(Thomas J Russo - USA Today Sports)
The Colts are back to practicing and having meetings again. The excitement and drama of the football season are still months away, but the work has already begun.
Hasselbeck on Luck: Reducing Unnecessary Hits
Among questions about his role, his new team, and an entertaining bet with Chandler Harnish over jersey numbers (click here for the video), Matt Hasselbeck mostly spoke about Andrew Luck. When someone asked him where Luck could improve, the Colts new backup was very candid. “He’s pretty strong right now,” Hasselbeck said. “For me, I think really not knowing anything right now just the amount of hits he takes is probably unnecessary. If you’re going to play 20-game seasons and maybe more than that for years and years and years, there’s probably some opportunities to cut some hits down. Eliminating five hits a game, those add up. Right now he’s very, very good at everything that we’ve talked about, everything that we’ve done so far, he’s impressive in every way.”
Whatever anyone feels about Hasselbeck, that statement should earn him some points. After watching Luck get clobbered, time and time again. After hearing Bruce Arians dismiss it as just part of playing football, it’s refreshing to know that everyone from Jim Irsay to the backup quarterback is making it a priority to protect the franchise’s young star from taking a beating every week.
On a slightly different note, the running joke about Andrew Luck’s cell phone came up again as well. Luck still carries the same Samsung flip phone for which Linebacker Jerrell Freeman was playfully making fun of him last year. “I’m actually impressed,” Hasselbeck said. “I have more respect for him after seeing his cell phone. It’s amazing. Some people think it’s not true, I was one of them, but I’ve got a ton of respect.” Does anyone else see a smartphone endorsement deal in Luck’s future?
Josh “Fire Hydrant” Chapman
And then there’s Josh Chapman. Known as a run stuffer, the former Alabama nose tackle has been compared to a fire hydrant (yes, a fire hydrant) on several occasions; as in ‘trying to block that guy is like running into a dang fire hydrant.’ A vital piece of the Crimson Tide defense, Chapman opted to eschew surgery and continue playing, on one good leg, after tearing his ACL in 2011.
The injury dropped Chapman from a highly regarded prospect to a 5th round draft pick, and the recovery from surgery caused him to miss his entire rookie season. His return has been highly anticipated by a loyal contingent of fans, and while stopping the run, Chapman’s specialty, isn’t quite the number one key to victory in the pass-oriented NFL, we all know (all too well) what happens when that aspect of the defense is woefully deficient. (Don’t click either of those links if you are prone to anger)
The Colts have been cautious with Chapman’s rehabilitation, taking a commendable approach to the long-term health of a player who brings an element that’s been missing for years: a space eating, double team drawing interior D-lineman who enables the linebackers behind him, and even his fellow linemen, to make plays on the ball.
“It feels good being back out there with the guys,” Chapman said yesterday. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been with everybody. I was able to do everything with them now it’s time for that next step.”
Many fans are excited to see what ol’ “Fire Hydrant” can do when he finally takes the field, but it’s imperative to temper those expectations. Chapman isn’t going to put up gaudy, super star-type stats – not likely, anyway. It just isn’t the typical nature of his position, and it’s never been his modus operandi. He is, however, a powerful, tenacious, gap-clogging player. If Chapman can keep opposing centers and guards from blocking on the second level, draw and hold up against double teams, and pounce on a running back on occasion, he will be a success. In turn, that success style would allow his teammates, particularly the linebackers, to make some big plays on defense.
Meanwhile, Chapman himself has his eyes set on some lofty goals. “Right now we are priding ourselves on trying to be a top-five defense,” he said. “Right now, we want to stop the run. We are kind of priding ourselves on that. I pride myself on being a nose guard but it’s taking those steps, getting in shape, working on my technique on the field and getting in the film room, in the playbook.” That’s right. Top five. If Chapman’s presence, even as a two-down player, helps facilitate such a ranking, the Colts’ drafting him in the fifth round would be an absolute coup de maître. If he can contribute, or especially start, this year, he’ll prove to be another great late round draft pick.
West Coast, No Coast
Bruce Arians has taken his wild, vertical offense to Arizona, and new Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton comes from more of a West Coast Offense background. Hamilton has made it clear, however, that his system incorporates too many other styles and types of plays to be pigeonholed into a West Coast label, even calling it a “No Coast Offense.”
Hamilton’s willingness to incorporate different philosophies, including elements from last year’s system, should give the Colts a more versatile attack that can adapt to and take advantage of a wide array of opposing defenses.
When asked about the new system, Andrew Luck said, “It is a ‘No Coast Offense,’ and that’s how Pep (Hamilton) feels. That’s how he presented it to us. It’s going to try and give us the best advantage, wherever it may lie. It’s taking ideas from here, from there, obviously from the West Coast a bit. Wherever it gives us the best advantage to get balls in Reggie’s (Wayne) hands, in Vick Ballard’s, in Donald’s (Brown), in Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. (Hilton), however we can do that, the tight ends, that’s what the offense is predicated on.”
Obviously, for guys like Luck and second-year Tight End Coby Fleener, the new offense isn’t actually that new. “Having been in it for four or five years at Stanford, I kind of better understand the nuances than I did of last year’s offense,” Fleener said of Hamilton’s system. “With any offense it takes time and thankfully I have a little bit of time under my belt.” The 6 foot 6 inch Fleener is surely looking forward to being in a familiar system that utilizes tight ends more in the passing game. He could end up being one of the biggest beneficiaries of the new offense.
The New Guys
With the ten free agent signees (not counting Josh McNary, who remains on military duty) and two reserve/future contract players who haven’t had any previous stints with the team (former Indoor league LB Jake Killeen and gigantic WR Jeremy Kelley), there is an unusually high amount of new players on hand for practice a week before the draft.
With all that newness and the hope that accompanies another season on the horizon, there is no shortage of enthusiasm on West 56th Street. “It’s been lots of fun, but it’s been a lot of work,” said newly signed backup QB Matt Hasselbeck. “I came in; you can tell it’s a tight-knit group, a tight-knit team. Everyone is very excited to get back together, to get back to seeing each other. For me I’ve met a bunch of new people in a short amount of time. I’m trying to study a brand new playbook. We’re also working really hard in the weight room, out on the field throwing, but it’s been fun.”
Some of the new players are just happy to be a part of a winning organization. “Sometimes you feel like you have to learn everything over again,” said right tackle former Detroit Lion Gosder Cherilus. “You feel like a rookie. You have to ask everybody where to go. But I want to be a part of a good team; a great group of guys like these guys are always willing to help. If it’s in the weight room, they tell me where to go. They’ve been first class from kickers to Andrew (Luck).”
All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department.
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"Ooh video links. I should watch those. Psssh they won't make me mad."
*flips coffee table*
Can't wait. I like what you said about Chapman, his strength is not rushing the passer. Was our up the middle run D that bad last year? It seems like most yards given up were on the edge. Chapman, or any NT, is not going to help there.
Any news on 2011 2nd round pick Guard Ben Ijalana? Is he working out with the team? He looked so promising early in 2011. After two consecutive serious ACL injuries to the same knew it would be a miracle if he was ready for team practices. Still a healthy Ijalana would have a big influence on whether the Colts draft a guard in the 3rd round.
Nice to hear that Chapman is out there working full time; I think if we were still hearing "I'm working hard on rehabbing every day" that would be a bad sign. Sounds like he's a full go.
Ah, Mr. Chapman. Reminds me of the good ol' days, when Colts fans were saying, "if we could only get Corey Simon back, we'll be fine." (Of course, with Big Corey, half the fun was the mystery of what the hell was the matter with him.)
Here is hoping we can actually see Josh the Human Mosh Pit on the field.
@hankster Apparently, you're not. But I bet Andrew Luck might be the only non-criminal multi- millionaire with one.
@smonroe My understanding was Antonio Johnson struggled against the run as the starting NT. I guess he did get pushed back more than he should. Supposedly C Redd wasn't great in the running game either, but I thought he did well. Nevis was okay at the other DE spot, but he's always hurt.
I saw him in the pictures from workouts on 4/16 and 4/17. They are on colts.com. He is working with the team but obviously we don't know about any restrictions he is on at this time. I saw him lifting weights running and stretching with the other OL guys. I also noticed that he was wearing a black sleeve over one of his legs, covering the knee but so was Ballard (on both).
One of the Indy Star writers did an interview with him during his rehabilitation last year. He seems like such a high character guy. I just keep hoping he can become healthy and have a good career.
More recently, Mike Chappell talked about the o-line with Grigson. It looks like there's no doubt about his ability, as you can imagine, but his durability is such a concern that this may be his last chance to stay healthy and crack the lineup. Here's the link to Chappell's article:
Here's the quote on Ijalana:
Ben Ijalana is a wild card. The 2011 second-round draft pick has suffered season-ending injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in each of his first two seasons. The latest occurred during training camp last August.
“Ijalana is just a big question mark,’’ Grigson admitted. “I just know Ben Ijalana from what I saw against Rhode Island in a live game and from what I watched on tape. That’s all I know of Ben.
“He’s big, long and he’s athletic but he’s got to prove that he can stay healthy and that he can be a pro and settle in to be a pro football player. The ability level is there, we just got to see if Ben is going to be a football player.’’
Interestingly, Chappell also believes A.Q. Shipley could beat out Satele for the starting center spot. I would definitely agree with him.
@Coltsheadben Agreed. I'd have been ready to give up on him if his transcript had anything about "taking it one day at a time," or "working my way back."
@DougEngland The defense was the real deal the year Corey played. Too bad it ended up working out the way it did. It put them in cap hell. The front office got a little gun shy about free agents after that. They just didnt have the cap room to go all-in on anyone.
@codrutc Keeping my fingers crossed. He looked good in the few 2011 games he played. If Ben will not be ready for OTAs in May, the Colts are really going have to draft a guard in rounds 3 or 5.
And yes Ben does seem like a classy guy.
@MarcusDugan I respect the attempt to protect Luck. I just wish the Colts had picked up Vollmer rather Cherilus.
Personally I really hope Hasselback can help Luck avoid taking unnecessary hits. As Nate keeps saying, the QB does have a big influence on the hits he takes.
I tend to like going with the understatement to avoid sounding like a "ranting blogger" type. We'll say Johnson struggled miserably against the run, in a futile attempt to go from a one gap to a two gap player.
@MarcusDugan @codrutc Modern ACL surgery is truly miraculous compared to just 10-15 years ago. Know lots of skiers who had it, who swear their knee was as strong or stronger than before. I use to help run a ski racing program. One big key is getting immediate medical attention to control swelling, immobilizing the knee, and limit any collateral injury. Why NFL teams tolerate players getting payed millions attempting to be macho and insist on walking off field when 60,000+ fans and the TV audience just saw them blow out a knee and are watching multiple replays is beyond me. Tom Brady for instance. It really is medical malpractice.
At least this year the NFL is having specially trained medical staff radioed into the sideline training/medical staff watching every play. It is a move that is a long over due. You have a cart within 60 yards, use it for Christ's sake.
@codrutc They can rebuild him. They have the technology. Better, stronger faster (Okay, I've never seen that movie, but with all the knee surgery issues, it seemed applicable)
@hankster I don't know if we would've gotten Vollmer as cheaply as the Pats did, but I think he could still have been cheaper (possibly slightly better) than ol' Gosder. I don't know how New England gets their own players back so cheaply. Perhaps it's some kind of weird blackmail (saying that in jest - not a serious suggestion).
I was surprised Hasselbeck was so honest with his answer. He sounded like a coach, which is understandable at this point in his career. I also think Luck not having to throw to five guys making their breaks 15-20 yards deep all the time will help with the hits.