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Colts defense comes up big on third downs and in the red zone against Giants

Posted by Kevin Bowen on August 20, 2013 – 8:45 am

Two statistics that every NFL defensive coordinator looks at when scouring a post game box score are third-down efficiency and red zone efficiency.

Greg Manusky has to be very pleased with what his eyes are seeing after looking over the Colts/Giants box score.

Third Down efficiency: 3-15

Red Zone efficiency: 0-4

“We finished (eighth) last year in the NFL in red zone defense and they’ve kind of picked up right where they left off,” Head Coach Chuck Pagano said of the team’s defense following the Colts 20-12 victory. “

The Colts four red zone stops of the Giants offense in the first half were as followed:

  • 12:17 to go in 1st quarter-With the Giants facing a fourth-and-one, Andre Brown is stuffed on a run to the left by Erik Walden and Antoine Bethea.
  • 6:44 to go in 1st quarter-The Giants settle for a 25-yard field goal after reaching the seven-yard line before an Eli Manning incompletion.
  • 4:09 to go in 2nd quarter-The Giants drive down to the Colts five-yard line but lose four yards on a David Wilson carry before eventually kicking a 27-yard field goal.
  • :03 to go in 2nd quarter-The Colts force a pair of incompletions from the Giants 12-yard line. New York kicks a 45-yard field goal after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The Colts defense holding the Giants to a 20 percent conversion rate on third-down was impressive but the unit also had some timely plays on the “money down.”

Greg Toler’s interception came on a third-and-one late in the first quarter.

Then in the second half with the Colts not allowing the Giants into the red zone, Caesar Rayford and Marshay Green both recorded sacks on third downs.

From a first-half yardage standpoint, there wasn’t much of a differential (15 yards) between the Colts and Giants.

It was all about defending the goal line that made up the eight-point difference.

“Our mindset down there is they aren’t in until they are in,” Pagano said of the red zone. “That’s third and goal from the 10, the seven, or from the one-yard line, we are going to do everything we can to keep them out.”

“Our guys are really comfortable with what we do down there, the schemes, the calls we make down there and the players do a nice job of executing them.”

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Colts Daily Headlines: August 15th Edition

Posted by Kevin Bowen on August 15, 2013 – 8:41 am

The Colts are in their final days of training camp in Anderson. Today’s news begins with a financial look at the team, how the secondary is shaping up and the debut of Josh Chapman.

Take a look below at the top pieces from Thursday, August 15th.  

Colts worth $1.2 billion according to Forbes, where does that rank among NFL franchises?

By: Mike Chappell, Indy Star

For yet another year, the Dallas Cowboys continue to lead the arms race of the to NFL Franchises based on Forbes Valuations project.

Where do the Colts check in?

The Colts check in as the NFL’s No. 11-ranked franchise at $1.2 billion, the fourth straight year they’ve held that spot.

A closer look at the top 10 reveals the Colts are not that far out of the No. 8 spot. The San Francisco 49ers are No. 10 at $1.224 billion, behind the Baltimore Ravens at No. 9 ($1.227 billion) and the Chicago Bears at No. 8 ($1.25 billion).

Rebuilt Colts secondary hopes for improved performance

By: Zak Keefer. Indy Star

Thanks to some reinforcements and another year in the system for many Colts defenders Chuck Pagano is a happy man at night.

“Yeah, I sleep better at night,” Pagano said this week, offering a brief smile.

He should. Unlike last year, Davis, a former first-round draft pick, enters the season with a full training camp under his belt. He was traded to the Colts 14 days before the season-opener in 2012 and wound up starting 10 games, including the opener in Chicago.

“The difference is night and day,” Davis said of Year 1 vs. Year 2 with the Colts. “Now, I feel like I’ve been in Indy. This feels like home. I’m not rushing to learn the scheme before the first game like I was last year.”

Colts Notebook: Chapman happy to be back in action

The Herald Bulletin

For the Colts fans that stuck around on Sunday in the preseason opener, many eyes wanted a look at No. 61 Josh Chapman.

The 340-pound nose tackle made his NFL debut after missing all of last season while recovering from knee surgery.

“It felt pretty good,” Chapman said of his first action since helping Alabama beat LSU in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 9, 2012. “I got a little nervous about it, but at the same time when I got the first pop it was back to normal.”

Chapman was credited with four tackles, but his primary job is to soak up blockers and allow the linebackers behind him to make plays. He was particularly adept at that when the Bills ran their stretch-cut running game.

It’s a scheme the Colts will see again during the regular season against the Houston Texans, and Chapman’s play against it impressed defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

“Houston’s a little bit better and pronounced at doing it, but he did a good job of getting down the line,” Manusky said. “He’s a little sore, which is to be expected, but he did a fabulous job for us. I’m excited about what we’ve seen from him.”


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Day 12 Impressions: Bradshaw off PUP, the search for another WR and the outlook for Daniel Adongo and Josh McNary

Posted by Kevin Bowen on August 13, 2013 – 6:28 pm

The Colts were back in Anderson on Tuesday to wrap up their final week at Anderson University.

Even though the players were not in full pads on Tuesday afternoon, you couldn’t tell by the physical nature of the 90-minute practice.

Here are three takeaways from day 12…

Ahmad Bradshaw off PUP, but still rehabbing: Like he has done for the majority of the past two weeks of practice, Ahmad Bradshaw was busy rehabbing during the Colts afternoon practice.

Bradshaw said following Tuesday morning’s walk-through that he would like to get some playing time during the Colts third preseason game.

Chuck Pagano said the Colts offense is looking for more balance and pointed to an “angry, downhill” running style of Bradshaw to help that cause.

The NFL is a multiple-back league and having a multi 1,000-yard rusher in Bradshaw would aid Pep Hamilton’s rushing attack.

Will another wide receiver emerge? Reggie Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton (in whatever order you want) are the Colts top three wideouts.

It appears as if Griff Whalen is the No. 4 man but he is day-to-day after suffering a groin injury against the Bills.

Who’s next?

LaVon Brazill would seem to be the guy but he will miss the first month of the season.

How about Nathan Palmer? Or Jabin Sambrano?

A fifth wide receiver (not Brazill) will in all likelihood dress for the first four games of the season so these next three preseason games should go a long way in deciding that spot.

What’s in store for Daniel Adongo and Josh McNary?: Some of the more interesting sights on Tuesday was seeing Adongo in pads and going through positional drills.

It appears Adongo’s biceps injury has pushed his growth back a bit so a practice squad position is probably the best case scenario for the rugby star.

Josh McNary is still recovering from a hamstring injury but when he’s been on the field he has produced.

The West Point product was signaled out by Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky for his play early in training camp, even though McNary is making the transition to a new position at inside linebacker (granted he hasn’t played any football since 2010).

McNary was in the thick of the ILB position battle so getting him back on the practice field will be an interesting topic to watch moving forward.

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Day Eight Impressions: Competition behind DHB, new names at ILB and Greg Toler returns

Posted by Kevin Bowen on August 5, 2013 – 4:58 pm

The Colts spent most of Monday afternoon’s practice drilling specific situations (Hail Mary, last second field goals, getting out of bounds, etc).

During the live portion of practice though, Andrew Luck caught fire early on, connecting on his first 10 passes.

Here are three takeaways from day eight…

DHB’s injury “not serious”: Darrius Heyward-Bey did not practice on Monday afternoon, watching from behind the receivers group.

The Colts said the injury is “not serious” following practice but without DHB in the lineup the door is open for some significant receiver reps.

T.Y. Hilton added yet another strong day of practice to his impressive training camp. Hilton caught four of Luck’s first seven passes on Monday.

Griff Whalen and Nathan Palmer should see their reps increase with DHB sidelined. Also, Jeremy Kelley and Lanear Sampson have had a nice first week of camp.

Inside Linebacker spot filled with competition: Colts fans were checking their rosters frequently on Monday with some different names sliding into the inside linebackers spot.

Jerrell Freeman was sidelined with a shoulder injury on Monday, which gave some first team reps to Justin Hickman.

Last year, Hickman played extensively on the outside but this year he has also been taking reps at inside and was with the first unit for a quite a while on Monday.

Other names that Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky mentioned for the starting spot next to Freeman includes Kavell Conner, Kelvin Sheppard, Pat Angerer and Josh McNary.

Cornerbacks welcome back Greg Toler: Back with the first unit on Monday afternoon was Colts cornerback Greg Toler.

While Toler was back with the first unit, it was Vontae Davis and Darius Butler who both added to their numerous camp pass deflections.

After Davis was victim of a terrific catch by Reggie Wayne during red zone drills, he bounced back the following play knocking a potential touchdown away from the Colts six-time Pro Bowl receiver.

Earlier in practice it was Butler leaping high in the air to knock away a pass that would have been a significant gain for Wayne.




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Week Two Preview: Four thoughts on the Colts defense

Posted by Kevin Bowen on August 3, 2013 – 10:38 pm

With Week One in the books in Anderson, here are four defensive items to look towards in Week Two.

The Colts will practice the next three days before an off day on Wednesday. Things will pick back up Thursday and Friday, with the preseason opener coming on Aug. 11 against the Buffalo Bills.

Josh Chapman’s development-The “900 pound safe” has been very impressive working with the second unit in Week One.

The nose tackle position will undoubtedly need more than one body in 2013 so expect Chapman to play big minutes along with starter Aubrayo Franklin.

It can’t be stated enough how much Chapman truly embraces the role of a 3-4 nose tackle and his presence will go a long way to stopping the run this year.

Bjoern Werner’s role-Werner’s high motor was evident last week and you can see why the Colts valued the German native during April’s NFL Draft.

If he was at any other position, Werner probably would be starting but with Robert Mathis and Erik Walden ahead of him, it looks like the rookie’s role will be primarily on special teams and passing downs this year.

Fans should get frequent looks at Werner coming off the edge this season with the outside linebacker depth allowing the Colts to bring the first round pick along at his own pace.

Can the secondary continue its hot start?-The ball-hawking nature of the Colts secondary has been prevalent in 2013.

The takeaways number of 15 last year is a point of emphasis this season and if Week One is any indication than the Colts defensive backs will be getting their hands on numerous balls.

Vontae Davis and Darius Butler have been particular strong with Greg Toler hoping to rejoin the secondary this week after suffering a concussion on Wednesday.

Return of Antoine Bethea-The Colts Pro Bowl safety has not been in Anderson since Tuesday as he was back home for the birth of his daughter.

Coach Pagano said he expects Bethea back very soon and fans are eager to see No. 41 pair with LaRon Landry at the backend of the defense.

Bethea has been in the Colts starting lineup every game since the 2007 season and getting him back on the practice field will be a welcoming sight for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

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Darius Butler impresses after Week One in Anderson

Posted by Kevin Bowen on August 2, 2013 – 12:36 pm

His importance wasn’t that of an Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne or Jerrell Freeman but one should not forget the impact of Darius Butler last season.

Butler had two interceptions returned for touchdowns last year, both coming in road victories.

“Anytime you make plays, especially big plays to change a game, it does something for your confidence,” Butler now says. “Your confidence is real important especially on that back end. Anytime I make a play, even in practice, it does something for you.”

During the Colts 2013 training camp, Butler has continued to make plays with several interceptions during the first week of work.

In 2012, the Colts defense forced just 15 turnovers and Butler said that is something they are harping on in camp.

The secondary has been particularly active early on getting their hands on numerous balls.

“We could be the best in the league if we come out, work every day, feed off each other,” Butler said of the secondary. “We’ve got a lot of years back there at the safeties and me, Vontae (Davis) and Greg (Toler), we all came in in ‘09 and have been playing some good ball. The more we work together, the better we can play.”

Butler joined the Colts during the bye week last season and was a critical pickup during the Colts 11-5 year.

Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said Butler has continued to play off his success last season and is currently the team’s nickel cornerback.

“You saw him last year do that. He did it a couple times in the first couple of practices we had,” Manusky said of Butler’s playmaking ability. “He has great ball skills. He’s competing just like all the other players are, but I love him.”

It appears the Colts have found some quality depth at the cornerback position which is a welcoming sight with not one corner on this year’s roster having been on the team prior to OTAs in 2012.

Butler knows the Colts have the potential for a championship level defense and he’s doing his part to get to the pinnacle.

“Everybody has the same goal this time of year and that’s to get to New York in February. There’s no greater motivation than that. You want to do it for the guy next to you, yourself, and your team.”

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When it comes to setting the edge, Erik Walden knows exactly what to do

Posted by Kevin Bowen on August 1, 2013 – 8:00 am

Setting the edge.

When Chuck Pagano talks about the keys to stopping an opponent’s rushing attack those three words are quickly mentioned.

The ability to hold the point of attack and send traffic back inside is the goal of whoever is setting that edge.

Erik Walden considers this a strength of his.

“It’s just about heart,” Walden said on Wednesday.

“Setting up a wall for the defense and allow the inside backers, along with the rest of the pursuit and the other defensive players to be able to make a play on the ball.”

Walden’s ability to set the edge is one of the major reasons the Colts coveted the 250-pound outside linebacker during free agency.

“When we saw (Walden) coming out of Green Bay and when we picked him up as a free agent, he was a great player in the sense of setting the edge,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said.

“We always talk about setting the edge on either side. That’s what he did with the Packers and we expect him to do it here.”

In his last two seasons with the Packers, Walden played in 31 games and compiled 106 tackles and six sacks.

He is expected to line up opposite Robert Mathis this season and is a key cog at one of the Colts deepest positions.

When the pads were strapped on for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, Walden reminded Dwayne Allen who he was going up against.

“I played against (Walden) last year and he destroys tight ends,” Allen said. “He understands pad leverage and hand placement and is a very, very talented guy.”

This season Walden will don No. 93, a number that was worn on the back of Dwight Freeney’s shoulders for over a decade.temp2013_0730_TC_2236--nfl_mezz_1280_1024

Walden and Freeney both have a Super Bowl ring on their resume but the Colts new No. 93 was quick to point out that this is a new chapter in his life, one he hopes finishes with a storybook ending.

“Every year is an opportunity, and what you’ve done really don’t mean nothing ‘til this point.”

“I mean anytime you got a great organization with a great quarterback and a winning franchise, that’s half of it right there. I prayed about it and I just felt that this was the best fit for me.”

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Day Four Impressions: DHB’s big catch(es), 7th round picks impress and the defense continues strong start

Posted by Kevin Bowen on July 31, 2013 – 5:53 pm

Spitting rain in the morning ceased in the afternoon as the Colts moved over to Macholtz Stadium for Wednesday’s padded practice.

With the pads on, the spirit continued to rise in the trenches and some of the Colts rookies at the skill positions shined on Wednesday.

Here are three takeaways from day four…

DHB wastes no time getting involved: Pep Hamilton talked about the diligent work that Heyward-Bey is putting in trying to sure up his hands.

The jugs machine seems to be DHB’s second home, before and after practice.

The hard work paid off on Wednesday.

On the Colts first 11-on-11 rep of the afternoon, Andrew Luck went deep to DHB and the new receiver hauled in the 50+-yard grab.

DHB said he needs to make plays in order to gain Luck’s trust and the one to start Wednesday’s practice, along with several others throughout the two-hour session added up to a very strong afternoon for the 219-pound receiver.

A day for the seventh-round draft picks: The Colts 2013 rookie class won’t come anywhere close to the same production of last year’s group but a few skill players stood out on Wednesday.

Running back Kerwynn Williams made a few nice catches out of the backfield and showcased an ability for yards after the catch. While kick returns might be Williams’ first opportunity on the playing field, he showed that he’s more than capable of getting reps in the backfield.

At the tight end position, Justice Cunningham is putting together some quality reps in the receiving department.

There are some chances behind Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener and Cunningham is a true tight end (where as Dominique Jones is more of a hybrid) that caught the ball much more consistently on Wednesday than he did during OTAs.

Defense right on pace: With two padded practices in the books, the Colts appears to be right on queue with their progress in the 3-4 system.

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said that is usually the case early on in training camp but it has been impressive to see the Colts secondary get their hands on so many passes.

The front seven has been winning their fair share of battles during run game drills and a second unit with guys like Josh Chapman, Drake Nevis, Bjoern Werner and Lawrence Sidbury creates quality depth.

It will be interesting to see how the offense vs. defense plays out the rest of the camp, with Pep Hamilton’s system getting more familiar with the unit.

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Posted by Kevin Bowen on May 13, 2013 – 9:22 am

There will be a lot of introductions going around NFL locker rooms on Monday morning as teams incorporate their rookie classes with OTAs continuing through the rest of the month.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke posed a couple of question surrounding the Colts with rosters growing to 90 on the practice field this week.

Below are his two questions on the Colts and both Burke and I offer our analysis on the proposed issues.

Will any of the running backs step up?

  • Burke’s Analysis: This sure feels like Vick Ballard’s job to lose after he led the team in rushing last season. Nobody on the depth chart appears on the cusp of stardom, though, from Ballard to Donald Brown to seventh-rounder Kerwynn Williams. Ballard’s 814-yard rookie year at least gives Indianapolis something on which to build.
  • Bowen’s Analysis: I would have to agree with Burke’s notion that the running back job is Vick Ballard’s to lose. Ballard was productive in his rookie season and that was running behind an offensive line that has improved in the offseason and an offense that appears to be utilizing more of a fullback than last year. I could very well see Ballard being a consistent 1,000+-yard rusher for years to come. Donald Brown (speed) and Delone Carter (power) both fit a role at the running back position but it’s hard to imagine either of them supplanting Ballard as the starter. Kerwynn Williams’ first crack at making a contribution should be on special teams but the return threat also showed at rookie minicamp this past weekend that he can catch the ball out of the backfield and has a chance to find a role as a third down back.

Position Battles: Erik Walden vs. Bjoern Werner, OLB, Colts:

  • Burke’s Analysis: This ought to be an interesting one with Walden, arguably overpaid in free agency at four years and $16 million, taking on Werner, whom many thought should play DE in the pros. The winner gets to start opposite Robert Mathis at OLB in the Colts’ 3-4 scheme. Walden was underwhelming as a Packer, which is why Green Bay let him walk without any semblance of a fight this offseason. He could hold down the fort, at least early as Werner learns the ins and outs of playing linebacker.
  • Bowen’s Analysis: First off, let’s make this clear that this is a great problem to have at the outside linebacker position. Pro Bowler Robert Mathis is the obvious starter at one side of the linebacker corps but the other side has two quality candidates. Walden has been raved about for his ability to set the edge and he was one of the bigger splashes the Colts made in free agency. Werner will get his first taste of veterans in the NFL this week during OTAs, after the Colts first round draft pick had a very solid start to his professional career at rookie minicamp. Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky made it clear that there will be times this year where all three will be on the field together and expect this specific battle to last well into August with two dynamic edge players, both of which will play a good portion of defensive snaps come the regular season.

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Posted by Kevin Bowen on – 8:39 am

Each morning will take a look at the top headlines surrounding the Indianapolis Colts from around the globe. What is the local and national media saying about the Colts?

Take a look below at the top five pieces from Monday, May 13th:

Colts rookies can look to 2012 season for indication of how much can be contributed

By: Mike Chappell, Indianapolis Star

The Colts 2013 rookie class doesn’t have to look far in the locker room this week to see a group of players that excelled in their first NFL season.

Last season’s rookie class led the Colts to an 11-5 record and the offensive players accounted for an NFL record 3,112 yards of total offense.

Colts head coach Chuck Pagano knows that the needs aren’t glaring with this year’s rookie class and frankly, that’s what he is looking for in years to come.

“That doesn’t mean to say some of these guys that we drafted or any of the tryout guys or college free agents can’t come in and contribute in some capacity, especially on special teams,” Pagano said. “With what we did in free agency, there’s not that many holes to fill.

“That’s means you’re getting closer from a roster standpoint and team standpoint to where you want to be.”

Colts rookie camp ends on a ‘Detroit scenario’

By: Mike Chappell, Indianapolis Star

It was a chorus of elation for the offense at the close of the rookie minicamp this weekend at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

Head Coach Chuck Pagano implemented a “Detroit scenario” with seventh round draft pick Justice Cunningham hauling in a 20-yard touchdown pass from Arkansas Tech quarterback Tanner Marsh.

“We try to do all these must-win mock situations,” Pagano said. “Fourth down, gotta have a touchdown and we hit a walk-off home run, if you will.

“It was a good way to end camp.”

Other factoids in Chappell’s notebook include Hugh Thornton working strictly at right guard during camp and Josh Chapman working as the No. 1 nose guard during OTAs.

Colts Notebook: Cunningham’s catch completes camp

By: George Bremer, Anderson Herald Bulletin

Bremer also takes a look at Cunningham’s heroics but his notebook piece includes a variety of topics.

The second notebook item is a roster move the Colts made following their rookie minicamp as cornerback Allen Chapman turned his tryout into a roster spot and he ironically takes the place of college teammate Nigel Malone on the 90-man roster.

Along with the note on Thornton working at right guard, Bremer mentions the success that first round draft pick Bjoern Werner received from defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

“Usually, it takes players probably a whole offseason to get their feet underneath them,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “For him, he looks good the first day I saw him out of a two-point stance. He’s been working, I know, down in south Florida. He’s been working on it a lot. Usually, the hardest thing is once they standup, they don’t shoot their hands, but he seems like he’s doing a pretty good job of it.”

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