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New Colts DC Gus Bradley Provides Sneak Peek into his ‘Cover 3’ Scheme: “It’s fast, physical, and ball out”

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders Training Camp Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley had his introductory press conference on Wednesday, and fans of the Horseshoe now have a bit of a sneak peek of what to expect—although there were no real surprises:

“Listen, in this league, you have to be able to adjust,” Bradley said. “I think to quickly recover, to adjust, is important. But you have to have a foundation of what you stand for, and the players need to be able to feel that.”

Among that foundation and what his defenses are built upon, is what Bradley calls the ‘sweet six’: stop the run, eliminate the explosive plays, affect the quarterback, win on third down, own the red zone, and ‘it’s all about the ball’.

While many are expecting the Colts to largely deploy Bradley’s notorious ‘Cover 3’ zone coverage defense, he acknowledged that his defensive scheme has since evolved from his Seattle days—and there’s far more versatility now to try to stay ahead of the league’s offensive curve:

“I’m sure if you probably asked some people or teams, ‘It’s Cover 3, that’s what they do,’ and there are some principles there, but, it has evolved. Each team runs a split safety. Each team plays man. Each team plays the single high (safety). How you go about playing those, that’s where it varies a little bit. And that’s what we’ve evolved to. . . It’s now evolved to where it’s more of a match principle based on some pre-snap and post-snap indicators.”

“So I think it went from back in the day, in the beginning or initial stages of the ‘Seattle 3’ or ‘Hawk 3’ to where now, it’s evolved. You’re always trying to stay a year ahead, and the only way you can do that is to incorporate some different things, different ideas, but actually it helps us if people say, ‘They’re just running Cover 3’. In a way, that’s what we want people to say. So we can kind of break down and know how they’re going to attack us then, and then we have some ‘curveballs’ and ‘changeups’ that we look at.”

“So, it’s exciting. It evolved last year, and it’ll evolve this year based on some of the personnel we have and to utilize their skill set, but there is a foundation that you start from.”

Bradley not only provided more insight on his evolving defensive scheme, but also the mindset he hopes to instill in his new defense—where it appears pass rushing will be held at a premium, and rightfully so in today’s passing league:

“When you look at games, it’s eliminating explosive plays. But I think we have an emphasis of getting the ball. That’s so important and affecting the quarterback, and sometimes affecting the quarterback, people just point to the stat of how many sacks, but it’s more than that. It’s getting them (the quarterbacks) off the spot. It’s can you make the quarterback hitch, where there’s some indecision to allow the rush to get there. There’s a lot that goes into affecting the quarterback, but it’s a big part now to playing good defense. You have to be able to affect the quarterback.”

“What do we need to do to affect the quarterback and how can we make big plays, and really you’re defined as a defense by your ability to get the ball and score.”

“I think it’s overall when the defense dictates the outcome of the game. If you look at past defenses, the ones that are really talented, really good, they have some say in how the outcome of the game is, and that’s what we’re trying to do, build a defense with that mentality.”

So stylistically, it should resemble departed defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’s Colts defenses, whose units also largely played with exceptional effort, fundamentals, and cohesiveness—while looking to always create takeaways:

“Well, if you said style, a defense that plays with great effort. I think Matt (Eberflus), again we’ve talked, so there are probably some similarities now, an effort-based defense. A team that plays with great effort. So great effort. Great enthusiasm. I think enthusiasm is important on the field to create energy. And you talk about, ‘Gus, do you blitz?’ Well, if our energy is not where it needs to be, bringing pressure will increase that enthusiasm. It can stimulate a defense. . . . Great toughness. Mentally and physically tough. A team that communicates, and the final thing is, a defensive unit that plays smart. Makes good decisions. I think that style of play.”

However, he still wants a defense that plays fast, physical, and creates takeaways, keeping it simple enough, where his players can simply do less thinking and more ‘balling out’:

“Now when talking to players, it’s fast, physical, and ball out. It’s not complicated.”

“. . . Nothing is going to jeopardize our ability to play fast, physical, and get the ball out.”