The first round of Monday-Wednesday OTA’s is complete, and the transcripts are in. Today’s focus is the defense, with more to come this week.
Of course, this time of year, everyone has a very positive outlook. What is often interesting are which names the coaches and players mention without being asked about anyone in particular.
This can be more telling than the understandably upbeat coach speak about how great the team looks in practice. So, who, besides Andrew Luck, has already stood out enough to garner a mention from a coach or teammate? There are a couple such gems in the quotes today, so without further delay, let’s get to the Notebook.
Looking for Improvement in the Secondary
Last season, opposing quarterbacks completed 62% of their passes for 23 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and a QB rating of 90.1 against the Colts defense. It was a stark improvement over 2011 (71.2%, 25 TD, 8 INT, 103.9 QB rating), but the secondary was still an offseason priority (along with the pass rush, of course – which they hope to have addressed through the draft).
The Colts signed safety LaRon Landry and cornerback Greg Toler in free agency this spring and are hoping the additions, along with the development of some current players, will solidify a secondary that was considered a weakness last season.
Interestingly, when he was asked about how the younger guys and/or new players on defense are fitting in and learning the system, veteran safety Antoine Bethea immediately brought up one of the free agent signees. “Oh yeah. Greg Toler, he’s out there making plays,” Bethea said. “We’ve got some young guys that are ready to step in and help this team. So I’m excited. I’m pretty sure they’re excited. I’m sure it’s overwhelming right now with everything that the coaches are throwing at them but they are doing a good job.”
Secondary Coach Mike Gillhamer was asked about the depth at cornerback, and, naturally, he likes what he sees thus far. “Yeah, I think we’re happy with Vontae (Davis) and of course Greg (Toler),” he said. “Cassius (Vaughn) has played a lot of football and he’s gotten a lot better. He’s come into this camp and progressed to where he’s had to go. We got (Darius) Butler and we got (Josh) Gordy, those guys are all solid guys.”
The first thing that stood out there was the order in which he mentioned his players, which could be an indication of their penciled in spots on the depth chart. Remember, even if that is the case, it’s only May, and this coaching staff is striving for competition at several positions.
The second point that jumped out was Gillhamer’s unsolicited praise for Cassius Vaughn. He believes the young cornerback is improving and making big strides. Vaughn is fast, athletic, and a solid tackler. Wherever he ends up on the depth chart, any noticeable improvement in his coverage skills could make him a valued asset in the Colts’ secondary.
So, Gillhamer and Bethea are both happy with the secondary’s progress, but is Andrew Luck impressed with them (and the defense overall)? “Absolutely,” he said. “It stinks when you throw interceptions in the red zone. I’m not happy about that. I guess the silver lining is that it’s our defense. Hopefully, we’ll get some of those during the season. The defense is playing well – fast, physical, a bunch of good-looking players out there. Big, strong. I’m excited to watch them play this year.”
Well, that all sounds great… Now, we just have to wait 80 more days until the first preseason game.
Open Mini-Camp Practice at Lucas Oil Stadium
Don’t forget the Colts will have an open Mini-Camp practice at Lucas Oil Stadium on Wednesday, June 12. Practice begins at 5:30 p.m., but the doors will open at 2:00. From the team website:
Doors will open at 2 p.m. for fans to enjoy access to the field, give-a-ways, half price concessions and more. Practice is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to bring a school supply to donate at the event for Indy BackPack Attack, a local program that provides school supplies for students in need. Additional details will be provided at www.colts.com in the coming weeks.
Access to the field. Sounds fun. We will post another reminder as the date draws nearer.
In the meantime, a quick shout out to the Colts’ neighbors, just a half-mile walk from Lucas Oil Stadium: GO PACERS! #BeatTheHeat
All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department.
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@DougEngland Of course, this time of year every team has about 15 all-pros, with the rest flashing pro bowl potential, having impressive showings, or putting it all together. Crash Davis probably has some clichés to offer on this topic. The teammate quotes are invariably supportive, excited, and so optimistic that they'd be borderline criminal coming from a stock broker, lawyer, or doctor. "Sir, not only will you walk again after this triple hip-replacement, but it looks to me like you'll qualify for the Olympic 4x100 relay." (Three hips? must have been some surgery...)
@Bobman1 @DougEngland Mostly, it's just interesting to see which guys stand out to their coaches an peers. No one asked either of these guys about Toler or Vaughn. They chose to bring them up. In Vaughn's case, the secondary coach might have been defending his mention of him third among cornerbacks, since he's been such an unpopular player.