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Colts defense looking to apply pressure under new defensive coordinator

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – It’s fitting the Indianapolis Colts’ defense moving forward is predicated on pressure.

The reason: the pressure is on Ted Monachino, the new coordinator, and Chuck Pagano, who brought in Monachino to replace Greg Manusky, to put a more reliable defense on the field this season.

“We love pressure,’’ Monachino said, adding, “I’m a pressure guy. I think the best pass defense is a good pass rush and that’s where we’re going to begin in the system.’’

He went on to elaborate pressure comes in many forms. Maybe it’s primarily produced by outside linebackers Robert Mathis and Trent Cole in the base 3-4. Maybe Monachino, like Manusky before him, will have to be creative and generate pressure by bringing a fourth – or fifth – rusher, and vary who and from where they attack the quarterback.

Regardless the method, the results must improve.

In three of Pagano’s four seasons, the defense – his defense – has ranked 19th or lower in total yards and points allowed.  Against the run, it’s ranked 25th, 18th, 26th and 29th.

Most concerning was the lack of a steady pass rush last season. After generating 42 with Mathis in 2013 when he led the league with a Colts-record 19.5 and 41 without him in ’14, it dipped to 35 in ’15. That tied for 10th-fewest in the NFL. Of the 11 teams with 35 or fewer, none reached the playoffs or had a winning record.

Monachino’s message of aggression has met receptive ears.

“No nonsense and he’s very attacking,’’ offered Mathis. “That’s his theory. He’s going to dictate to you before you dictate to him.’’

Added Cole, who contributed just 3 sacks last season: “I feel like this defense is more of an attack-style defense, which is exciting for a guy in my situation. I’m known as a pass rusher.’’

Mathis is 35 and in his 14th season, and continues to defy Father Time. He spent the early portion of last season completing his recovering from a torn Achilles that forced him to miss the ’14 season, but still shared the team lead with 7 sacks.

Monachino insisted Mathis “has that dominant trait as a pass rusher and we’ve got to make sure that he does that as often as possible. The more we can do with him the better.

“Now, there are going to be times that we ask Rob to do some tough things that Rob isn’t really cut out for, but for us to be multiple enough and to have enough variety in the system, we’ve got to do some of those things.

“But we would prefer to have Robert going forward as often as possible.’’

Ditto, the entire defense.

The Colts will remain an offense-driven team as long as Andrew Luck is under center, but the defense must be more dependable.

Monachino worked with Pagano in Baltimore, so his addition to the staff surprised no one after Manusky was fired.

Neither should anyone be surprised the Colts’ defense is a Pagano-Monachino collaboration. It occasionally will flip from a 3-4 front to a 4-3 to maximize the available talent.

“It’s certainly not Ted Monachino’s defense,’’ Monachino said. “This is the Colts defense.

“Chuck and I, we have known each other for a long time and the first thing we have in common is a very similar philosophy of how defense is played . . . you want to be sound in everything you do, and as a reaction to what the offense gives you, you want to make sure that you have enough bullets in your holster to be able to take care of a game.

“But going into this part of the process, every time I open my mouth, (Pagano’s) voice should come out in the meeting room. He’s been crystal clear and I’ve been clear about the things that I would like to see added into the system.’’

What should fans anticipate?

“You should be able to expect simple and sound,’’ Monachino said. “You should be able to expect fast and physical. You should be able to expect that all of our guys are going to do what they do best most often.’’

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