This is part 3 in my series, if you would like to read parts 2 & 1, I have included the link below:
Odds & Ends
Coaches come and go, but in Indianapolis this season, Luck gets to retain his OC for a second consecutive year. Much was made last offseason about losing Bruce Arians and the possible effects that could have resulted in Luck regressing. However, the team came up with a plan to help minimize Luck having to learn another new system for a second year. Enter Pep Hamilton, who is sort of enigma in Indianapolis in terms of perception. When Bruce Arians left to coach the Cardinals the Colts sought Pep because of his past experience with Luck at Stanford. Pep held the same position at Stanford, so he became a natural and intuitive choice. The coaching staff wanted to implement a “Power Running” scheme that was used at Stanford, the same as Pep’s former boss, Jim Harbaugh, currently uses in San Francisco. When Pep came in, he described the offense he was going to run as the “No Coast Offense,” meaning they would create their own definition of what they would run, taking and removing certain plays from numerous systems.
Problem is, due to injuries, poor play calling, and personnel issues, the team was not successful in implementing this scheme. Eventually this led to Pep realizing what the strengths of the team were, Luck and the passing game. Similarly, they de-emphasized their weaknesses (The power running game, offensive line). This year should be much different in terms of offense. Pep has indicated that he learned much from last year as OC in the NFL. The roster situation should also be better suited this year on offense, because of the additions. The offense has been upgraded in almost all categories. I expect to see a different version of Pep Hamiliton. Call it what you will, but I will call it “Pep 2.0”. There just seems to be a different vibe, maybe the team learned or maybe the fans learned that last year was last year and this year is unwritten and full of promise. The team seems to be willing to possibly move on from the “run first” mentality, but at the same time will at least try to obtain balance with Luck. We all agree that the Colts need to run the ball effectively, but it needs to be done in the right situation and place in the game. Taking away injuries issues hopefully this year should allow Pep to do what he wants to do instead of what he has to do.
. Coach Rob Chudzinski, (Chud) what is he doing, what should we expect from his signing? First and foremost, Cleveland’s loss is our gain. He was let go after one season by one the league’s most dysfunctional franchises since re-entering the league. The plans in Indy have been fairly cryptic but Pep is the OC and most likely will remain. Chudzinski has been assigned the label as “Special Assistant to the Head Coach” which gives him carte blanche to do many things for the team. It has been reported that he is in on meetings with both the offense and the defense but doesn’t seem to be staying on one side exclusively. Others have weighed it that maybe Chud will help Pagano with in-game management, something that Pagano has been criticized for. Besides gaining another coach on his staff, Pagano has someone who is head coach material but also very sharp with offensive schemes and concepts. Chudzinski helped Cam Newton successfully run an offense that was hard to stop in Carolina. Should the Colts run into problems offensively like the Ravens did the year they won the Super Bowl, they could place him in as Offensive Coordinator, just like former Colts head coach Jim Caldwell replaced Cam Cameron in Baltimore. Although this case is unlikely, it’s not out of the realm of possibility. However, what is more likely is the case where Pep moves on after this season as head coach in either college or NFL and Chudzinski could slide over to take his place. Coach Chud just gives the team lots of possibilities and helps the Colts with a solid transition process in place.
Besides the coaches mentioned above, this is a big year for Chuck Pagano as well. The first two seasons provided unexpected success and then matched it with sustained improvement in the second year. However, due to his first season being cut short due to his battle with Leukemia, coach Pagano is really only in his second year as head coach. Yes, last year’s the team look unprepared at times and other times looked like the best team in the league. Coach Pagano has made strides in learning what it takes to be an elite coach. As I mentioned earlier, he’s not there yet, but he is rapidly closing the gap. At this point in his career it reminds me of his former boss, John Harbaugh of the Ravens. It took him a couple of years of improving before taking the big step.
The defense must improve dramatically this season in order to accomplish their goal. Tasked with running the 3-4 defense is third year Defensive Coordinator, Greg Manusky. In his first two seasons, Manusky has had to put the proverbial square peg in a round hole. The defense he inherited had personnel suited for a 4-3 defense. Season one involved the team running a hybrid 3-4, meaning they would run 3-4 in certain situation and 4-3 in other. The defense didn’t improve in season one. In fact, the defense looked, and in certain areas was, worse than the 2-14 season. Season two showed improvement thanks to improved defensive back play, and an improving interior. The defense brought in new names like: Landry, Toler, RJF. Season three for Manusky should be the season this defense finally takes form. Last season produced stretches where the defense looked dominant while other parts looked bad. Areas that are of concern in the defense: cornerback, safety, pass rush (OLB). More additions, Aurthur Jones, D’Qwell Jackson and rookies: Jonathon Newsome, Andrew Jackson, Qua Cox, Louichez Purifoy; just to name a few. Manusky should have many of the players now to fit his (Pagano’s) defense. He must offset the departing Antoine Bethea and four game suspension of Robert Mathis. The team seems to be looking from within to fill safety (Delano Howell, Sergio Brown, or newly signed Mike Adams) while also needing second year, first round draft pick Bjoern Werner, or others like: Erik Walden, Cam Johnson, Jonathon Newsome, or Daniel Adongo to step up in Mathis’ absence.
This team looks poised to do so, but it’s always hard to gauge because of the numerous factors that can’t be controlled. Pagano has the fire to motivate, now does he have the discipline to move this team to the next level? We will get our chance rapidly as the Colts open training camp in Anderson on July 24th. What would I like to see in the 2014 Colts? Yes, I’m interested in all the topics I discussed above, but really I just want to see them play on the field again. It’s good to be so close to the return of the Colts, and the National Football League in 2014!