The NFL is a copycat league. When something works, every other team attempts to copy the blueprint for success. From the wildcat in Miami to big bodied defensive backs of the Legion of Boom, teams will always try to get every edge to win, and the Colts are no different. Chris Ballard is a man with a plan, the highly respected general manager came into his Colts interview with a binder about the size of a few college textbooks detailing his own plan to success, and after his second draft of Colts career is over, that plan is starting to take shape, and a familiar one.
The Philadelphia Eagles are the reigning world champions, beating the vaunted New England Patriots without Carson Wentz, an impresses feat indeed. How did they do this? Philly boasted an innovative offense with big-bodied receivers, strong athletic offensive lines and a big strong quarterback with the ability to punish a defense with his legs as well, sound familiar? The Colts technically hired Josh McDaniels, who is known as one of the best offensive minds in the game, and then hired Frank Reich, another offensive minded coach who just happened to help plan and run of the most creative offensives in football.
Now look at the receivers Ballard has added, T.Y. Hilton is the only Colts receivers under six feet, a far cry from the Smurf days with Reggie Wayne, Hilton, and Donnie Avery in the Ryan Grigson era. The offensive line has quickly turned into a position of strength after the NFL draft where they added, you guessed it, strong athletic offensive lineman. See a trend? On defense, the Eagles implemented a rotation of fast and dominating front four with bigger playmaking defensive backs that excel in off coverage, and guess what? Ballard and his staff are hell-bent on the same thing.
What does this mean? Are the Colts trying to create their own Patriot killers? As appropriate as that would be, not quite, Ballard is a smart man and has seen what creates championships team. Pass rushing tackles and ends with big playmaking corners? Sounds like the Seahawks as well could say the Panthers with Josh Norman as well. This is just another example of how the NFL is a copycat league, and the Colts are just another team trying to get ahead in their own way.
Let’s look deeper; what are the Colts are doing to put their stamp on the current winning blueprint? On defense, the Colts have invested heavily in the front seven, especially on the front four. Al Woods, Grover Stewart, Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis, Tarell Basham, John Simon, Denico Autry, and Jabaal Sheard are all players on just the front four that Ballard brought to Indy. For just four starting spots, Ballard has added eight different players, a strong message where he wants the Colts to win on defense. On offense, it’s very similar, as the front line just received the sixth and 37th overall pick the draft, giving the Colts two new starters for years to come.
However, not even that tells the whole story, if you tallied the phrases Ballard and his coaching staff have repeated during the offseason, one sticks out, SPEED. The Colts are adding explosive and exciting players on both sides of the ball. Lucas Oil will boast playmaking ball hawks in the secondary, springy receivers that snatch the ball out of the air, and a front four of dancing bears. The stamp the Colts will place on their version of the “success plan” is explosions, a team that plays fast on a fast field to pair with their gunslinging QB.
When Andrew Luck returns, Frank Reich has preached an uptempo offense that will take advantage of the personal skills to score at a high clip, and the roster shows that message. The Colts running backs, Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, and Nyiem Hines, all are home run hitters; they are a 60-yard touchdown waiting to happen. Hines is also slot receiver as well, who is going to cause matchup nightmares for linebackers on the field, to go with the already big-play wide receiving core. The defensive line is going to go three rows deep to be able to play fast even late into the game, to snuff out any chance of comebacks that has plagued the Chuck Pagano era.
I could go on and on about each position, but you get the idea. The Colts have moved on from the square peg round hole ways of Grigson-Pagano that seemed to always work against the grain instead of with it, and in its place a philosophy that belongs in the today’s modern game. This vision may take a while to be realized, and 2018 will likely be another rebuilding year, but the team is heading in the right direction with Chris Ballard and Frank Reich at the helm.
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