The Indianapolis Colts this week are wrapping up their OTAs, as on Wednesday they held the ninth of ten OTA sessions in advance of next week's mini-camp, which will be the last time the team works together until the players report to training camp at Anderson University on August 1.
Head coach Chuck Pagano is pleased with the work that his team has done this offseason so far. "We've had an excellent offseason to this point," Pagano told the media on Wednesday. "It's winding down, it's gone really fast. The eight weeks that you get, nine weeks that you get, it goes really fast, but I think we've maximized every single minute, every single day that we've had an opportunity to work. And the guys have done a great job, and [we're] seeing progress on both sides of the ball and special teams. Again, I think we're further ahead, at this point, than at any point since we've been together. So knock on wood, stay healthy, guys gotta keep working, keep growing, we're just taking this thing one day at a time and we'll see what happens from there."
Through all of those clichés, we can see that Pagano is pleased with the work that his team has done so far in the offseason program. With that said, however, he knows that the real evaluation will come in training camp, as there's only so much that you can do during the offseason program. So what exactly have the Colts been doing during their workouts and then during OTAs?
"From a physical standpoint, very little, other than your lungs and your wind and running around," Pagano said. "You're in helmets and shorts. So we're going to find out about a lot of guys come training camp time when we get to put the pads on and actually play real football, if you will, but from a mental standpoint, alignment, assignment, technique, communication, install - we threw everything at them. Young guys, old guys, we're seeing how much sticks. By the time we get to training camp it'll be the fourth time they hear that install. So I think from a strength and conditioning standpoint, you can make some ground up, from a communication standpoint it's good, again like I said fundamentals and technique, we put a premium on fundamentals, technique, and execution in this offseason program.
"Focusing on the little things, the penalties that two years ago we were really good, last year we weren't good," Pagano added. "So focusing on that, taking care of the football - nothing more important in football, so ball security and taking the ball away on defense. So I think that's where we've tried to make the most hay and then find out about the young guys that we brought in here. See how much they can grasp, see how much they can learn and things like that."
The offseason can be a very beneficial time for players and teams, but we must understand that it's very limited. Phase three, which is OTAs, is the only phase that teams can do 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills, and even then they can only be in helmets and not more pads. So, with the way that the NFL offseason program is currently structured, it's a time for a lot of mental work. That's why you'll hear rookies mentioning how much they study their playbook and that's what this time is for - to get the system down and to work on fundamentals that will translate to the field. That way, by the time the team gets to training camp there will hopefully be a lot less of that kind of work, as there would be a foundation laid already about the system and fundamentals. Even training camp nowadays isn't too physical, but it's much more so than the offseason work and therefore the Colts have been focusing on the mental and fundamental part of the game over the last several weeks.