Chris Ballard Notebook: Colts GM Gives Current Roster Tidbits
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INDIANAPOLIS – The main focus was to explain in detail why he drafted the players he did.
But nearly two hours with Chris Ballard, inside of his draft room, also offered some intel into his current roster.
On Wednesday, we now focus more on the entire 90-man roster, with some other roster building thoughts thrown in here from Ballard.
Here were those highlights:
- A look inside of Ballard’s draft room, which is his home away from home, even during the season: There are 4 televisions in the room and a massive projector screen. The walls are filled with information on other teams, draft prospects and potential free agents. Encompassing one wall was a run-down of the entire draft, who got picked by who, with each team’s section including their needs, available cap space and who they have already signed this offseason. Another side had a team’s full 90-man roster, split by offense and defense. And another wall was covered with all the current free agents on the street, ranked by position. That wall has information on which of those players have practice squad eligibility and also a look at the best practice squad players on other teams (once the 53-man rosters get set in September).
- Chris Ballard isn’t worried about the lack of beef currently at defensive tackle. Ballard said the Colts are looking forward to watching Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis ‘battle it out’ at the three-technique defensive tackle spot, with Jihad Ward knocking on the door as well. “It’ll be a fun group to watch,” Ballard said pointing out that the Colts held their own against some elite running backs last year despite not being that much bigger at defensive tackle, compared to where they are at now. After adding Spencer Ware to the running back group after the draft, the attention has shifted to defensive tackle for the Colts to possibly add a free agent body. But Ballard seems pretty content with his current makeup there.
- The Colts priorities this offseason involved getting a bigger target on wideout (Devin Funchess), but especially bolstering a defense that is still rebuilding. Ballard hammered that point home on Tuesday: “Coming out of the draft, priority one was to continue to add to the defense. I think you know why. Really, there was one (defensive) player to build around here two years ago and that was (Clayton) Geathers. That’s it. There was not another player defensively here. It was an older defense that needed a complete re-haul. It just did…It was a complete rebuild on defense…I knew it from Day One.” Yes, the talent had to be majorly upgraded defensively. The group had to get younger. And new body types were needed for a major shift in scheme. That’s why Chris Milton, Clayton Geathers and Matthias Farley are the only defenders left from before Ballard arrived in 2017.
- Ballard noted on Tuesday that some maturity and wisdom over the years has only added to his belief in character. “When you get a team that has a team of really good guys that work, love football, are smart, they solve problems better. They just do. They figure things out when things aren’t going well.” Having said that, Ballard again pointed out that the Colts will eventually take some chances: I’d like to sit here and tell you I’m not going (to take a risk one day), but that’s not a reality. We will take some swings every once in a while. How is he going to be in the building? What’s his love for the game? How is he going to work? What’s his football intelligence? What’s his passion? How does he deal with injuries? All the things we go through, how are we going to handle him in the building? Then you have the personal character of, how is this guy going to represent our organization and our city? That’s where that big ole apple will sit out there and you’ve got to be careful with the ones you bite. We’ve got to be damn right when we take a shot. You can’t be wrong when you take a shot on a guy that has got issues.”
- In just about any media session with Ballard, the name Quincy Wilson inevitably comes up. Ballard said that Wilson is down to 192-193 pounds this spring, measuring in with around 7 percent body fat. When Wilson was drafted in 2017, those numbers hovered around 214 pounds and around 14 or 15 percent body fat. Ballard is a big fan of the versatility that Wilson can give the Colts: “The thing that is so strong about Quincy and I even understated this coming out, he’s really football smart,” Ballard said on Tuesday. “Right now, he’s playing 5 different spots back there. He will go corner, dime, nickel, little bit of safety. He can play a lot of roles for us. He’s going to compete to play corner, but on game day, he becomes very valuable, because he can play man-to-man on tight ends. That’s why having all these longer corners help you from a matchup standpoint.”
- Ballard reiterated on Tuesday the ‘bottom lines’ that the Colts have in scouting players. The biggest of that is height. “I’ll give away for some height if they are exceptional athletically and speed wise,” the GM said. “They have to have a dominant trait if they are small, undersized.” At 5-9, Kenny Moore, with a much longer wingspan than most, is one of those exceptions. The Colts are very stringent in their height, size, testing number criteria that needs to be met.
- Going back to the draft, Ballard thought the depth for high-end talent really dropped off compared to the 2018 group. When pick No. 34 rolled around, the Colts had some trade back offers again, but nothing that was too good to say no to. “We had a couple offers. They were good, but it wasn’t blow you away, first-round pick next year,” Ballard said. But getting another second rounder in trading out of Round One was an offer that Ballard liked: “I thought that was a good deal for us to get a (2nd round pick) next year. I don’t care how good your team is, every year you have to continue to fuel talent in. The only way you are going to do that is with the number of picks you have. Unless you just know you are getting a superstar, it’s rare for me that we will ever move up.”
- One thing that Ballard has learned over the years is how valuable versatile guys, especially defenders, are on game day. Hence the reason for the picks of Ben Banogu, Khari Willis, Marvell Tell III, etc in 2019. “One thing I’ve really grown over the years is with guys with versatility, that can play multiple roles, especially when you get into game day, because bad things can happen on game day,” Ballard said. “You have to be able to react to it. Intelligent guys can do a lot a of different things for you on game day. They give you comfort if something happens. They are not going to panic and are smart enough to handle the role you have for them and they are not ready for, but they’ve paid enough attention in an emergency situation if they are able to asked and get through."
- Here are injury updates on Darius Leonard and a handful of other Colts going into OTAs