Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Colts head coach admits that the defense, ranked 26th in the NFL in 2012, must get better next season.
At his end of the season presser on Monday, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was asked about the state of his defense now that the 2012 campaign is done and the 2013 offseason has begun. Indy had the No. 26th ranked defense in football this past season. It was 30th in turnovers (generating only 13), and despite Pagano and his defensive coordinator Greg Manusky focusing all throughout OTAs and training camp on stopping the run, the Colts were ranked 29th in run defense, giving up 2,200 yards and 5.1 yards-per-carry.
To put that in perspective, the 2012 run defense under Manusky and Pagano was no different than the 2011 run defense under Larry Coyer and, later, Mike Murphy. The Colts surrendered 2,303 yards in 2011, and were ranked 29th in the NFL, giving up 4.3 yards-per-carry.
Naturally, questions about the defense will continue to get asked unless Pagano can fix things. That is the reason he was hired as head coach in the first place. To Pagano's credit, he didn't hide from the fact that the defense in 2012 left a lot to be desired. ""I know [the defense] wasn't always perfect," Pagano told the media, but he was quick to follow-up that the 3-4 hybrid scheme he'd brought over from Baltimore was, "time-tested."
Pagano also pointed out that the Colts asked certain players, such as Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, to play positions they'd never played before at the NFL level. Both Mathis and Freeney had two of the worst seasons statistically of their careers in 2012. Mathis had 8 sacks (his lowest since 2007), while Freeney had just 5. That's the lowest sack total in one season for Freeney since 2007, when he missed half the season with a broken foot.
Yes, injuries sustained by both Mathis and Freeney played a part in their diminished production, but both looked uncomfortable all season long in this scheme, Freeney especially.
As our own Matt Grecco has chronicled all season, using his Winning Stats method, the Colts consistently ranked near the bottom in most of the major defensive categories.
A point of focus for Pagano and G.M. Ryan Grigson this offseason must be to fix this defense. If not, the question of "What's wrong with the Colts defense?" will continue to get asked of Pagano.