The Indianapolis Colts’ defense has almost over night become a very young unit. So young, in fact, that they have six rookies who could reasonably play a hefty dose of snaps this season. When you add in the second-year players on the unit — mainly the 2017 draft class — you get an idea of how impressionable this group is.
Colts defensive coordinator, Matt Eberflus, and his staff are confident that the new scheme is easier, and more simplified for the players. Additionally, they feel that these younger players are better suited to learn this system.
“If you look at the history of the system we have been able to play with younger players faster, I believe. Just my experiences, it seems like we have been able to get young linebackers on the field, young defensive ends and those types of players and really acquisition players as well. Have them come in, learn the system and have them play right away and play pretty effective.”
Despite the simplified system, the issues this young group showed some of its shortcomings in the first week of the preseason. Monday night, we saw some of that speed and instinctual type of football that the coaching staff has been hoping to showcase throughout the transition.
With all things considered, one offseason of instruction and just two preseason games of live action it appears the improvements are indeed coming along fairly quickly. We can’t expect it all to click right away, but once it does come together the desire for an exciting, opportunistic, and fundamental defense complementing the return of Andrew Luck is soon to become an expectation.
Thus far, along with taking the instruction from the new coaching staff, Eberflus feels that his players are all-in and feels it’s showing more as each day passes. Eberflus actually deems it as one of his biggest takeaways from this young group of defenders.
“I would say the buy-in, the guys are just buying in. You can see that, you can feel it. I thought that the last three days with Baltimore, the game included, that you could see a growth with those guys and improvement just in terms of the hustle, the intensity, the stripping of the ball, the taking the ball away in the practices and you saw some on the special teams there. Really just the awareness of situational football that they have. And then understanding what smart situational football is. I think they’ve really started to take some strides there in improving those aspects.”
Eberflus isn’t allowing there to be an assumption that this system is a walk in the part either. The Colts’ staff are putting a lot on this young group, and have high expectations for them just as the fans watching them do. Additionally, he appreciates the mentality of his unit through the course of the offseason and in camp.
“The challenge is really that it’s a grind. The pace in which we are asking them to play and the execution with what we are asking them to do is not easy to do. It’s easy to say – you can say it in a couple sentences, but to do it every play, every time and do it at the standard in which we set is very difficult. That’s what you have to enjoy, you have to embrace that and it’s not always going to be easy.”
Something that finds its way into a coach’s heart, is the history of the game. Similarly, the system they run sparks a determination to honor those they’ve learned it from, those who’ve been able to become innovators while maintaining the core principals of that system.
“You go back and watch the greats of the system and the way the guys coached and that is what we are held to and that is who we are honoring every time we step on to the field. We never want to disrespect that and so our players know that and our coaches know it. And that’s standard in which we are held.”
This is clearly what Eberflus desires for this group in Indianapolis. The youth is there, the physical ability is clear, and now he has hopes to become one of those innovators for the system he’s implementing here. He is also — quite obviously — passing on this history lesson of sorts to his players in order to instill a sense of pride and self-accountability every time they step inside those lines.
While I appreciate the acknowledgement of ‘those who did this before us’ all I care about is an effective defense that shows consistent growth week in, and week out.