INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Ballard had not had the job for more than 24 hours before he knew.
Holy bleep, this defense needs an overhaul.
The change first began in 2017 with the Colts deciding to part ways with many veterans north of the age of 30. The next offseason a major shift systematically came, as Ballard had enough of the 3-4 scheme under Chuck Pagano. Ballard desired a 4-3 system, with an emphasis on speed playing inside on the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium
Over time, Ballard has slowly made a seismic change to the personnel and look of the Indy defense.
“Really there was one player to build around two years ago and it was (Clayton) Geathers. And that’s it. There was not another player defensively here,” Ballard says of the Indy defense when he arrived back in January 2017.
“It was an older defense that needed a complete rehaul. It just did.”
It did need overhauling, with the hope now that the growing pains we have continued to see on that side of the ball will begin to subside in Year Three under Matt Eberflus.
A continued theme has been to get younger, and the Colts definitely have that look defensively.
Let’s throw out a projected starting 11 (and their ages) for the Colts defense in 2020:
DE-Justin Houston (31)
DT-DeForest Buckner (26)
DT-Grover Stewart (26)
DE-Kemoko Turay (24)
LB-Bobby Okereke (23)
LB-Darius Leonard (24)
LB-Anthony Walker (24)
CB-Rock Ya-Sin (23)
CB-Kenny Moore (24)
S-Malik Hooker (23)
S-Khari Willis (23)
That’s an average of 24.6 years old, with Houston, Stewart and Walker the only 2021 unrestricted free agents of this group.
Guys like Denico Autry (28) and Marvell Tell (23) could well be starting/playing huge roles as well. You have other reserve options in Sheldon Day (25), Tyquan Lewis (25), Al-Quadin Muhammad (24), Ben Banogu (24) and George Odum (26).
With Clayton Geathers no longer on the roster, the Colts’ longest tenured defensive player is…Malik Hooker, who was drafted in 2017.
Ballard has wanted more interchangeable parts defensively, knowing how important that is on game day in today’s NFL.
The GM knows that unit’s play must take strides forward with the Colts not playing at a playoff level last season, specifically in limiting big plays and creating more turnovers.
Acquiring DeForest Buckner should unquestionably impact every level of the Colts defense and was another sign of necessary change.
“Walking in here three years ago, we had a lot of work to do on this roster just to fill some homegrown players, especially on the defensive side,” Ballard says.
That work has led to the ultimate overhaul.
Will it lead to better, more consistent, results?