DISCLAIMER: I’m NOT a member of the Indianapolis Colts organization. I don’t have any head coaching experience nor do I know how to draw up and call plays as an Offensive or Defensive Coordinator. I will NEVER be a NFL GM or a scout (even though I would love to do that) and will never have a position in any NFL organization.
With that being said and done, I do have the right to criticize the NFL team and the members of this organization that I do root for simply cause I invest time and money within this team. I buy NFL licensed Colts merchandise every chance I get and usually attend games when I can. Like I said in my disclaimer, I don’t watch film on the players (excluding NFL Game Rewind with Coaches Film) and I don’t know what goes on at team practices. But if an 18 year old can see the numerous flaws this team has and can come up with some type of ideas that MIGHT actually improve the team, why can’t the GM and the coaching staff do the same. Keep in mind that just because a person is in his position doesn’t mean he is or will be good at it (see Jim Caldwell). GMs and Head Coaches make bad decisions all the time and being in those positions doesn’t excuse them from criticism regardless if it comes from a fan/blogger (outsider looking in) or if they have more inside knowledge of the person(s) doing the criticizing.
Let me begin with addressing widely know issues this team has and come with some so form of ideas and creative thinking that MIGHT actually work instead of being stuck with the "same ‘ole same ‘ole" players.
Richardson is a TOP 5 2012 Draft selection who was drafted two spots behind QB Andrew Luck, I’m sure everyone who decides to read this article or not knows this but I just wanted to put that out there for numerous reasons. When you are drafted that high, you are expected to come in and contribute to your team regardless of position almost immediately . I’m starting to think that trading away the 1st Round selection in the 2014 was a bad idea. We paid a grave price for that move. For the production Richardson is giving us, we could have signed an UDFA or a player who isn’t on anyone’s team at the moment and could probably get better results. Now, I understand that Richardson is just a second year player who is new to the team. He doesn’t have a full grasp on how the blocking scheme is drawn up or even knows the full extent of the playbook. But the question I need answered is how come Richardson is the starting RB if he has all these setbacks against him at the moment? He has been outperformed by Donald Brown every since he landed here and even Vick Ballard; a 5th Round rookie RB came in and made a decent impact and won the starting spot despite not being the most physically gifted guy. Even "Boom" Herron looked decent running the ball and had a 50+ receiving play albeit doing so in garbage time. I wonder if Ryan Grigson can own up to this decision that’s looking more like a mistake week in and week out.
Right now the best thing the coaching staff can do is let Brown get the bulk of the carries while Richardson is still "raw" and see if he can get up to speed in the offensive scheme. Brown has been solid running the ball behind the same O-line this season and has put up great stats so far, maybe Brown has finally reached his full potential or has reached his prime.
The buzz surrounding him was that he was a bust ( he was a huge draft reach in the 2009 NFL Draft) but at the same time didn’t have any consistency or even continuity at QB or offensive coordinator; having to play with numerous QBs under different OCs in his entire career as an Oakland Raider. Now he has the chance to revitalize is career and image with perhaps the best QB he will ever share the field with. But instead of making the most out of this opportunity; he drops it instead. Yeah he’s fast with decent size and athleticism but he doesn’t know how to read the offense, has trouble getting separation from CBs despite them being slower than them and most importantly; he can’t catch the ball to save his
life career. Back when we used to trash Donnie Avery for having the same skill-set and attributes as DHB, at least he used to make a few great plays to move the ball down field and would score occasionally. DHB is not an upgrade over Avery and something needs to be done ASAP, we can NOT win in the playoffs with a #2 WR that can’t catch the ball.
We have to see what we have in Da’Rick Rogers now, sure he was a head-case before but Pagano has spoken quite high of him and he was recently added to the 53-man active roster. T.Y. Hilton is the only reliable WR on the offense which presents a problem cause defensive coordinators can easily gameplan against him in take him out of the game as a threat. We need better options to keep the defense guessing and not making it easy for them. We have nothing to lose by putting him on the field, he’s cheap, he’s young, and he has immense potential to become a stud WR. Da’Rick Rogers needs to be given a chance the same way we gave Griff Whalen an opportunity. Rogers could turn either into a solid #1 or #2 WR in Reggie Wayne’s absence or he can’t. No one will not know with him sitting on the bench.
Losing starting LG Donald Thomas is not the reason for the "woes" on the O-line. The issues are having Samson Satele at Center and Mike McGlynn at RG. When the two aforementioned lineman are on the field together, the pass blocking stalls and the running game becomes null, they both have very poor footwork and upper body strength. Granted; McGlynn might suck at RG, but he really anchors the line at Center and that might be an indication that he’s a natural Center "forced" to play Guard. As long as these two men are getting snaps; Luck and the RB corps will continue to suffer setbacks and that decreases our chances of winning games which is very important for us if we want to capture and hoist the Lombardi.
Pagano should try benching players for poor play instead of waiting for the starter to get injured. The "Next Man Up" mantra should not be used for injures but inconsistent starters as well. What I suggest he does is put Joe Reitz at LG, which moves rookie Hugh Thornton to RG, and put either Mike McGlynn or rookie Khaled Holmes at Center to see what works and what doesn’t. Protecting Luck and opening holes is the way to defeat the slow starts or being blowed out by under-achieving teams. Things can’t possibly get more worst than what they are now, the coaching staff won’t know unless they try to atleast make some type of changes. Benching could either make the former starter acknowledge his shortcomings and play better or it can give a confidence boost to the guy who was just a backup.
Manusky, Pagano, and the Secondary:
We have what it takes to put games away with the players we have in the secondary. I really can’t remember the last time the defense had this much talent on D. Sure we had Marlin Jackson, Kelvin Hayden, and Tim Jennings as our CBs with Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea backing them up, but I really feel that Vontae Davis, Greg Toler, and Darius Butler are the better CB trio between the two groups. But something just doesn’t seem well when CBs from other teams play differently and "regress" when putting on a Colts uniform outside of the typical injuries Colts’ DBs always suffers; but that’s a part of the game and is a risk that can’t be taking away. Davis was really good in Miami when he was face to face with WRs and playing good bump and run coverage against the man assigned to him. Toler was a very underrated press coverage corner who used to throw off the timing the QB had with the WR. It seems that neither corner don’t use more "physicality" and get in the face of WRs, now they just let WRs run their routes and run along with them. That can be bad business if you are a CB cause depending on the wideouts talent, he can burn you if he’s faster or get the better of you if he gets around you with his route-running skills.
Manusky needs to make better play calls and adjustments, there are some things that CBs in a man-to man coverage scheme shouldn’t do:
- Play 7-10 yards off the WR despite the player not being a burner and only having marginal speed
- Playing zone coverage with CBs that don’t have any zone scheme experience
Man-to-man coverage CBs can’t play zone for a reason like zone CBs can’t play man-to-man coverage. It can’t be a mere coincidence that Kelvin Hayden was a solid zone CB corner under then Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks but regress rapidly under Meeks’ replacement Larry Coyer, or how Tim Jennings was really out of place under Meeks but performed real admirably in his one season under Coyer. Or maybe was it cause Hayden had good awareness, instincts and knew where he needed to be which translates well in a zone scheme while Jennings has the physical tools and techniques to run with WRs and stay on the them which do wonders for a man-to-man coverage defense.
When I think of previous games that happened this season, not only does zone coverage ruin a man-to-man coverage game plan, but can also cost teams to lose games who do this type of practice.
It will also be wise to use the Safeties to their full strengths instead, Bethea has ball-hawk capabilites and has displayed them numerous times. Due to the poor run stopping capabilites of the front 7, Bethea has been used more in run support as the "last line of defense" and hasn’t been used in more deep field coverage. Due to Bob Sanders being made out of glass, Bethea has had to share the field with scrub Strong Safeties who aren’t really good in run support or coverage for that matter. Now that we actually have a pretty damn good SS, Bethea should do more playing center-field and deep ball coverage backing up Davis and Toler.
Landry is real fast for a guy his stature, he’s built like a linebacker but has speed that can make most CBs and WRs jealous. His physicality is second to none and likes to be a big hitter and dish out punishment to ball carriers coming his way, the only knock against Landry is that he cannot track the ball in pass coverage although I have to admit that he has looked better since leaving the Washington Redskins. Landry excels at run support and can really hold his own against pass-catching TEs.
Pagano needs to go back to his Baltimore form and really coach the CBs up. Toler needs to start pressing the WRs at the line and throw them off the routes, Davis needs to use his bump-and-run coverage skills he displayed in Miami and try to re-route WRs towards other defenders. I’ll like to see our backup CBs playing light outs for a chance. Pagano turned CBs who were destined to be scrubs and cast-offs into solid and well rounded starters. Hopefully guys like Cassius Vaughn and Josh Gordy can atleast become serviceable CBs like how Cary Williams was in BAL or like Chris Harris and Tony Carter are in DEN.
Cassius Vaughn starting as the #2 CB will not do wonders, we can't have scrub-level talent cover the 2nd best WR on the team. Darius Butler has been real solid and has turned his career around. Butler should move to the #2 CB spot and let Gordy and Vaughn rotate in the slot CB spot.
Manusky needs to change things up a little bit and get more aggressive, it wouldn’t hurt to call a CB Blitz every now and then to switch things up instead of having a bland defense. I really hope he isn’t instructing CBs to play too far away from WRs who aren’t a risk to burn our CBs.
Now this isn’t something I came up with but something I did realize and take heed to. I really don’t know who the guy is on this blog, all I know is that he has "Colts" in his username (I’m thinking colts4thewin but I could be wrong) who brought up that Grigson will not give a chance to players drafted by former Colts GM Bill Polian and will release them in favor for players he brought to the team himself. Now I really thought it was just a bunch of BS, but even when I don’t agree with someone’s opinion, I do however take it unto consideration and think about why I disagree with them. I have realized that he might be unto something as Grigson have provided substantial evidence to support his theory. This what I have noticed so far but should be talking with a grain of salt:
- CB Chris Rucker released after just one pre-season game after being seriously demoted for rookie CBs and FA acquisitions.
Now Rucker was not the second coming of Champ Bailey, he wasn’t the most talented CB on the team, but what I liked about Rucker is that he got better with experience and playing time. After Jerraud Powers got injured and shipped to IR, he really stepped up and played fairly decent. He got beat a few times but that’s warranted when you have a rookie CB who didn’t get any OTAs, Mini-Camp, and shorten Training Camp due to Lockout restrictions. IMO, Rucker would have made better depth than Cassius Vaughn, Josh Gordy, and all the other CBs who failed to make the roster.
- CB Kevin Thomas and conditional 7th Round 2013 pick traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for Moise Foku and Greg Lloyd Jr.
Similar to Chris Rucker, Thomas was not expected to set the world on fire or become a shut down corner. However, after Powers’ injury caused a shift among the CBs. He went into the slot CB role and played exceptionally after playing poorly in the #2 CB spot, yeah he got abused by Julio Jones and burnt badly by Steve Smith and struggled against Kenny Britt. But he was "raw" and had to suffer through the Lockout as well. I was hoping that Pagano can work is "magic" and bring out the best in Thomas, but Grigson though otherwise and traded him to his former organization; which was stacked at CB and most likely Thomas didn’t even see the field. Even though Foku showed promise and played well without any complaints from me, he later was allowed to walk while Lloyd Jr did next to nothing against weak competition.
- DE/OLB Jerry Hughes traded to Buffalo Bills for OLB Kelvin Sheppard
Hughes is and will always be considered a bust in Indianapolis, but was he really a bust? I really don’t think playing behind two All-Pro, Pro Bowl, Hall of Fame worthy DEs who remained relatively healthy for the most part make a player a bust, yeah I know he was a 1st Round selection but a player can’t learn, develop, and produce from the bench. He needed reps and experience to mature and develop considering he was a raw prospect who was a project player. But finally Hughes started to get playing time in the shiny new 3-4 scheme, it look what happens, he starts showing flashes and racked up 5 sacks in limited playing time. But Grigson thought that maybe he should draft a player who has eerily similar measurable and playing style to Hughes and kick him (Jerry) to the curve since Hughes was not one of his drafted or signed players. Also, it isn’t always wise to take a 3-4 Rush OLB and make him a 4-3 DE. I could be wrong about this, but considering that Bjoern Werner was a 4-3 DE converted to play 3-4 OLB, is it possibly that Werner will be the new "Hughes"? I wouldn’t be surprised if it all turns out to be that way. I mean I’m not a GM and will never be in Grigson’s shoes but I hope he doesn’t start drafting Safeties to play corner or RBs to play WR. On the other hand, Sheppard is a reserve LB at best and really hasn’t done much to help move the Colts in the desire direction.
One word can describe Carter; potential. He had it and he showed flashes of it. What I liked about Carter is he’ll fight for those few extra yards and really pound it out to move the chains, he was a bruiser back with good speed and a strong lower body; what I didn’t like about Carter was the bad ball security which caused fumbles and turnovers for the opposing team. I think with a little coaching, he could have been a solid reserve RB who can hold on to the ball. Minnesota Vikings All-Star RB Adrian Peterson had issues with ball security during his younger years, but has learn how to hold on to the ball during contact and has become the best RB in the NFL today. I’m not seeing that Carter has that much potential to be an All-Pro RB, but coaching can sometimes make a player better than what he originally was. While Carter is no where to be found in the NFL, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have cost us a 2014 1st Round draft selection to sign him and he still might would have produced better stats than what Trent Richardson is doing. But atleast we got David Reed who is looking like a stud as the weeks go by. I mean we really needed a guy who’s has much trouble getting separation from DBs, runs poor routes, and has hands good enough to be considered a WR. Is it possible that Carter could do a better job returning kickoffs than Reed?
- RB Donald Brown overlooked and demoted to 3rd string RB on depth chart
Unlike Jerry Hughes, Brown have to rely on people blocking for him instead of blocking him. The Colts O-line has been in shambles since 2010 and has regressed since then. Run blocking has always been shaky but not this bad. Donald Brown as a Colt has never had a real legit O-line to run behind and makes plays within his own accord. While considered a bust, Brown is a very talented RB who is a nightmare for defenders in open space. Too bad the O-Line allowed open space to allow Brown to always get instantaneously hit by D-Lineman in LBs. As long as he doesn’t have a good to even adequate run blocking, he will not live up to his billing despite having the talent. In that case Joseph Addai should be considered a bust as well and it looks like Richardson is the next bust in line.
It seems like Grigson was trying his best to make sure the coaching staff keeps Brown on the sidelines by bringing in Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard getting the nod as a starter. But sadly, both aforementioned RBs suffered horrible season ending injuries which has hurt the team alot. Ryan Grigson pulled a massive trade sending a 1st Round selection to the Cleveland Browns Browns for 3rd Overall 2012 Draft pick Trent Richardson. Richardson has been under performing since his arrival and has easily been outplayed by Donald Brown. Could it be that Brown realized that Grigson in the coaches were trying to do and decided to play harder and better? Or is this some kind of football karma getting back at Grigson for bringing in 3 RBs to the team with 2 of them ending on IR and the other one looking like Donald Brown 2.0?
- Releasing Ben Ijalana after coming back healthy and not really giving him a shot
Now I admit that Ijalana was one of my favorite players due to his small-school status, most guys from small-school conferences get greatly overlooked and under-evaluated while most scouts don’t even know they exist. The majority of UDFA during draft time are indeed small-school prospects. For a player like Ijalana to get drafted high in the 2nd Round coming from a small school, he must have been very dominating in the trenches and has tremendous amounts of talent. He had good footwork and great upper body strength but his lateral movements looked stiff. He played well in the short amount of time and snaps he was on the field shutting out Adrian Clayborne before the 1st of 2 ACL tears. Despite the lack of depth on the O-line and the talent of the starters, Ijalana was not really giving a shot. The coaching staff opted to use Reitz ( a Guard) to play tackle; something that Reitz didn’t do well at instead of using Ijalana. Ijalana was forced to brick wall 3rd string DEs and LBs in the 4th Quarter with only 2-3 minutes left.
If injuries was the thing that turned the coaches away from Ijalana, it’s odd that 7th Round 2012 pick OG Justin Anderson has been sitting on the IR list for the past two seasons and has yet to see a NFL field. Anderson was indeed drafted by Ryan Grigson.
Like I said in the disclaimer, I’m just an outsider looking in and this article shouldn’t be taken as proven facts but opinions coming from a football fan who has 0% knowledge of how the NFL works. I only hope that the team can learn from their mistakes and improve where improvements are greatly needed.
And for the love of God, please stop with the nonsense of Pagano and Pep needed to be fire and replaced with [enter name here]. Pagano is just started to grasp a full season as a Head Coach and injuries have plagued this team. Hamilton is a first time coordinator and play caller in the NFL, it might take a season or two for him to fully get an understanding of how NFL defense are. He’s no longer in the NCAA ranks and knows he has to put some "Pep" in his step. Relax and see how all this plays out for once.