View Full Version : Colts/Freeney Going the Way of the Texans??

06-15-2012, 08:27 AM
It's interesting to note that the Colts are seemingly going to try to emulate the last year's Texans transition. Freely is apparently going to be asked to take the challenge that was asked of Maria last year. Beyond that facet, I don't think that the Colts have the personnel on D to make their transition work as it did for the Texans.


Bob Kravitz: Indianapolis Colts LB Dwight Freeney shows he can change
6:21 AM, Jun. 15, 2012

Watching Dwight Freeney stand up is like listening to Marilyn Manson do a set of Sinatra songs. It just doesn't seem right. Freeney, the perpetual Pro Bowl right defensive end, has played with his hand on the turf from the moment he graced the NFL.
Now look at him at practice with the Indianapolis Colts. Standing up and then putting his hand on the ground. Putting his hand on the ground and then standing up. Playing the left side. Playing the right side. Moving around. Sometimes he works with the defensive line coaches. Sometimes he works with the linebackers. He's a hybrid in a hybrid defense.

Give the man credit; shoot, give both Freeney and Robert Mathis credit. Both are Pro Bowl players at their old defensive end positions, and both have not only accepted the move to a 3-4, 4-3 hybrid that has them playing a lot of linebacker, but both are excited about it.

"Listen, when you've been doing the same thing every single day, you get real good at it, but this is exciting, something fresh and new, and possibilities are endless,'' Freeney said the other day. "It's a proven defense. San Francisco, the Steelers, the Ravens, they're always in the top five in defense. The proof is there.

"I dropped back in coverage a bit my first couple of years, so it's not completely unfamiliar. The last six, seven years, I haven't dropped back at all, so it's just a matter of remembering what I used to do.''

Most of us think Mathis, who is smaller and quicker, will have the easier transition. Clearly, the Colts thought so, too, or they wouldn't have signed him to a new contract this summer.

Freeney, though, is a question mark for the first time in his career. Can he do more than simply terrorize quarterbacks and left tackles from the D-end position? Will he be Andre Carter, who couldn't make the transition? Or Brian Orakpo and Terrell Suggs, who did?

This is a one-year experiment, a one-year rental for the most part. At Freeney's contract number, there's little chance he'll return next year unless he somehow turns into a premier linebacker such as James Harrison or Lawrence Taylor. A young, growing team is not going to continue to pay an aging player making $18 million even more to play an unnatural position.

What you like, though, is the Colts don't have an Albert Haynesworth situation on their hands. Remember, Haynesworth had no interest playing in Washington's new 3-4 alignment and went completely in the tank before being drop-kicked out of town. Freeney has had no such public misgivings. In many ways, the move to outside linebacker is liberating, a chance to reinvent himself at an interesting point in his career.

"They've done a great job," said coach Chuck Pagano, referring to Freeney and Mathis. "Mostly because they have been here. The attendance has been phenomenal. So we knew there would be a bit of a learning curve, being in the 4-3 system for so many years and playing on the right side (Freeney) and playing on the left side (Mathis). Now they have to go with calls and all of the different things, dropping into coverage a little bit. But they have done a tremendous job and have picked it up very well."

Asked if this year's defense will look different than in years past, Pagano said, "Absolutely, because on first and second down, things will look a little bit different to your eye and to the fans' eyes as far as alignment. Again, we are a hybrid. On any of those downs, we can look the same as they looked last year, and once third down comes, we can get . . . exotic.''

What's interesting is, general manager Ryan Grigson cut his teeth in organizations that played the 4-3 defense, and was inclined to continue to play that style. But then he started looking around the league and noticed that most of the NFL's top defenses in recent years have gone with the 3-4 alignment. As a former offensive lineman, Grigson understood the 3-4 gives O-linemen the most headaches. When Pagano became available, thanks only to a field goal miss at the end of the AFC title game, Grigson knew the 3-4 was the way to go.

Look at the top four teams in total defense last year: Pittsburgh, a 3-4. San Francisco, built in part by current Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, a 3-4. Baltimore, a longtime 3-4 staple. And Houston, which made the transition in just one year under Wade Phillips to the 3-4.

As the passing game becomes more prevalent, the 3-4 has turned into the modern version of Buddy Ryan's 46 defense, confusing and pressuring the quarterbacks who've come to dominate this league. Everybody who followed Peyton Manning's career remembers how the 3-4 often gave him fits. Recall those painful losses to New England, San Diego and Pittsburgh.

It's not a given that Freeney will ever be comfortable as an outside linebacker/defensive end/hybrid/whatever. But at least he has embraced the new defensive order. And that's half the battle.

06-15-2012, 08:43 AM
At least they didn't ditch him!

nero THE zero
06-15-2012, 09:28 AM
"It's a proven defense. San Francisco, the Steelers, the Ravens, they're always in the top five in defense. The proof is there.

06-15-2012, 09:34 AM

This is an example of why Arian Foster came in at #25 in the top 100 list.

06-15-2012, 10:07 AM
Interesting article re. their new DC.

Colts Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky Is Probably More Than A Little Upset (http://www.stampedeblue.com/2012/5/9/3009452/colts-defensive-coordinator-greg-manusky-is-probably-more-than-a-little-mad)

With ten picks in the draft, only two were dedicated to defensive players. Of those two, one is recovering from an ACL injury while the other is a seventh round project player.

The front office's inability (or unwillingness) to draft or sign players for the secondary reportedly had new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky more than a little pissed off.

Manusky's anger was real as well as understandable, especially if you look at things from his P.O.V.

This is a man who has been fired from two coordinator jobs in two years (San Francisco and San Diego, respectively). I spoke with several people at the draft, many of whom have covered this league for decades. Manusky was loathed in both SF and SD by the players. The only reason he has a coordinator job today is because of his friendship with Pagano. Interesting note: John Pagano, Chuck's brother, replaced Manusky as defensive coordinator in San Diego.

When you think about it, this is Manusky's last chance. If he cannot field a good defense in Indianapolis, he's unlikely to get another shot as a coordinator job if-or-when he's fired from the Colts. He's also been tasked to completely overhaul the defensive scheme, and he's doing this with one of the most talent deficient secondary groups in the NFL. If the Colts defense plays as poorly on the the field this season as they look on paper now, who do you think will take the blame?

Not Grigson. Not Pagano. No, it will be Manusky, the guy who was canned twice in two years and who everyone seemed to hate at his two previous gigs.

He's being set-up to fail. It doesn't matter if Grigson did not intend for things to appear this way. Intentions are meaningless in the NFL. Perception is everything, and when the defense starts to fail and the pressure mounts, do you honestly think Ryan Grigson is going to fall on a sword for Greg Manusky?

No. He won't. He'll order Pagano to fire Manusky, and unless Pagano wants to join him in unemployment, Pagano will comply IF things get to that point. We've seen this type of thing play out before, as recently as last year when Jim Caldwell threw Larry Coyer under a moving freight train at the behest of Bill and Chris Polian.

06-15-2012, 11:49 AM
Interesting article re. their new DC.

Colts Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky Is Probably More Than A Little Upset (http://www.stampedeblue.com/2012/5/9/3009452/colts-defensive-coordinator-greg-manusky-is-probably-more-than-a-little-mad)

I think its a different situation. In Htown, Kubes had a solid to above average offense ready to go but had a horrendous defense. Bringing in Wade allowed the Texans to focus exclusively on Defense in order to make the playoff push. As a result, the Texans didn't take an offensive player till the 5th: Yates and only took 2 altogether(Yates and Newton).

Pagano, a defensive coach, walked into a situation where he needed to rebuild the offense desperately. The offense was nonexistent without Peyton last year. Since he is a Defensive coach, he should be able to make the Defensive side better, simply by coaching it. Freeney and Mathis are still great pass rushers. Corey Redding was brought in at DE and Josh Chapman was drafted at NT. With these players, Pagano and Manusky could make this D average. In contrast, the Offense was in deep, deep trouble and needed help pretty much everywhere. I get why they went offensive heavy in the draft.

The other thing to keep in mind is expectations. Coming into last year, the Texans were expected to contend for the playoffs and then win the division when it was clear Peyton was out. The Colts have no such expectations. As long as they win around 5-6 games, they will have had a successful season.

06-15-2012, 02:28 PM
Looks like some high expectations in Horse Town. [FYI: The author of this piece, Brad Wells, for years was known only to the Internet world as "BigBlueShoe," the man behind Stampede Blue. Now, he not only writes about the Indianapolis Colts at the blog he helped found, but works as the editor of SB Nation Indiana, the sports regional site for SBNation.com.]

Switching To A 3-4: Can The Colts Do It?

Stampedeblue_tiny by Brad Wells on Jun 5, 2012 12:09 PM EDT in Colts Analysis

BATON ROUGE LA - NOVEMBER 06: Quarterback Jarrett Lee #12 of the Louisiana State University Tigers is sacked by Josh Chapman #99 of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Tiger Stadium on November 6 2010 in Baton Rouge Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

All defenses are not the same. Schemes and personnel packages are put in place to (in theory) maximize the talent on the roster. A coach who incorporates a scheme regardless of talent is a bad coach. Even worse, a front office that employs a coach, but doesn't give him the talent necessary to deploy his schemes, is a poorly run front office.

At the end of last season, the Colts fired Jim Caldwell and replaced him with Chuck Pagano. However, even prior to firing Caldwell (a move the Colts weren't likely to make had Ryan Grigson been able to lure Steve Spanuolo to Indianapolis as the defensive coordinator, or so my sources have told me), the Colts were planning to ditch the base 4-3, Tampa 2 defensive scheme they'd run since Tony Dungy arrived in 2002.

The reason for the switch? Regression.

The Colts defense has been trending down, down, DOWN since Dungy left Indianapolis for the warm, inviting embrace of Rodney Harrison and the NBC Studios Sunday Night Football set. Here are the defensive rankings from 2008 (Dungy's last year as Colts head coach) to now:

11th in 2008

18th in 2009

20th in 2010

25th in 2011

The DVOA numbers also support this downward trend, and I'm pretty sure if Matt Grecco wasn't busy rubbing elbows with IndyCar drivers like Hélio Castroneves, his numbers would back it up too. Bottom line is the Tampa 2 wasn't working anymore. The new rules, preventing safeties from spearing receivers over the middle, pretty much make the Tampa 2 (as a base defense) obsolete. Corners can't play zone exclusively. Linebackers can't drop every... single... down.

Teams must now mix coverages, blitz their backers, and find new and inventive ways to confuse and pressure the opposing quarterback. If they don't, they get Drew Breesed, the way the Colts got Breesed in Super Bowl XLIV.

Thus, out goes the 4-3 Tampa 2, and in comes a new, "attack-style" 3-4 defense under Chuck Pagano. I know that some have called this a "hybrid" 3-4, but please don't take that too much to heart. The Colts have three nose tackles on the roster, have moved Dwight Freeney & Robert Mathis to linebacker (positions the two Pro Bowlers have never played in their pro careers), and are desperately looking for corners who can play man-to-man coverage.

That's not a "hybrid." That's a base 3-4. "Hybrid" is an NFL euphemism for, We don't have enough good players to run the scheme we wish. Therefore, we'll mix things up.

Switching to a 3-4 from a 4-3 Tampa 2 isn't easy, and despite having veterans like Freeney, Mathis, Antoine Bethea, and veteran free agent acquisitions like DE Cory Redding and SS Tom Zbikowski, don't expect a dominant defense to simply show up immediately in 2012.


Indianapolis native and former Patriots outside linebacker Roosevelt Colvin knows a thing or two about playing in a 3-4 defense. The 6'3, 250 Purdue standout played for New England during their Super Bowl runs in 2003 and 2004. He spoke with Indianapolis sports radio host Greg Rakestraw the other day about the Colts and how the team will transition to the new 3-4 [emphasis mine]:

If you start on the back-end, with Antoine and the DBs, the game is the game. It's not going to change a whole lot for them. The running game may change because of where the ball is going to pop out maybe a little bit different, but for the secondary you're still playing secondary. When you come down, when you come down in the box, it is what it is. When you're playing corner or safety, you're pretty much in your position. You go down to the second level, at the linebacker position, that's where it really changes. [B]What people don't understand is that those linebackers in a 3-4, realistically, are defensive tackles, but off the ball. Because now they're taking the gap that would have been in a 4-3 defense. So, you gotta have a stouter guy [at linebacker]. You gotta have a guy that's able to move and, at the same time, be stout enough to take on guards, get off of those guards and make a play on the runningback that's coming through the hole.

If we take Colvin's analysis at face value, the 6'0, 235 lbs Pat Angerer and 6'0, 242 lbs Kavell Conner are the Colts new defensive tackles, but off the ball.

It's worth noting that, in many other 3-4 defenses I've seen, it's typically the job of the nose tackle to keep the guards off the middle linebackers. I recall Ray Lewis saying, back in 2008, that the Ravens grabbing NT Haloti Ngata (6'4, 330 lbs) in the first round would extend his career because Ngata would keep the guards off him.

Also, as Football Outsiders wrote about two weeks ago, Kavell Conner was one of the best linebackers in the NFL last season at "defeating" running plays.

Pro Football Focus is also doing a series, listing the best prototypes for specific schemes. For a 3-4 inside backer, the 49ers Patrick Willis (6'1, 240 lbs) is considered the ideal. Also listed were the Chiefs Derrick Johnson (6'3, 242 lbs), 49ers NaVorro Bowman (6'0, 242 lbs), and the Cowboys Sean Lee (6'2, 245 lbs). All these guys seem to fit Kavell Conner's body type. Pat Angerer, not so much. This is why obsessive types like me wonder if Angerer will hold up over sixteen games. He's just not big enough to play ILBer in a 3-4.

For 3-4 nose tackles, the Patriots Vince Wilfork (6'2, 325 lbs*) is the prototype. Also listed were the Jets Sione Pouha (6'3, 325 lbs), the Dolphins Paul Soliai (6'4, 355 lbs), and the Steelers Casey Hampton (6'1, 325 lbs). Interesting the Ngata wasn't listed. The Colts currently have Brandon McKinney (6'2, 345 lbs) and rookie Josh Chapman (6'1, 310 lbs) as their NTs. Chapman, like Angerer, appears undersized for his role when you compare him to other players at his position. We'll see if he can hold-up too.

* There is no way on God's green earth that Wilfork is only 325.

The transition from 4-3 to 3-4 will be something we plan to watch closely during training camp and preseason. Please understand that, regardless of what many have said, the Colts expect to compete in their division in 2012. Whether or not that expectation is realistic is a point of debate, but the owner, G.M., and coach seem to expect playoffs. They expect this defense to transition quickly and to place renewed emphasis on stopping the run.

My interest will be in seeing if these undersized guys like Angerer and Chapman can contribute and stay healthy. I understand that a guy like Chapman was a tough guy in the SEC last year for Alabama, and that's good for him. The SEC is a conference of little boys compared to the men who play in the NFL, and there is a near forty pound difference between Chapman and guys like Soliai and Ngata. For Angerer, he's nearly ten pounds lighter (and two or so inches shorter) than other ideal linebackers in a similar scheme.

Their transition, as well as the transition of guys like Freeney and Mathis, will be a big topic of discussion as August rolls around.

06-15-2012, 04:32 PM
Nice writing bias in the last article. So you have a division rival who just made a similar transition and then you use a bunch of examples from teams who didn't perform as well.

06-20-2012, 03:23 PM
Maybe it was a typo and they meant that the 49ers had a top 10 defense, not top 5? Though, I think there were some analysts that were ranking them close to, if not in, the top 5.

nero THE zero
06-21-2012, 09:58 AM
Maybe it was a typo and they meant that the 49ers had a top 10 defense, not top 5? Though, I think there were some analysts that were ranking them close to, if not in, the top 5.

They were top 5 last year. They haven't been top 5 in any other year in the past 10 years.