Colts seeking solutions for secondary problems
Greg Toler has spent six weeks watching his Colts’ teammates
work hard on Sundays.
The injured cornerback would rather be out there helping his
pals find a solution to what has become a major secondary problem –
defending the pass.
”As a defense, we take pride in stopping other teams, so it’s
been tough on everyone,” Toler said Wednesday, hopeful he’ll
return to action this weekend against Houston.
Players aren’t the only ones trying to figure out what’s
Coaches have spent countless hours poring through game, looking
for a common thread. Anxious fans have become increasingly weary of
seeing receivers get open for big plays. Two weeks ago, team owner
Jim Irsay, who spent tens of millions in free agency to revamp
Indy’s defense, offered his own critique on Twitter.
And while the offense has struggled largely because five key
players are on season-ending injured reserve, including Pro Bowl
receiver Reggie Wayne, there is no clear explanation for why a once
solid defense has been so inconsistent lately. All four defensive
players on injured reserve are backups, and Toler, a first-day
free-agent acquisition, is the only starter who has missed every
game during this disconcerting six-game stretch.
The tale of the tape doesn’t lie.
During the first seven games, when the Colts were up against
quarterbacks such as Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, Phillip
Rivers and Peyton Manning, Indy’s pass defense limited opponents to
a completion percentage of 58.7, a quarterback rating of 79.5 with
eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. The longest TD pass was
31 yards and only two others were longer than 20 yards.
Over the last six weeks, four games that came against
quarterbacks who opened the season as backups, it’s been a complete
reversal. Opponents have completed 64.9 percent of their passes,
posted a rating of 104.9 and thrown 12 TD passes – six of which
have went for 25 yards or longer – with only three picks.
It’s a problem Indy (8-5) knows must be fixed before the
The good news is that as the only current division champ, they
have three weeks to work out the kinks.
”We’ve got to make plays on the back end,” safety Antoine
Bethea said. ”Of course there’s going to be some times when the
other team makes plays. They get paid as well, they’re
professionals as well. But we’ve got to make plays. One thing we
always harp on is not letting the ball over our head. You’ve just
got to stop those plays.”
But the secondary is only part of the equation, though.
In the first seven weeks, the Colts had 21 sacks. In the last
six, they have nine. And one player, Robert Mathis, has accounted
for more than half of this season’s overall total. He leads the NFL
with 15 1/2.
”There’s a lot of stuff that we need to shore up,” Mathis
said. ”You can blame the pressure as much as anything else on the
defense not getting it done. That’s just putting too much pressure
on the secondary.”
Perhaps things will change soon.
Toler did limited work in practice Wednesday and could finally
return this week – if the doctors clear him.
”It’s just like your rookie year again when you were sitting
behind guys and you weren’t getting reps,” Toler said. ”It’s
getting as many mental reps as you can, asking questions in the
meeting room, telling the guys what you see while you’re not
playing. Just showing the guys that we’re capable of making the
plays that we made early on in the season. We just got to get that
The only other defensive player to sit out Wednesday’s practice
was defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois, who hasn’t played since
Dec. 1 because of a foot injury. Jean Francois was originally
expected to miss two to four weeks.
Indy also faces the reeling Texans (2-11), who have changed
quarterbacks and coaches during an inexplicable 11-game losing
streak that has turned the preseason AFC South favorites into the
front-runner for the No. 1 draft pick. Houston has never won in
Indy – even losing to the 0-13 Colts while it was marching toward
the 2011 AFC South title.
But the Colts understand that what they must do now is get it
right – regardless of the opponent.
”We just have to go out and execute, like we were early in the
season,” cornerback Vontae Davis said. ”It’s the little things,
its execution. It’s just that simple.”
Notes: Jean Francois was one of five injured players missing
practice. Receiver LaVon Brazill (foot), fullback Stanley Havili
(knee) and offensive lineman Jeff Linkenbach (quad) and center
Samson Satele (elbow) also sat out. Mathis didn’t participate
because he was given an extra day of rest. … Coach Chuck Pagano
said backup cornerback Cassius Vaughn will likely return kicks
against Houston after Chris Rainey went on injured reserve earlier
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org