INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Two weeks of training camp have done nothing to diminish Chuck Pagano’s assessment of what has been a defensive liability.
The defensive line? Not bad. More to the point, pretty darned good.
“We’ve got as good a room as we’ve ever had since we’ve been here,’’ Pagano said Thursday morning after putting his Indianapolis Colts through a joint practice with the Detroit Lions. “Lot of good football players in there. Great competition.’’
That comes on the heels of Pagano gushing about the defensive line’s potential during the offseason.
“If they come back and everybody is healthy, we’re going to probably say goodbye to some guys that’ll end up getting picked up and probably be in a rotation or be starting somewhere,’’ Pagano said in May.
That was in reference to the Colts likely parting ways with viable players when rosters are cut from 90 to the regular-season limit of 53 Sept. 2.
The Colts carried six defensive linemen on their active roster last season, but the quality of the current depth might convince them to expand that number.
Pagano’s optimism remained steadfast Thursday after the team released veteran end Kendall Langford, who opened camp on the physically unable to perform list while still recovering from knee surgery.
“He did a heckuva job for us,’’ Pagano said. “He’s a warrior.’’
While it’s natural to consider how Langford might have fit in with a defense that has undergone massive change from a year ago – there could be as many as eight new starters – it’s worth pointing out he never was a factor as coordinator Ted Monachino mixed and matched his personnel during the offseason.
That’s when free agents Johnathan Hankins, Al Woods and Margus Hunt entered the position room. They were followed by another newcomer, fourth-round draft pick Grover Stewart.
That quartet boosted returning talent that included Henry Anderson, Hassan Ridgeway, David Parry, and T.Y.McGill.
The focus on upgrading the defensive front was evident as soon as Chris Ballard settled into his new general manager’s chair. The Colts had to get better along the offensive line. They had to get better along the defensive line.
Since Pagano’s arrival in 2012, the defense ranked 20th or lower in four of five seasons. It was 30th last season. The run defense has been especially vulnerable, ranking 25th or worse four times.
Perhaps they’ve finally gotten it right.