Colts New Veterans Lead by Example
By Evan Reller
The Indianapolis Colts entered the offseason with a few glaring holes on the roster. They needed impact players on defense and veterans on offense. While it appeared that the Colts were set on offense, the loss of Reggie Wayne left that unit without a truly experienced player among the wide receivers and the team hasn’t had a healthy experienced running back in years.
Enter Andre Johnson and Frank Gore.
The duo gives the Colts two reliable veterans who are hungry for a shot at a championship and willing leaders on the field. While neither has been particularly vocal, they act as examples for the younger players to emulate.
Mike Wells from ESPN spoke with last week about his approach to the game. An old adage is that players are paid to practice, the games are for free. Gore seems to be one of the rare players who doesn’t mind the work put in before game day.
"“I like to practice,” Gore said. “I’m not one of those guys that likes missing snaps during training camp. You’ll see me out there all the time. I don’t say much. There’s not much talking from me. I go out and do my job.”"
Some players would prefer to skip OTAs or sit out preseason games (read: Edgerrin James, not that he needed to play in the preseason). Gore, a 10-year veteran, doesn’t fall into that category and he wants all the reps he can get. This is a great trait to have, especially as he transitions to a new team and offensive scheme.
Johnson falls into the same category, a veteran with impeccable work ethic. Both have slipped into the new scheme like they’ve been playing in Indianapolis for their entire careers.
Coach Chuck Pagano even commented on how in-sync Johnson already is with Andrew Luck.
"“One knows where the other’s going to be,” Pagano said. “They know the exact spot to put it.”"
Johnson has been able to rediscover his love of the game after joining a team that has lofty expectations and a quarterback who can actually deliver on them. This situation is similar to Steve Smith joining the Ravens last season and seeing a revival of his career, except Johnson will be doing it with a better QB.
Jun 9, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Andre Johnson (81) catches a pass during minicamp at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Luck, Johnson, and Gore are going to feed off each other. While Johnson might not be the primary receiving threat on the field, he does give Luck a very large and reliable target (despite a bit of a history of drops the past couple years). But with more accurate passing (and fewer double teams), Johnson likely won’t be dropping nearly as many passes.
Gore represents something the Colts haven’t had since 2007: a credible rushing threat. Gore will force teams to respect the Colts run game on name reputation alone. That will make play action plays much more dangerous.
But with Gore, it isn’t a one way street. Having Luck as his QB is going to open up rushing lanes as teams won’t be able to stack the box with eight men in order to sell out against the run. For most of his career, Gore had been the primary threat on the 49ers offense and still produced. In 2014, he had 76 run plays against eight man boxes, the next closest was DeMarco Murray with 58.
Gore and Johnson are showing the younger players on offense just how far a good work ethic can take you. They won’t be yelling on the sideline or trying to get people fired up, but rather provide a calm steady hand to an offense that is still developing.