A Goal Reimagined
When Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano were hired on in 2012 they operated on the slogan that they would “build the monster.” As per the name of my blog you can see that this idea resonated with me. I thought immediately of the dominant Ravens defenses that ground out the competition with their efficient running game and let the defense hold on to any little lead they scrapped, if not outright taking the ball away from you and scoring themselves. I thought of the Giants, vanquishers of the Patriots, whose defense alone was remarkable in those years that they won Super Bowls. And yes, I thought of the early era Belichick Patriots, who relied on a powerful defense and a running game to win.
But as you all know, that never happened. After the first year with a very encouraging offensive draft class, Grigson began swinging and missing, both in free agency and in the draft. Andrew Luck got into Grigson and Jim Irsay’s heads. He was so good so quickly, that they forgot how bad their roster was, and started trying to win now. We all know how that went.
Not Business As Usual
Let me say something as obvious as it could possibly be, but something you need to hear. Chris Ballard is not Ryan Grigson. Ballard operates in a calm, cool, and calculated manner. He welcomes competition. He has five years of coaching experience at the collegiate level. Four of those years were spent coaching defense and secondary; especially relevant given this recent draft. It is well known that he went to bat to draft Marcus Peters, a guy who is fast becoming one of the premier cornerbacks in the league. Charles Tillman is another find by Ballard that was a force in the secondary for years with the Bears. This guy knows corners.
Ballard has remade the Colts defense in one offseason. If they aren’t better, they will certainly be younger and faster. Their draft picks, Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson will be likely day one starters and should bolster a secondary that has perpetually been at the bottom of the league. Their linebackers have improved dramatically from where they ended the last season, simply by adding depth and competition to those positions. The defensive line, which was nearly a defensive strength in 2015, will see significant improvement with Johnathon Hankins and the further recovery of promising prospect Henry Anderson. It is very possible that the defensive line could be a team strength if the free agency moves and draft picks work out.
Another move that I’m pretty impressed with is the pickup of Marlon Mack at running back. The more I read about him and watch his film, the more excited I get about his possibilities. He is the antithesis of Frank Gore, always going for the home run. If spending some time with a guy like Frank can help him get a bit of the work ethic and grow him as a runner, this guy could be a stud for the Colts backfield that really hasn’t had one since Edgerrin James and Joseph Addai.
— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) May 1, 2017
It’s Not Over Yet
Before you get too excited or roll your eyes too far into your head at my naivete, don’t mistake my optimism for the belief that the roster has arrived. The Colts have a lot to fix. If the moves Ballard has made this offseason work well, there is every reason to think this team as it stands right now is a playoff team. If you are a Cleveland Browns fan that might be good enough for you. But we want a contender. Colts fans want a team that can go into Foxborough and Pittsburgh and grind out tough wins in lousy conditions.
Those kinds of teams come with time. They involve executing a plan and making good decisions. You don’t build a monster in one draft. Grigson learned that the hard way. Time will tell if Ballard knows better.