Chris Ballard Notebook: Need To Find A Dominant Edge Rusher
Chris Ballard Notebook: Need To Find A Dominant Edge Rusher
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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s always a candid conversation when Chris Ballard talks about his football team.
The Colts general manager did that on Friday, when he joined The Dan Dakich Show to cover a variety of topics.
Here are some key takeaways from Ballard’s time with Dakich:
- On the locker room and culture impacting going after a Le’Veon Bell or Antonio Brown: “Well, first I can’t comment on either one. But let me say this, it is important. I just think you are what you bring into your building. We have a great head coach. We have a great staff. But you make their jobs a lot harder and it’s a long season, and it shows up. Am I against adding a player that is a difference maker on Sunday that I know is going to help us win games? No. I would absolutely add that player. He’s got to fit into our culture. He has to fit into doing things right. He has to fit in about being team first. He has to be accountable to his teammates. They have to fit that criteria. Are we going to be perfect doing it? No. I’m not perfect. And we are going to screw some things up and make some mistakes, but that’s one thing that we are going to error on the side of caution when it comes to who we add to our locker room.”
- On if he feels the culture is in place enough for the locker room to handle ‘this guy’: “I don’t know if we are there yet. We are very young. We have a very good combination of veteran and youth leadership. And we have a guy in the building, Brian Decker, I know you have probably heard his story, military, he does a really good job of helping to develop the leadership with these young guys. I don’t know if we are quite there yet to really absorb. Just look at my past, I go all the way back to Kingsville, Texas, where we had a team full of players that had had problems and second, third and fourth chances, that we took on. We’ve got to make sure as an organization, and our team leadership has to make sure they accept them, too. Ultimately, we are going to make the decision. But they’ve got to be able to know that we are bringing this guy into the building and he’s got to fit in and he’s got to understand he’s got to fit in, but you all are going to have to help him fit in. I don’t know if we are quite there yet. I think we are getting close, but I don’t think we are quite there yet. (Dan asks Chris, ‘How do you know?’). Ballard: “Good question. That’s a gut one. You continue to be around them. I do think we are in a better place than we were a year ago, where I didn’t think the locker room understood what I was wanting out of them. Just because you win, doesn’t mean you have it right. You have to keep doing the right things. We are not taking a victory lap. Come on, man. We ain’t doing that. We are going to start over at square one. That’s what you do every year. Last year is over. Great year. Good to look back on when we are done, but that’s over. Teams change. They do. And every year is a new year. I think the more leadership that we can continue to bring into the building…we’ve got to continue to bring those right guys in when we do. When you get enough of them, in my mind, it’s when you have 10-12 really core players, who are leaders and understand what they are doing, understand how you do business and are not intimidated or scared to call other players out to do that, that’s when I’ll have a good feeling of knowing. We are getting there.”
- On the biggest need: “Well, I know what the fans they think it is. Receiver. ‘We have to get another wideout.’ I get it. We all want one. I would love to go pluck one off of a tree and I would love that. (Dontrellle) Inman was good for us. Ryan Grant was good for us early until he got nicked up and then just kept getting nicked up to where he couldn’t get back to speed again. I want to continue to add defensively, to the talent level on defense. I still believe you win games with good defenses. (Scoring) is at a record pace with the numbers. It’s incredible what offenses are doing. But I just think there’s points in the season, where you get into the playoffs, you are going to have to stop people. You have to get stops. That eventually is what is going to allow us to get over the hump.”
- On Deon Cain being this team’s No. 2 receiver in 2019: “We think he’s good enough, but he hasn’t played and he’s coming off a knee injury. We love Deon Cain. We think Deon has big upside. To say he’s going to be that guy next year, that’s (Dan asks what defines a good No. 2 WR). Ballard: “Somebody that allows you, if T.Y. (Hilton) is getting doubled, he can win the single. He can win the one-on-one consistently. To me, that’s a really good No. 2. That came out of the tight end position for us this year. That was (Eric) Ebron. So if you’re going to put two on T.Y., well then, good, we are going to hurt you with our tight end position. When you can get that No. 2 wideout, have a tight end and have T.Y….that’s what made Kansas City so difficult. Because you have Travis Kelce, you have Tyreek Hill and you have Sammy Watkins, that made them very difficult to defend.”
- On regretting saying the ‘rivalry is back on’ with the Patriots: “No. To be honest with you, I didn’t get the rivalry here in town. I didn’t. I traded with them right away. I traded Dwayne Allen and our working relationship had always been very good with New England. We trade Dwayne Allen and the sky is falling, ‘They traded with the Patriots.’ I’m like, ‘What’s the big deal? They are just like any other team in the league.’ And then we make the trade for Jacoby (Brissett). Then after the incident with Josh (McDaniels) and seeing the passion that they have for the rivalry with New England, I got it. I got it. And I’m all in with the rivalry. Damn right. We’ve got to make it a rivalry. The rivalry is back on, but we have to make it a rivalry. They’ve been whipping our ass here for a while. We have to make it a rivalry.”
- On what needs to happen to improve the defense: “We have to continue to upgrade the talent. I thought our front played good football, but having a dominant, dominant edge rusher, which is almost like that wideout we talk about, it’s not easy to find, we have to find him. When will we find him? Maybe the draft this year, maybe free agency. We will keep searching and throwing darts to try and find the right traits in that rusher. But I think in this league, when you can have a dominant rusher that the other team really has to on Monday come in and game plan for, and really more than one, to me, you want two or three along the front, that would be the No. 1 priority in my mind going forward. You have to be able to play, we are primarily a zone coverage team, but we are going to play man-to-man, and you have to be able to lock up. There’s going to be times on third down and in points in the game, where you have to lock up and play man-to-man and you have to win. Those are areas that we want to continue to search, look and grow and get better.”
- On if he is comfortable about the Colts current running back situation: “Yeah, I like our group. And we actually didn’t get to see (Jonathan) Williams, the 4th (back). We just couldn’t get him (active for game day)…We think he’s got some talent, too. Between Marlon (Mack), (Nyheim) Hines and (Jordan) Wilkins and Williams, we think we have a pretty good four set.”
- On his thoughts about overtime/replay rules in the NFL: “I wouldn’t change overtime. Stop them (if you lose the coin toss). Stop them. (Ballard doesn’t want replay expanded, think replay is hurting officials). I think we are putting even more on the officials. I would rather go back the other way. They have big brother up watching them all the time and now you are scared to make a call. You are timid. Let them work and make the call.”
- On if he could see this offensive line growing together: “Yes. (Mark) Glowinski is (a free agent) so we have to see where that’s going. Is it set? Do I think we have winning players? Yes, I think we do. I say this all the time. I think you have to go into the draft with 10 (offensive linemen), not 5, 10 that you know you can play with. Injuries happen. Things that you don’t anticipate happening happen, so you have to go in there with 10, not only from a standpoint of knowing that you have 10 linemen that are capable, but when you add the rookies into the mix, you want your second and third team lines in the preseason to be functional, so your backup quarterback can actually get some meaningful reps in games. I think we still have work to do in that area.. We have Evan Boehm, who we took off the practice squad in LA and ended up playing pretty good. (Josh Andrews), we took from Philly. Still have Joe Haeg, who we really like and can play all 5 spots along the line, which makes him really valuable. Le’Raven Clark is kind of at a prove it point, where he really has to really prove it this year going into the 4th year. So I think we have a little bit of depth, but I want to continue to add to that.”