Go back and listen to Tony Dungy's press conference from Monday and you will hear some very troubling statements. Not troubling in the sense that OMG we are toast, but troubling in the sense that certain characteristics that are NOT characteristic of the Colts occurred during the Jaguars game. In Dungy's own way, he was very critical of the defense. Here are some things that jumped out at me (paraphrased):
- Several missed tackles by defense
- The team relaxed, lack of hustle overall
- Players spending too much time worrying about who is not there
- Got frantic, panicked a bit when things starting falling apart
- Not playing until whistle blows, swarming to the ball
Again, these are all traits that we do not normally see or hear about regarding the Colts. The opposite was on display against the Vikings the week before. Despite tremendous adversity, they did not panic, played hard for 4 quarters, and won the game. This time around, that wasn't the case.
That, my friends, is troubling.
So, what does this mean? Well, factor in that the Colts have several inexperienced players now playing on defense. Inexperience can bred inconsistency. Remember when we said all those young, experienced starters from last year were returning, and that was going to make this defense better?
Out the window.
With Ed Johnson gone, that theory went up in smoke... kind of like Big Ed's career. Also factor in that Clint Session is playing out of position. He is not a strong side LBer. I don't care what kind of talent he has. Is he a quitter and a wuss like Gilbert Gardner? No, of course not. He just does not have the body type and the skills to play LBer over the TE. Clint is a WILL backer, or weak side LBer, and in the future he might be a better option over Freddie "KO" Keiaho. We've also got a 3 technique DT (Eric Foster) playing nose tackle. Because of these deficiencies, the Colts have had to play man-to-man coverage, shaking them out of their comfort zone (Tampa 2 defense).
To fix this, here are some suggested changes (because, you know, Bill Polian is so reading this blog right now):
- Bench Clint Session and start Philip Wheeler at SAM. Nothing against Clint. I'm a big Clint fan and think he has what it takes. He's just not a SAM backer, just like I am not Will Smith, Captain Kirk, or Michael Jordan circa 1992. Wheeler has the body type, speed, and power to play SAM in Cover 2. He can hold down the fort until Tyjuan Hagler returns. Hagler's scheduled return is Week 6-ish.
- Rotate in Daniel Muir and Lajuan Ramsey more at NT. Foster is a gutty kid, and he was a solid find, but he is not a NT. God bless him for trying. He can be a real force if he were allowed to play 3 technique, especially against the run. Muir needs to get healthy (or he needs to get cut) and Ramsey more comfortable. That is what the bye week is for. These two guys need to be the full time players at NT, and lock down that position. Right now, it is killing us.
- Tackle drills in practice. Waaaaaaaaaaay too many missed tackles. Too many guys going for the big hit, and not bringing down the ball carrier. We know these guys can swarm and bring down big, tough backs. We've seen it many times. However, every once in a while, they forget that football is about tackling, not hitting. They need to be reminded.
- Cut anyone, and I mean anyone, who quits or slacks off in a game. The Colts just cut their best DT for smoking weed. If they were willing to do that, they should be willing to flat out terminate a player's services if he plays with a lack of urgency. They need to stopped fretting over who they don't have (Bob, Ed, Quinn, Tyjuan, etc.) and do the job they are paid millions to do. If they can't do that, cut them and find someone who can.
I think it is safe to say that the established veterans on defense (Dwight Freeney, Gary Brackett, Robert Mathis, Marlin Jackson, etc.) are not the kind of players who would display a "lack of hustle" in a key game. So, the microscope is now on other players, like Freddie, Clint, Philip, Melvin, Jennings, and others. We shall see if lack of hustle is a continuing problem. Hopefully, it isn't.