reggie
– Andrew Luck on having a year under his belt: “It is. It’s nice to sort of know what to expect in this break somewhat, as well as knowing the guys, knowing the building. Obviously, it’s a different offense but having run most of it in college, it’s nice to know that. So, a lot of uncertainty is taken out of the equation. That’s easier in a sense.”
– Luck on his rapport with Pep Hamilton: “Yeah, we had a great relationship at Stanford and stayed in contact through the season. So when he came it wasn’t like we hadn’t talked in a year. We were still very comfortable communicating and you have to be that way. That’s something Coach Arians taught me a lot about. As a quarterback and a coordinator, you have to be able to talk and communicate and not worry about hurting feelings in a sense. I think it’s great. I think it’s been seamless with Pep.”
– When asked if he and Hamilton discussed strategy much last year, Luck clarified: “More ‘How’s your season going? How’s it going? Anything interesting happen in the game?’ Obviously, I was still very much invested in Stanford football while he was there because roommates are still playing, buddies, very close to a lot of people there still. I was being the annoying fan and seeing what’s going on. I had the offensive coordinator’s number. So, we stayed in contact a lot.”
– The ever-loquacious Chuck Pagano on how the installation of Hamilton’s offense has gone thus far: “Real good, I thought it was good. Obviously, any time there’s change, there’s going to be some rough spots to it. But I saw progress. I think everybody saw progress as we went. We really, I think, took off those last three days of OTAs – eight, nine, and 10. Then minicamp has been outstanding. And again, we challenged them. The whole offensive staff challenged them. They threw a lot of information at them. Obviously having the quarterback that understood a lot of that but Matt (Hasselbeck) and Chandler (Harnish) did a great job of picking up, were able to run the second and third group. So I think it went well and it’ll continue to get better as we go to training camp.”
– GM Ryan Grigson on Ahmad Bradshaw’s experience and Super Bowl pedigree: “It doesn’t hurt to have a guy who’s been there and done that. The more guys that walk in this door that already expect greatness of themselves without needing it beaten into their head at all, that’s just an added bonus.”
– The ever-humble Reggie Wayne discussing how the team looks at this point compared to the same time last year: “Better than last year. I hope that’s even more good news. We have a good locker room man. Guys are really in tune to what’s going on. Guys are flying around out there at practice. Guys are having fun. Don’t hear anybody complaining about the schedule or nothing like that. Guys are believing into the system, believing into the scheme of things and moving in the right direction. I think we’re on schedule. I’m just a servant. But if you ask me for my opinion, I think everything’s on the up and up.”
– One last bit from Reggie Wayne, talking about his motivation late in his career. Bear with me, it’s a bit long: “Yeah, this is home. The average age on this team is probably about 25, 26 years old. I keep the same thought process as I did when I was a rookie. They’re trying to find somebody to replace me so I got to show them what’s up. I got to make that a hard decision for them. I got to think like a 20-year old. I got to feel like a 20-year old. The day I stop feeling like that, that’s the day I’m going to put my cleats in and go. I’m going to hang them up. I got a lot of young guys running around here. I got to let them know that I’m not as old as you think I am. It’s cool. They keep me into it. I hear the conversations. It baffles me sometimes. I wonder if I was talking about those same things when I was their age. I let them know what’s up man. I’m an old dog, but I’m a dog that everybody want.”
That’s one very candid glimpse into the thoughts of an NFL player in his 30’s, the twilight of his career, though he would be considered young outside the microcosm of professional sports.
As always, all quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department.
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