The media had an opportunity to ask questions of various Colts during the first non-public training camp practice. As with most of these press conferences, it can be difficult to pull out meaningful commentary from what are often excellent questions. We have done our best to sift through the noise and find what might offer little nuggets of information that lend some insight into the team’s plans or a player’s perspective on the 2017 Colts.
We will start with questions for Chuck Pagano. Regarding defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins:
Johnathan Hankins has been playing a lot on the outside. Is that just due to Kendall Langford being out?
“He’s an interior defensive lineman so he can play the nose, he can play the three. We’ve got multiple fronts where you’ll see him lined up over a tackle at times. He’s a smart guy. He picks up the playbook extremely fast so there are a lot of things that we can do with him. He’s going to be an interior guy in our nickel and sub packages – we’re in that so much now any way. He can play a two, he can play a three in there.”
The biggest off-season signing for the Colts was bringing in mammoth-sized defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins. For fans, it was assumed the Hankins would represent the missing piece at nose tackle the Colts have been searching for since the team switched to a 3-4 in 2012. Yet, throughout the summer and the start of training camp we have seen Hankins moving around a lot.
The key potential piece of information from Pagano’s answer relates to how Hankins may be utilized on the line in different situations. In nickel and sub packages, Hankins may move to the nose to help create push up the middle. In base packages, the Colts appear to be at least considering having Al Woods as the space eater with Hankins playing a dual-role on the edge.
There are a whole lot of reps from now until the start of the regular season but this small bit of information might have some relevance to how the Colts see the defensive line rotation working out on game day.
Regarding training camp:
Do you lose anything by having camp here at the complex? Do you worry about not getting the bonding experiences you get when camp is away?
“Yeah, I’d be lying if I said no to that because I love camp. I love going away. But I think you have to be in a situation to where if all of a sudden a storm pops up and you’ve got to cancel practice, you’ve got to go into a gym and you’ve got to take your cleats off, then you’ve got to put them back on and then you’ve got to come back outside and you cancel it all together. You’ve got a facility now that if it happens you don’t miss out. So, there’s give and take... I know just being here – you’re familiar with the meeting rooms. All the stuff, the strain it puts on the training room, weight room, equipment room. To move that whole operation, it’s a huge undertaking. If you were going for six weeks like the old days, it’d be great. You’d pack up and go. But to go for 15, 16 days, what it is now. I mean, these guys got it pretty good. Don’t know what’s going to happen down the road, but they’ve got it pretty good. It’s camp cupcake.”
While Pagano’s comments don’t speak to the future for training camp, he does bring up some interesting points that I think have relevance in the decision-making process moving forward.
First, training camp is abbreviated from previous years making the move of all of the team’s equipment a bit more of a hassle for a little less return. Second, the team’s practice facility is positioned perfectly for all weather and they can move indoors to a practice field and continue their work without major changes at home and simply struggle to find that kind of facility elsewhere. Finally, there is a sense of familiarity for the team working in meeting and film rooms they all are familiar with and will use season-long.
The media also interviewed Johnathan Hankins and started peppering him early with questions about getting moved around on the line. One of the last questions in that series was regarding Al Woods:
You see a guy like Al Woods next to you, that’s a lot of beef out there. It’s got to be good to have some size like that.
“It’s been pretty good, just playing off of him and complementing him. He is a big guy that can hold the A gap in. I feel like I do the same, just as good as him. Right now, we are working pretty good together and I can’t wait until tomorrow to put the pads on and see if they can move us.”
If anything has been made clear to this point with Johnathan Hankins it is that he is confident and that he has high expectations for himself and the defense. He admitted in the interview that he hadn’t played 5-technique since college and that he has been enjoying and willing to move around the line if that’s where the team needs him. What I found interesting about his comment is that it might indicate that he has a real desire to compete with Woods for the nose tackle role.
Granted, I am trying to read between the lines here but Hankins has had a ton of success at nose tackle and left a team that had him playing a different role to join the Colts. When you join that reality with his statement that he feels that he can play the nose just as good as Woods, you might get a look into where he wants to play.
Finally, the media spoke with Jack Mewhort regarding his move over to right guard. Regarding the move:
Have you played much right guard?
“I haven’t played a ton of right guard here, I played it for a year in college. It’s an offensive line position so I should be able to do it, and to be versatile is very valuable around here. They made the decision, and we cross-train a lot anyways. I don’t think anything is set in stone right now, but to be able to go over and play multiple positions and switch the stagger up and move around is good for me, I think it’s good for Joe Haeg too. You can get those two long haired guys (Haeg and Anthony Castonzo) on the same side together.”
I think the key takeaway from his comment is some insight into whether or not this is a permanent switch. His comments indicate that the move hasn’t been a surprise, that he worked at right guard a bit in the spring, and that nothing is set in stone right now. I think these are things that have relevance for fans because I think he’s honestly stating that the team, likely Joe Philbin, has planned to shuffle things around a bit to see how things come together. There is every possibility that they will put Mewhort back on the left side and Haeg back on the right before the season arrives.
Stampede Blue will continue to follow the transcripts from training camp interviews for additional comments that might shed some light on where the team is headed and host the roster in developing for 2017.