The tumultuous events of the last few days have raised more questions than we have answers to. Will Peyton Manning be healty enough to play next year? Or even at all? Will Jim Caldwell remain as the HC? Or will he take another position in the franchise? Or will he be let go completely? Will we take Luck? Will we trade?
Unfortunately we have no clue to the answers of those questions. Fortunately though, we have all the options in the world. At the end of the season that's what you want. You want options. You don't want to be stuck between a rock and a hard place while you're trying to rebuild your franchise. You want the options to do whatever is feasibly possible. And for that Colts fans should breathe and relax knowing that whatever the future may indeed bring, we'll have the luxury of picking our own destiny.
The offense has been the main concern recently since there's so much uncertainity at several positions. But I would like to take a moment and focus on our defense. Larry Coyer was uncerimoniously ousted as the DC the week before we met with Tom Brady and friends. Mike Murphy, being the linebackers coach for the last 14 years, stepped up and for the most part has the Colts back to playing our traditional Cover-2. And surprisingly it's been effective. Not top ten defense effective, but still what we're used to. Keeping the ball in front of you, flying to the ball carrier, finally understanding your zone assignments (Here's looking at you Lacey) and above all else getting to the QB. Teams still might sustain long drives against the Colts but our redzone efficiency is on the upside again, making teams work for everything they get and holding them to field goals inside the 20. Nothing speaks bigger to me in that regard then Bethea stonewalling MJD on fourth and one.
But now, with no GM, confusion at HC.. What will the state of our defense be in? Will we keep Murphy at DC? Resign Mathis? What if the new GM wants to revamp the defense into an entirely new scheme? Do we see Freeney exit because we want to switch to a 3-4? Do we start drafting corners who can play more man? Do we keep running with the Cover-2 scheme?
It's no secret that we've stuck with the Cover-2 because Bill Polian was a huge advocator for anything Tony Dungy. Even said recently that he thinks that Dungy was in the top 3 for the best defensive minds to ever have been in the NFL. In my personal opinion, I believe in the Cover-2.. when it's working. But I also believe in adjustments, small.. But adjustments nonetheless.
At the end of writing this article, I really wish I had the answers to give to you all about what we're doing and where we're going. But I don't, and sadly I don't even think Irsay knows right now. But like I said in the beginning of this piece.. Just be thankful that you have all the options in the world when it comes to the problems that are going to need to be addressed. And until then.. I just hope it's as fun to speculate as it is to watch Peyton Manning throw touchdown passes.
In the end, I just hope they go with a DC who has a clear vision and is proven to be good at what he believes in, no matter what the scheme. And, unlike with Coyer, I hope they provide the new DC with the type of players he needs to use his scheme properly instead of forcing him to continue a Cover 2 even if it's not what he believes in.
I think our defensive scheme depends on whether Peyton comes back, believe it or not. If he does, don't change the D now, since we'd be going on a few championship runs. If he doesn't, I would be OK with starting over if we have a new QB.
I agree that Polian really loved Dungy, but Dungy was Irsay's guy first, so it's unlikely they will switch from Cover-2. Also, I hear where you are coming from about believing in Cover-2 when it works. Here's the thing...Coyer also made "adjustments," and they ruined what could've been a competent defensive unit. With Cover-2, you are all in or all out. Go totally vanilla and keep everything in front of you, or completely switch to a different MO. Anything in-between is bastardized and ineffective, IMO.
Tell that to Monte Kiffin. He ran the Cover 2 best and his teams make adjustments and don't look vanilla at all compared to how the Colts typically run the Cover 2.
@lefpsyd Well I should clarified in the article that when I mentioned adjustments I was referring to in game adjustments, not making changes to the overall scheme and how it's executed. This is something I'm working on for a later fan post but I believe how Coyer bastardized the Cover-2 was giving the corners to many assignments and too many responsibilities to cover which is why they weren't able to perform at a high level. After Murphy took over I noticed that Lacey's speed to read who was in his zone increased massively and he was able to go out and just fly to the ball carrier. But they haven't just been running the Cover-2 the whole time, they'll run some man coverage in there as well. But the difference is it changes from play to play. Under Coyer I believe the corners were asked to essentially do both on any giving play. Which was causing them to be lost and basically helpless out there.
I think our defensive roster is as close to being able to switch to a 3-4 as it has ever been. Nevis is the perfect size to play DE. Mookie has been getting better and larger at NT. We could resign Brayton and Anderson for the other DE, or find someone in FA. Freeney and Hughes are a good size and speed to play OLB in a 3-4. It could shed his bust level. Freeney could just be the fourth rusher pretty much every play, but he has the speed to cove the flats. We would need to focus on getting some secondary help, but that is a big focus now, too.
The beauty of the 3-4 is how much cheaper it is. You can always find and develop edge rushers for a 3-4. The DEs are just undersized DTs, of which we have an abundance. The guys are much easier to replace, so you never run into a 19 million cap number like you do with premier DEs in a 4-3. I would be happy to put up with a two year transition. Our defense would probably still give up fewer yards in year one.
The other reason I think it's time to switch from Cover-2 is that Brees, Brady, and Rodgers all shred it, because they have large, athletic TEs. It's tough to beat those teams when we make it easy on their QBs.
@PeytonTheManning Premier pass-rushing OLB and elite NT don't come cheap either.
@flores_salicis the beauty is that you don't need a premier veteran pass rushing OLB. You can quickly find young replacements who are fast but a little small to play DE. There are quite a few each season. Baltimore and Pittsburgh cycle through them every few seasons without missing a beat. You don't have to resign them for huge deals like 4-3 DEs. I do agree on the NT. If you find a great NT, you can't let him leave. That is the most vital position in the 3-4, and they are much more rare. You can't usually find a true NT in the draft. The fact remains that the entire defense is much cheaper to assemble and replace talent. That is why Pittsburgh has had such a strong defense for so long.
Something to consider, if they are ever going to make a drastic change like Cover 2 into a 3-4, is that if Manning is not on the roster next season, we would expect the team to struggle anyways, so making next season the first for a defensive scheme change wouldn't make things much worse than they already will be (as the team record goes).
@mattshedd Good point, but Wade Philips makes a huge difference. Dom Capers had similar results in Green Bay. Past those two guys it's hard to think of a DC who honestly could transition this team quickly.
Switching aside, the real key for the defense is finding some depth along the secondary. They need another strong safety and our corners are shaky. The DT situation could improve certainly but with Nevis returning and the solid play from Brayton and Anderson the D-line isn't that bad. If Mathis returns I'll feel much better up front.
@coltsauth_todd@mattshedd I also heard that Wade Phillips didn't play a lot of convention 3-4 fronts in either Dallas or Houston. And that Capers does a lot of different kinds of fronts too in Green Bay to make it work with the personnel he has. Which I guess is basically the same thing. We need to find a good coordinator who can adjust for personnel. ...Which pretty much applies to whatever scheme you want to run.
@coltsauth_todd@mattshedd I'm not 100% we don't already have two solid corners in Powers and Lacey. The Cover 2, if I remember correctly, puts less of an emphasis on corner than most schemes. Based on Lacey's improvement after Coyer was fired, I'd say he can do well with the right coach... and it appears Murphy could be the guy. I'm sure I wasn't the only guy who saw him flying all over the field making plays. When he actually knows what he's doing and isn't confused, I think he could be a pretty good #2 CB. Of course, with today's pass-happy league, it's never a bad thing to pick up another good corner.
@TheGreatMisdirect@mattshedd You have two decent corners. Dependability is an issue. I'd argue you need 4 solid corners in this defense as there are always injury problems and you want competition for positions.
You are correct the Cover 2 and more specifically the Tampa 2 variant take the pressure off corners. Any zone scheme does to a degree.
I'm hopeful Murphy gets a shot as well. As much as its maligned the Tampa 2 served Indy well for many years.
I really hope they stick with the same defense...it would doom us to a couple years of adjustment if not. That doesn't sound fun
Sure it would, but if Manning isn't back we should expect the team to struggle a lot anyway for at least 1 or maybe 2 seasons. That would be the perfect time to try the switch if they are thinking about it. Especially if there is an outside GM and a new coaching staff in place.