How to Fix the Colts Defense


The Indianapolis Colts suffered their second blowout loss in the past three games on Sunday. They had a complete failure on defense in the second half and allowed to Patriots to repeat a playoff performance that sent the Colts home.

Some wanted to blame Andrew Luck and the offense for Sunday’s loss, but the fact is that they didn’t give up 199 yards to an undrafted rookie. In losses, the offense has averaged 26 points per game while the defense is up to a gaudy 38.25. Expecting your offense to average over 30 per game is unrealistic.

Two of the losses came at home, where the Colts gave up 72 points. This is still the same team that gave up 87 in the playoffs last season.

There are two fundamental problems with the defense. One is a distinct lack of talent on this side of the ball. The other is the scheme.

The first falls on management and Ryan Grigson, the other on Chuck Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

Pagano was brought in primarily due to his experience as a defensive coordinator. He was supposed to build a defense that took the pressure off the offense and gave the Colts a more balanced approach on the field.

That has not happened, but its not entirely Pagano’s fault. The Colts didn’t have the players for a a 3-4 defense back in 2012, which made the move all the more confusing.

There is a good argument to be made that 4-3 defensive alignments are more effective. The principal reason being that it is easier to find player who fit the 4-3 scheme. The lynchpin of a 3-4 is having a dominant nose tackle, something the Colts sorely lack.

That is a moot point now, but not the only failure in coaching by Pagano and Manusky. This team routinely shows up to games unprepared on defense. We also see breakdowns in coverage far more often than we should (see Steelers game).

The latter issue is partly due to the players on the field.

Simply put, there is a severe lack of talent on the Colts defense. Grigson continues to overpay for mediocre talent like D’Qwell Jackson, LaRon Landry, and Erik Walden.

Those three players have earned a combined -20.9 per Pro Football Focus. Jackson makes up the bulk of that grade with a -16.6, the worst on the entire roster. Any other player would have been benched a long time ago for a performance this bad.

There isn’t a quick fix in the next six weeks and with this defense, the Colts won’t make much noise in the playoffs. There are a number of moves the team can make in the offseason.

I said on twitter Monday that they should consider blowing up the defense. That was clearly an overreaction, but change is needed. A defensive oriented draft is a must, but they can also cut a few players to save money (which they will need after 2015 to lock up the 2012 draft class with long term deals).

Building through free agency doesn’t work, just ask the 2011 Eagles. The Colts under Bill Polian built almost exclusively through the draft (a lot of that was financially motivated) and were a playoff lock for over a decade.

The mediocre talent listed above? All of those players can be cut without an impact to the play on the field. Jackson doesn’t save the team any money, but if they cut Landry, Walden, and throw in Greg Toler it would save $10.95 million in cap space.

Landry’s backup, Sergio Brown, has outplayed him this season. Toler has either played poorly or been injured while in Indy. Walden was brought in to “set the edge” something he’s never done in his career. Jackson is hot garbage and offers nothing on the field.

Grigson should get credit for signing Mike Adams, who has revived his career in Indianapolis. He also picked up Cory Redding, who has been outstanding this season. But the bad signings have far outweighed the good ones (along with other moves, like trading away a first round pick that could have gotten the Colts a good safety).

Part of the problem is related to the success the Colts have enjoyed for the last couple seasons. With Luck being so good so fast, it has pushed a “win at all costs” mentality these past three seasons. The Colts only have another season before contracts on the offense get a bit out of control (re-signing Luck, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, and T.Y. Hilton won’t be cheap at all).

The Colts need help at every level on defense. There won’t be a free agent fix, so its time to cut their losses and start building through the draft. The Colts are clearly better than they were in 2013, but they are still outside of the elite looking in.