Colts’ offense, defense dealing with missing parts during offseason work
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – They’re overseeing two aspects of the Indianapolis Colts’ operation that have resided at different ends of the performance spectrum.
Rob Chudzinski is in charge of an offense that has routinely ranked among the NFL’s most proficient since the arrival of Andrew Luck in 2012.
Ted Monachino directs a defense that, to put it mildly, too often has failed to pull its weight.
Yet each finds himself in a similar situation as the Colts wade through their mandatory minicamp amid the rising temperatures and ever-present expectations.
Each is working on a puzzle knowing full well there are significant pieces missing.
Chudzinski is massaging an offense that’s been without Luck, the heart and soul of that offense, throughout the entirety of the offseason, and with starting left guard Jack Mewhort, backup linemen Denzelle Good and Brian Schwenke and wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett missing practice time while dealing with injuries or rehabilitation.
It’s no surprise the Colts’ offseason work will end Thursday with Luck having not thrown a pass during his rehab from January surgery on his right shoulder. That seems to have been the plan all along.
But there’s no guarantee Luck will be ready when players reconvene for training camp July 29.
Chudzinski was asked if Luck could get up to speed for the Sept. 10 opener against the Los Angeles Rams if he misses the first week or two of training camp. Would two or three weeks of serious practice be enough?
“It has to be,’’ he said Wednesday. “We don’t have a choice. That’s what it is and that’s the way it is.
“Obviously it’s a challenge. We’re going to have to adjust and be flexible. There will be a plan to try to get those things done. If anybody can do it, Andrew can do it. We know that.’’
Monachino, meanwhile, is overseeing a defense in serious reboot mode. An ultra-active offseason shed age and underperforming players and left him with a flock of new faces, many of them rookies. There could be as many as seven new starters.
“We’re all learning each other right now,’’ Monachino said. “It’s a fun challenge.’’
That challenge has been exacerbated as injuries or rehab have kept three potential starters and one top backup off the practice field: rookie safety Malik Hooker (rehabbing from hip/groin surgery), veteran safety Clayton Geathers (neck surgery), end Kendall Langford (rehabbing from knee surgery) and lineman Hassan Ridgeway (shoulder).
Hooker, Langford and Ridgeway are expected to be ready for camp. The team hasn’t offered any type of timeline on Geathers’ return.
Monachino was adamant injuries to front-line players haven’t impeded the progress of the defense.
“Not one bit,’’ he said. “We’re going to continue moving (ahead). The install has stayed right according to plan. It hasn’t slowed us down.’’
A few of the more interesting observations from the Colts’ offensive and defensive coordinators:
- On players who have stood out during offseason work: “Experience has taught me over time sometimes guys will look great right now, but when pads come on it looks a little bit different and guys that don’t look so good right now, when pads come on they look a lot better. You reserve your judgments for later when the pads come on and when we get into preseason games.’’
- Whether the right-side of the offensive line is set with Joe Haeg at guard and Le’Raven Clark at tackle: “We’ll go into camp open-minded. There’s nothing set as far as who’s going to be on that side and playing. For the offensive line, that’s one of those positions that until the pads go on and until those guys are out there having to fight their asses off every day that you find out.’’
- On running back Robert Turbin: “I’m really pleased with Robert Turbin. He had a helluva spring. He’s really gravitated toward to leadership position.’’
- Monitoring the workload for 34-year old running back Frank Gore: “It’s a similar plan (to last season). The details are what you have to be flexible with. How many carries a game does that mean? How many days practicing? A lot of it is going to be on how he feels and how the season goes.’’
- Cornerback Vontae Davis, who’ll be a free agent at the end of the season: “The motivation individually is there for him. He knows that one way or the other he’s either going to get paid or not paid a year from now. The way he’s going to get that done is by playing at a very high level, being a ‘1’. That’s what our system requires. He’s all-in on doing that. Early in the preseason we’re going to have him do some things that are going to be telling. We’re going to have him match up with guys, just like we did during the course of (last) year.’’
- The front seven: “With that group you really can’t tell much until they’re in pads and playing against an opponent. But we’re different, I know that. We’re bigger, we’re younger, we’re stronger. We’ve got some guys that are more the rule than the exceptions around our league where a year ago we had a few more exceptions. We’re big where we need to be in there. We’re explosive where we need to be in there. With our inside linebacker group, just bringing in Jon (Bostic) and Sean (Spence) has ramped up the competition level of that group. This Jon Bostic character, he’s a guy that can do an awful lot of things very well.’’
- Simplifying the defense to accommodate the presence of so many young players: “As we got into mid- to late-January, we had a feel for where our roster was going. That’s why we did what we did, to try to simplify and try to eliminate some of the things that were causing mentals (mistakes) during the course of each game. For those young guys to step in and be able to compete and play well for us, we fully expect that to happen.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.