Shortly after Coach Chuck Pagano was introduced as Colts’ head coach in 2012, his new team quickly adopted the mantra, “Build the Monster”. It’s taken a little over 2 seasons, but Colts’ fans now see something that’s big, blue, and mean.
Chuck Pagano was brought in here to build a 3-4 defense. Not an average one; a tough, physical, and stingy one like the Baltimore Ravens of the past decade. As the Ravens’ former defensive coordinator from 2008-11, Pagano knew the style, the scheme, and the type of defensive players he wanted to acquire. Finding the next Ray Lewis or Ed Reed would be nearly impossible, but he could still find exceptional players, ones who could help lead a new defensive era in Indianapolis.
Indianapolis Colts’ veterans Cory Redding and Mike Adams have not only consistently made positive contributions on the field, but are also team leaders for the defense. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
In the 2012 offseason, he wasted no time in urging new Colts’ GM Ryan Grigson to sign then 10-year veteran and ex-Baltimore Ravens’ DE, Cory Redding, to a 3-year, $10.5MM (now bargain of a) contract. The rest is history, as Redding at age 33 has not only been the team’s most consistent and best defensive lineman in his 2+ seasons as a Colt, but he’s also been one of the undisputed defensive leaders of this football team. One of the foundations that this stalwart 3-4 defense now rests.
Since then, the “Cover-2 Colts” roster of defensive players from the Bill Polian and Tony Dungy Era has been completely overhauled by Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano. The lone remaining survivor of that defensive era, Robert Mathis, has successfully made the conversion from hands-down defensive end to stand-up 3-4 rush outside linebacker. Gone are Cover-2 and long-time Colts’ defensive stars like Dwight Freeney, Antoine Bethea, and Gary Brackett, and in their place, are names like Vontae Davis, Jerrell Freeman, and Bjoern Werner.
These Colts are bigger and stronger than their defensive predecessors. Afterall, the Colts are the heaviest team in the National Football League. They are anchored by Josh Chapman, a listed 340 pound mammoth er…nose tackle in the middle, and top to bottom, the defensive lineup that surrounds him is bigger and stronger at nearly all of its positions.
Perhaps, the most impressive defensive statistic of the day is that in the Colts’ past 5 games, all of which have been wins, the defense has held opposing offenses to only 8 successful 3rd down conversions in 51 attemps for an incredibly low 15.7% 3rd down conversion rate.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing; however, as there have been some headaches along the way. Case in point, last year’s divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots where a 245-pound bowling ball of a running back in LeGarrette Blount, gashed the Colts’ defense for 24 carries for 166 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. The Patriots of course won the game fairly handedly as a direct result, 43-22.
After last season’s failure, the defense upgraded at inside linebacker by signing 9-year veteran, D’Qwell Jackson, who brings consistency and great tackling to the position. They’ve also added Arthur Jones, who despite missing the last 5 games, appears to be a solid (and heavy, 337 pounds) rotational defensive lineman. In perhaps the most under-the-radar move, they signed 11-year veteran safety Mike Adams, who has suprisingly been a solidifying force in the back of the Colts’ secondary.
Oct 19, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) reacts after a defensive stop during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not just the new additions though, as all the Colts’ defensive players are starting to assimilate and finally get comfortable in the 3rd season of defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky’s implemented 3-4 scheme.
These aren’t last season’s Colts, and Sunday was clear indication of that defensively. The Colts shut-out a defensive opponent for the first time since December 28, 2008 (against the Tennessee Titans). The Cincinnati Bengals, ranked #5 in total offense entering the day, managed only 135 total yards in what was an absolutely dominant Colts’ defensive performance.
Perhaps, the most impressive defensive statistic of the day is that in the Colts’ past 5 games, all of which have been wins, the defense has held opposing offenses to only 8 successful 3rd down conversions in 51 attemps for an incredibly low 15.7% 3rd down conversion rate. The Bengals were 1-13 on Sunday and didn’t get their 1st first down until a defensive penalty late in the 1st half.
The Colts’ defense was absolutely swarming.
It was the best the Colts’ defense has looked that I can remember…well… since ever. With Halloween quickly approaching and talks of “Frankenstein”, Colts’ fans can rejoice that they finally have a monster of their own. It’s alive!
Oct 19, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker Bjoern Werner (92) sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports