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
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.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org