Colts hoping retro look brings Super Bowl title

Indianapolis is going retro.

After making a nine-game improvement and reaching the playoffs

with rookie quarterback Andrew Luck in charge, new offensive

coordinator Pep Hamilton has installed a power-running game with

double-tight end formations, and coach Chuck Pagano got the pieces

he wanted to make Indy’s 3-4 defense look more like the defense he

had in Baltimore.

The Ravens won last year’s Super Bowl this way, and, well,

Pagano figures he can replicate that success in Indy this year.

With nearly three dozen new faces at training camp, the message

seemed to resonate.

”There’s nobody in there that’s relaxing,” Pagano said. ”I

think everybody, because of the acquisitions, because of the free

agents, because of the draft, those types of things, our roster is

in a much better place than it was at any time last year.”

So far, it’s worked.

The Colts revamped defense hasn’t given up a touchdown in two

games, and the injury-depleted offense is still trying to get the

ground game in sync.

What else has changed in Indy? Here’s five things to know about

the Colts:

DIFFERENT DEFENSE: After more than a decade of playing in the

shadows of the Colts’ high-powered offense, Indianapolis’ defense

is playing with the kind of swagger normally reserved for the best

in the NFL. Don’t believe it? Ask Reggie Wayne, who was mocked by

Cory Redding and Robert Mathis when a practice catch was ruled out

of bounds. Ask Anthony Castonzo, the victim of one of Mathis’ nasty

spin moves in practice. Ask the Giants, who went 0 for 4 in the red

zone and endured six sacks in the second preseason game. Or ask

Cleveland, which had only four first downs and ran only three plays

– one of those a punt – in Indy territory before the starters left

early in the third quarter. If first impressions mean anything,

this will not be the same old Colts.

SOPHOMORE SENSATIONS: Last season, Luck turned in one of the

best rookie seasons in NFL history. Yes, he’s playing for his

second offensive coordinator in two seasons, but Luck is no

ordinary quarterback and this is no ordinary transition. Hamilton

has essentially installed the same offense he and Luck used at

Stanford, and the shorter passing game should help Luck reduce the

interceptions, improve his completion percentage and lower the

number of hits he took a year ago. Keep an eye on second-year

receiver T.Y. Hilton, who emerged as a genuine playmaker at

training camp and should play an even larger role in this offense

than he did as a rookie.

LINING UP: Indy’s top offseason priority was protecting Luck.

General manager Ryan Grigson spent a lot of money on right tackle

Gosder Cherilus and left guard Donald Thomas, who were signed in

free agency. Grigson also drafted Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes

in April. Will all these moves will work? Thornton and Holmes have

missed a lot of practice because of sprained right ankles. Cherilus

and Thomas have been solid, but Colts quarterbacks have still been

under duress throughout the preseason. Clearly, as Thomas recently

said, the line is a work in progress.

DEPTH CHARGE: Grigson also wanted to spend the offseason adding

depth. In some places, such as the secondary with additions such as

Greg Toler and LaRon Landry, the Colts are clearly improved. In

other places, not so much. Indy is still looking for a solid option

behind Wayne and Hilton at receiver. Darrius Heyward-Bey has

sometimes struggled to hold onto balls. LaVon Brazill is suspended

for the first four games and Grigson is still making moves to push

the other Colts’ receivers. Indy’s top two tight ends, Dwayne Allen

and Coby Fleener, have struggled with injuries over the last couple

of weeks, too, but should be ready for the Sept. 8 opener against

Oakland. The Colts are also looking for another pass rusher to help


ON SCHEDULE: After going 2-14 and finishing with the worst

record in the NFL in 2011, the Colts were the beneficiary of one of

the league’s easier schedules. This year, the trendy thought is

that a tougher schedule will damage Indy’s playoff hopes. Not so

fast. First, these Colts are more experienced and more talented

than they were a year ago. Second, they still play in the AFC South

where the Titans and Jaguars are clearly playing catch-up and where

two-time division champ Houston has never swept Indy. Plus, the

Colts will play perhaps the AFC’s weakest division, the West.


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