Colts’ overall ineffectiveness testing Chuck Pagano’s patience?
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – After three weeks of injury-impeded training camp and two largely ineffective preseason games, it seems as if Chuck Pagano has seen enough.
More to the point, he doesn’t like what he’s seen of his Indianapolis Colts, and that has little to do with consecutive losses.
“We know we’ve got a lot to work on,’’ Pagano said following Saturday night’s 24-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
The offense? What offense? Scott Tolzien, the man in charge until Andrew Luck returns, has directed eight series that have generated just 131 total yards, seven first downs, one field goal and seven punts.
“We can’t move the ball down the field. We can’t get first downs. It’s pitiful,’’ Pagano said. “I don’t care who’s in there.
“We’ve got to execute. We’ve got to be efficient. You’ve got to be able to move the ball.’’
The offense is averaging just 247.5 yards per game and 4.1 yards per play. The inability to convert on third down – 5-of-30, 16.7 percent – has sabotaged continuity.
“As the quarterback, I put a lot of that on myself,’’ Tolzien said. “It’s my job to move the chains. No, it’s not good enough.’’
The defense? Sure, it’s produced three takeaways against Detroit and Dallas, but it was beyond discouraging to watch the ease with which the Cowboys abused a Colts’ defense that had most of its front-line parts in place. Only rookie safety Malik Hooker didn’t play, so we can absolve the first-round pick from any blame in a first half that saw Dallas pile up 281 total yards and 16 first downs.
Special teams has been fine with Adam Vinatieri being Adam Vinatieri, Jeff Locke adequately replacing Pat McAfee and rookie Thomas Hennessy stepping in for long-snapper Matt Overton.
But as the preseason has unfolded, Pagano’s frustration seemingly has increased.
Saturday night, he quickly pivoted from praising quarterback Stephen Morris’ handling of limited and late reps to questioning the temperament of the roster.
“He’s a pro. He’s a man,’’ Pagano said of Morris. “We need a lot more grown men in that locker room, a lot more grown men on this football team.’’
The offseason has been one of massive overhaul, which included the retirement Robert Mathis, Joe Reitz and McAfee, and Dwayne Allen’s trade to New England. General manager Chris Ballard’s handiwork also consisted of cutting or not re-signing several aging or overpriced veterans: D’Qwell Jackson, Mike Adams, Art Jones, Trent Cole, Erik Walden and Overton.
The byproduct? A roster teeming with new faces, including 25 rookies. Half of the 90-player roster is composed of players who are Colts for the first time.
Progress during camp has been impeded as injuries – some minor, some not – have kept players off the field. Center Ryan Kelly is expected to miss at least the first month of the season after undergoing foot surgery. Tight end Erik Swoope is out indefinitely following arthroscopic knee surgery.
A spate of injuries – hamstrings, shoulders, groins, this and that – have limited the available of wideouts Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett and Chester Rogers; Hooker; cornerback Rashaan Melvin; rookie running back Marlon Mack; linebackers Jon Bostic, Antonio Morrison and Sean Spence; and guard Joe Haeg.
Pagano’s irritation over the NFL’s restricted offseason access to players and players missing extended time bubbled to the surface last week. He was specifically asked about Moncrief and Dorsett.
“We need them out there,’’ he said. “We need them out there. Again, you’d like to have them all out here and it makes it tough, but you’ve got to work and you’ve got to practice.
“Guys have got to push through. We’ve had our rash of stuff, but you’ve got to keep going, you can’t stop.’’
That brings us back to the Dallas game, which wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated. The Cowboys piled up huge edges in total yards (476-265), first downs (31-14) and rushing yards (160-59).
The run defense was an area that caught Pagano’s eye.
“We didn’t tackle very good,’’ he said. “We gave up too many rush yards. If we can’t get that fixed, it’s going to be a long year, so we’ve got a lot to work on that.’’
And then there’s an offense that’s gotten very little done. The only two offseason TDs have been generated by Morris in the fourth quarter, and one came on the final play of the Lions game.
“You’ve got to be able to move the ball offensively,’’ Pagano said. “Put together some drives, get first downs, move the ball down the field and put points on the board.
“If you can’t put points on the board, it’s going to be hard to win games.’’