There was breaking news from Chuck Pagano today at his press conference: the Colts’ defense isn’t where they want to be yet.
Ok, so we all knew that already. But that was a theme of Pagano at the Combine as the Colts begin ramping up preparation for the upcoming NFL Draft, as well as turning their focus toward free agency - which starts next week.
“We are going to look at the whole thing,” Pagano said when asked what the needs are on defense. “We know that there are going to be some holes to fill. We are not satisfied obviously with where we are at. We have work to do so we are going to look at the entire roster. We are going to look at every position, every position on defense. Again, we are going to acquire as much talent as we can and create as much competition as we can.”
Part of looking at every position means determining which players shouldn’t be back and which areas need to be addressed. Though Pagano was vague about what specific change is coming (to be fair, so were the questions he was asked), he did seem to hint that things wouldn’t just be status quo.
“Yeah, again, we have a plan, like Chris [Ballard] talked about and we’re going to work that plan,” Pagano said on whether he’s preparing for change defensively. “We love all our guys, but we know that it’s hard to keep everybody. That’s just how it is in the National Football League.”
That change has already begun with the team cutting D’Qwell Jackson - something Chris Ballard said happened early so that he could tell Jackson face-to-face - and there is surely more change coming. Pagano’s reference to it being hard to keep everybody could be in regards to some of their free agents, like Mike Adams - who apparently hasn’t had any discussions with the Colts about re-signing. Either way, though, change is surely coming. And it has to, since the defense has clearly not lived up to expectations.
“Yeah, again, disappointed, not discouraged,” Pagano said regarding the defensive failures. “Do I take it personal? I think we all do. It doesn’t matter what title you hold. I came here having worked on the defensive side of the football. The things that we talked about we have not done yet and I emphasize yet. I think that’s very, very important. Yet is a great word. We have another opportunity and we have another chance to improve and do better. Where we’re at is certainly not good enough. Record-wise and defensively, it’s not where we want to be. We’re excited about the future; we’re excited about the opportunity. We have the right people in place to do the job. Love our staff, I love our coaches and we will grind until we get it right.”
There’s no way to defend the horrendous defenses the Colts have had under Pagano. In fact, the three worst Colts defenses in terms of yards per game in the Indianapolis era have all come under Pagano, with last year being the worst of them all. This defense needs a lot of change, but the good news is that at least it sounds like Pagano realizes that too.
“It’s a process,” he said. “We know it’s a process. We know how we are judged and it’s by wins and losses – 8-8 the past two years is not good enough. The standard is the standard; the expectations are what they are. We are never going to be satisfied until we get back to where we need to be. We have a lot of work to do. We will continue to evaluate our roster. Obviously, we are here to evaluate these players. Build the roster. If we can get younger, we get younger. If we can get faster, get faster. Try to create competition within the roster. We have a lot of work to do, but the objective always is to win.”
A good model of that? The 2016 Atlanta Falcons, who made the Super Bowl and, well, should have won it. Their defense was one that Pagano pointed to as a model for what the Colts want to be: young and fast.
“I think you watch the Super Bowl and you watch what Atlanta has done and they have done a great job,” Pagano said. “I have a ton of respect for Dan Quinn and his staff and that organization. You saw a lot of young guys on that defense and you saw them develop young guys and put guys out there. Guys may have not played to the level that they should’ve played at early on, but they put them out there, developed them and through time, experience and reps you saw a bunch of speed out there and a bunch of youth out there. There is nothing like speed. There is nothing like toughness. There is nothing like getting a bunch of guys that are great competitors. I think it’s paramount.”
If you want specifics on what changes the Colts will make this offseason, you won’t find them from Chuck Pagano at the NFL Combine. But it’s clear that he realizes the defense needs change, and it also seems clear that he realizes it’s coming. It will be an interesting offseason in Indianapolis, indeed.