Colts Notebook: New Assistant Coaches Meet The Media
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INDIANAPOLIS – A bit inexperienced, yet filled with innovation and the need to develop young talent.
Does that sum up the 2018 coaching staff of the Indianapolis Colts?
Earlier this week, the new coordinators for the Colts (Nick Sirianni on offense, Matt Eberflus on defense and Bubba Ventrone on defense) along with assistant coaches met the media for the first time in 2018.
Here are 10 takeaways from the coaches giving their insights on their respective sides of the ball/position groups:
-Matt Eberflus breaks down D: Make no mistake about it, the Colts want linebackers that can cover and move in speed, first and foremost, in this new defensive scheme.
“We are looking for guys that can play nickel defense, can cover in space and zone, can man cover,” Eberflus says. “Athletic, speed players that can affect the pass.”
That was the theme from Eberflus---all about finding defenders that can play in space and handle coverage responsibilities, as opposed to seeking out bulkier personnel to control the run game.
It’s all about ‘rush and cover’ for Eberflus, as he prides himself on implementing simpler defensive scheme.
“The defense is not based on a lot of things,” the first-year defensive coordinator says. “We do very few things but are detailed in what we do. That’s what we are looking for. We are never going to throw a lot of things at a lot of people. We are going to do very few things and do them very well. And we are going to wash them out, comb them out and do them the right way.
“It’s about playing fast and playing physical. The more stimuli you give somebody, they slow down. The less you give them, the more you drill them, the same things over and over again, the faster they play. You are going to see fast and execution.”
-Toughness entering offensive line room: The Colts have definitely upgraded the talent of their offensive line group in 2018.
But that’s not the only thing that has changed inside of the room.
New line coach Dave DeGuglilemo has coached veterans G-Matt Slauson (108 career starts) and OT-Austin Howard (88 career starts) before and said there was a specific desire the Colts had in bringing both of those guys in.
“They are two of the more tougher, physical guys I’ve ever coached,” DeGuglilemo says of Slauson and Howard.
“I think the guys that we are bringing in here are suited to what we are looking for---changing a little bit of the personality of the room maybe.”
-Must protect the meal ticket: When DeGuglilemo walks into the building for work at 3:45 a.m. (which he says is a time he enjoys starting his day), there’s one thing on his mind.
DeGuglilemo knows the task at hand. In fact, two years ago, he tried to get the offensive line job in Indy (which eventually went to Joe Philbin).
‘Gug’ wanted to have the responsibility of protecting Andrew Luck and work for an organization with a strong league-wide reputation.
“That’s the one thing that increases the pressure in our group,” DeGuglilemo says of needing to keep Luck upright. “When you have a guy, especially a guy that’s been injured standing back there, that’s the man that lets you eat. If you want to eat, you take care of the meal tickets. That’s the way it goes.”
When it comes to opening up run lanes, DeGuglilemo says the Colts will not be pigeonholed as strictly a zone scheme team or a gap scheme bunch. They will use both.
-Nick Sirianni talks Jacoby Brissett: Yes, when the Colts open up OTAs next week, the expectation is Jacoby Brissett will be taking the first-team reps.
This new staff continues to like what Brissett brings.
“It’s rare to have your backup who has played so much football,” the young offensive coordinator says. “It’s exciting that he’s a young guy that can really develop.
“I really like Jacoby. He’s really mentally sharp. Being around him every day in the film room, I’m noticing that more and more. The talent that he has to be able to throw the football, he’s talented. I saw that on tape last year. I’m obviously very excited that he’s backing up Andrew. Not many teams are in a position where they have 2 guys they can count on. He’s really extremely talented and that’s showing more and more every time I get to see him on the field.”
In non-QB talk, Sirianni has liked what he’s seen from young receivers Chester Rogers (42 career catches in 2 years) and K.J. Brent (0 games played in 2 NFL seasons).
-Robert Mathis the coach: It was odd to see Robert Mathis walking in with the other coaches to meet the media. You are used to seeing Mathis at his corner locker room post offering short, yet profound, soundbites during the season.
Those similar soundbites came earlier this week as Mathis is enjoying his second season as a defensive assistant.
“Can’t get away from it,” Mathis said with a smile. “I’ve just come to that conclusion, just can’t get away from it. I’m enjoying it, enjoying the new challenge and embracing it. I’m loving it. We’re back to the old scheme and new beginnings.”
Mathis says he hasn’t made up his mind just yet if this is something he wants to do for the foreseeable future.
“Right now I’m loving it and enjoying every minute,” the Colts’ all-time sack leader says of the long-term outlook on his coaching gig. “I’ll let the chips fall where they may be.”
-Breaking down the Colts linebackers: Sliding over to new linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi, he offered some insight into the 3 linebacker positions for the Colts in this new defense.
At WILL (weakside), this is your most athletic linebacker. Derrick Brooks is the epitome for this position. The Colts view Darius Leonard as the ideal fit for the WILL spot.
At MIKE (middle), the Colts are looking for a bigger body. Brian Urlacher was the name Borgonzi threw out as the MIKE prototype. It remains to be seen who emerges for the Colts at the MIKE, a position that will log a lot of snaps on all 3 downs.
At SAM (strongside), this is a position the Colts will only have on the field when the offense is in a base look, typically just on first and second down. Look for the SAM to play around 20-ish snaps a game, as it will sub out when the Colts go to their nickel look.
-Chris Ballard’s loyalty evident during Josh McDaniels’ fiasco: Amidst all the chaos and shock of Josh McDaniels turning his back on the Colts, Chris Ballard had some immediate business to take care of.
On the night of Tuesday, February 6, once Ballard fielded that infamous call from McDaniels, he headed straight down the hallway to meet with the 3 assistant coaches who were under contract to coach under McDaniels.
Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, defensive line coach Mike Phair were all in the building that Tuesday night, seemingly planning for McDaniels’ arrival the next morning.
Speaking for the first time this week about the craziness surrounding McDaniels’ decision, all 3 Colts assistants praised Ballard’s reassurance and loyalty to them.
“I was so excited to be here because I wanted to be here,” DeGuglielmo, who along with the other 2 assistants did say McDaniels called the coaches after informing Ballard. “I didn’t come here for any particular individual, but now I feel so fortunate I get to work with Frank (Reich). Everything everyone says about the man is true. At that point (when McDaniels said no), I’d met the Irsay’s, met a lot of people in the building who made me feel very comfortable in the week leading up to that happening.’’
-Staff eager to work with Kemoko Turay: Both Mathis and new defensive line coach Mike Phair sound pretty excited about rookie Kemoko Turay.
While Phair couldn’t pinpoint why Turay didn’t have more impressive sack numbers in college, they see the traits that separated the Rutgers defensive end back at January’s Senior Bowl.
“We call him gumby,” Phair says of Turay. “He has some of those movements that you look for. He’s just really flexible. He can really twerk his body and stay off the ground.”
Mathis says Turay is an “untapped oil well” that the Colts must develop.
-Bubba back with Vinny: New special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone is 35 years old, some 10 years younger than Adam Vinatieri, the Hall of Fame kicker he is coaching in the third phase of the game.
Ventrone comes to the Colts after working with the Patriots. The new special teams coordinator actually played with Vinatieri, in New England, back in 2005.
“We’ve had a few discussions about the age thing, whenever I came in. We initially spoke and we had a good conversation,” Ventrone said of the extremely rare discrepancy in age between coach and player. “I pretty much laid out what I expected from him, he did the same, and it’s been a good working environment so far.”
Ventrone mentioned the names of Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Chester Rogers and Josh Ferguson as options in the open return game competition.
-Tom Rathman comes in highly regarded by Frank Gore: Rathman is the new veteran running backs coach in Indianapolis.
The former Nebraska running back used to coach Frank Gore, and the Colts’ starting back for the last 3 years raves about Rathman.
“Tough people don’t let you down,” was Rathman’s quote about his coaching philosophy.
Rathman has a younger group of backs headlined by Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines.
With Mack, Rathman appreciated the toughness Mack showed last season in playing through a shoulder injury. Mack should be back for full participation come Training Camp.
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