So far this preseason, the Colts defense has been very impressive. They've successfully shut down both the New York Jets and the New York Giants, and in doing so have been very stout against the run. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has taken notice like the rest of us.
Pagano was asked today in a conference call with Indy media about what he would attribute the success against the run in the first few games to, and he replied:
"I think it's a combination of things, things that you touched on, the front's playing well. The addition of Art Jones, and Cory (Redding) continues to play well, and Ricky Jean (Francois), Josh Chapman is playing extremely well. What he's doing in the middle of our defense right now is tremendous. He hasn't gotten that many snaps, but when he's in there, it's a big difference. The linebackers, D'Qwell's (Jackson) doing a nice job. Understanding of the scheme, third year in the system, the communication. Any time you look up and the safeties' numbers are not big in stats, tackles and those things, they want to make plays but it's a good thing because runs aren't getting through. I think we're 2.7 in the first game and then 2.9 for rush last night, so obviously very excited and pleased at the direction we're going with that."
He also had high praise for defensive linemen Arthur Jones and Josh Chapman, both of whom are big guys and both of whom have been impressive this preseason. Pagano said:
"It plays a huge role in the success of your run defense and stopping the run. When you've got guys that you're talking about that are big men that are also athletic, and have good range and can play, I don't know if I'd go sideline to sideline, they're going to try their best and they're going to give their effort, and you see a guy like Art Jones, all those guys laying out on the sideline and chasing and giving great effort and things. They command double teams and they keep our linebackers free to make plays. At the same time, they do their job, and they're strong enough and they're so well coached by Coach (Gary) Emanuel, Gary does such a great job with those guys. They tear off blocks and they're making plays themselves. The defenses that we've been around in the past, Greg (Manusky) at other places, he's been in San Fran and myself in Baltimore, we were extremely big especially inside, and athletic. If you go back and you look at the numbers over the years with this system and this scheme, and the type of players that fit the profile of our nose tackle and our three-technique and our five-technique, we're at where we want to be as far as size and athleticism in there now."
If you've been following along at all over the past year or two, you'll know that Chuck Pagano is big on running the ball and stopping the run. While there's a lot to be said about also passing the ball and defending the pass, it's a good idea to both be able to run and stop the run - as we saw last year in the playoff loss to the Patriots when the Colts were run (literally) out of New England. This year, the run defense looks much better, and the credit for that has to start with the two guys Pagano praised extensively, Arthur Jones and Josh Chapman.
Jones, a 6-3, 337 pound lineman, came over to the Colts from the Baltimore Ravens this offseason, and he is known as a great run defender first and foremost. He should (and already has) helped the Colts out tremendously. Also, Josh Chapman, 6-0, 340 pounds, was one of the most pleasant surprises of training camp and continues to impress in preseason, as he started out as the first team nose tackle from day one and hasn't played elsewhere since. He has looked great this year, doing exactly what you'd want your nose tackle to do.
Chuck Pagano is encouraged by what he's seen so far from his run defense, and rightfully so. It's only been two games, and preseason ones at that, but there's a lot to be encouraged by from this Colts defense so far this season.