Sunday started with rain and mud before turning into a beautiful, if a bit humid, summer day. So, several early media questions were something along the lines of ‘how about that weather?’
When asked if the slick field affected how hard they could get after it in practice, defensive end Cory Redding simply said, “No, no they make different shoes for that. You get good grip, you just play lower and just be conscious of the way you step and how you step and don’t do nothing to hurt yourself, still go at a fast tempo with an emphasis on making the play.”
One of the areas the defense wants to improve this year is stopping the run (a recurring offseason theme over the past 17 years). Last season, Indianapolis ranked 26th in rushing yards allowed per game (125.1), giving up 4.5 yards per carry (t-24th). They were 22nd in Football Outsiders DVOA rankings against the run (-0.1%).
From a fan perspective, killing a rushing play typically is all about winning matchups. If a defensive lineman is blown backward on a run play, bad things typically ensue. From the players’ perspective, however, winning an individual matchup doesn’t matter much if someone jumps to the wrong gap and leaves the running back with a clear path to a first down or worse.
“It’s just doing your job,” Redding said of stopping the run. “It comes down to doing your job. If I got the C gap, I’ve got to hold the C gap no matter how enticing that B gap looks if it’s open and the ball carrier hasn’t crossed the line of scrimmage and I could just peek my head and get over there. Then the ball heads to my gap, then I didn’t do my job and there is a 60-yard run for a touchdown.”
A lack of discipline on the field by one player can negate perfect execution by the other ten guys. Redding and the Colts defense are working on trusting each other to make plays. “It’s all about holding your gap and trusting the man behind you is going to do his job and if all 11 are on the same page, then we’ll be successful,” he said. “The only way we weren’t successful against the run, granted they’re good backs and they’re going to find the hole, so give credit to them, but at the end of the day, we all have to do our job and hold our gaps and gap leverage.” Hold you gap, not someone else’s. Got it.
Shuffling the Deck on Offense
Aside from talking about the weather (give ‘em a break, it’s training camp), there was also plenty of discussion about going into the second year with Pep Hamilton’s sometimes explosive, sometimes enigmatic offense (can a football scheme be an enigma? We’re going with a yes today).
A reporter asked tight end Dwayne Allen if the offense is beginning to flourish this year, with more players knowing the system. “By flourishing, it is getting more exotic. He started out really basic last year in the things that he installed and the things that we did. This year he’s mixing it up a bunch because he knows we are capable of catching whatever he throws at us.”
Please, yes. More of this, Pep. Mix it up. This team has the personnel to send defenses reeling in hilarious disarray. There’s no need to be predictable.
One thing Hamilton wants to do more of is use his two talented tight ends (now that Dwayne Allen is healthy). It’s no secret Pep likes using tall, athletic tight ends in the passing game. However, he’s going to stop short of calling it a tight end driven offense: “I think we learned a great lesson about pegging or coining a phrase that would ultimately label our offense,” Hamilton said. “But no, it’s a playmaker driven offense. A score-first playmaker driven offense. All of the above.”
One thing fans have been hoping to see with Andrew Luck and all the weapons at his disposal, has been the no-huddle, up-tempo offense. The consensus last season was that some of the early focus on the run was holding Luck back a bit – shelving the Colts’ top weapon.
Hamilton was asked if we might see more of the quick-strike, aerial offense that they eventually turned to late last season. “I think it’s starting to become a trend in the National Football League and considering our first two opponents, our defense, they need for us to give them somewhat of a look of what to expect against Denver and Philadelphia,” he said.
Hamilton acknowledged the success they had spreading the field and attacking more often, but he continued to be reluctant to commit to one specific aspect after last season. “By the end of the year,” he said, “we felt like the up-tempo offense gave us a heck of an opportunity to feature our playmakers as well as kind of wear the opponent down.
“Ultimately when we start game planning our opponents, we’ll find ways to put our guys in a position to make plays. We’re not sure or certain that it will be one specific tempo at this point.”
Hamilton sounds as though he knows very well what worked last year and what didn’t. If he’s focused on any one thing this year with the new score first and playmaker buzzwords flying around, it’s unpredictability. And for an offense with a gifted young quarterback and a wide array of pass catchers, unpredictability sounds fantastic.
All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.