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INDIANAPOLIS – We already know the feelings Chris Ballard had about the defense he inherited back in January 2017.
But Ballard has also learned another key element in building a defense when the roster only allows for 53 players, and 46 dressing on game day.
“One thing I’ve really grown over the years is with guys with versatility, that can play multiple roles, especially when you get into game day, because bad things can happen on game day and you have to be able to react to it,” Ballard says.
How Ballard came to reveal this thought was after a question about Quincy Wilson and his NFL career so far.
Ballard said that that he initially didn’t know the football IQ of Wilson was at a high enough level to where the Colts have him playing around 5 different spots on their defense, if need be.
This is another reason why Ballard is so keen on finding high character players.
“Intelligent guys can do a lot a of different things for you on game day,” Ballard says. “They give you comfort if something happens, they are not going to panic and are smart enough to handle the role you have for them and it might be not be what they are not ready for, but they’ve paid enough attention for an emergency situation, if they are asked and able to get through.”
When talking about versatile Colts, you can look at every level of the defense for guys that can (or have) play multiple spots
You have Margus Hunt, Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis up front, three guys that now play in the interior, but have seen time out at defensive end before. Of course, Ben Banogu is a possibility to play some linebacker to go along with his current defensive end duties.
At linebacker, Darius Leonard was an every down WILL linebacker in 2018, but also took over some MIKE duties in sub packages.
And in the secondary the Colts have guys like Wilson, Kenny Moore and Matthias Farley providing key versatility. It’s why a guy like Marvell Tell (a college safety now turned corner) was intriguing in Round Five back in April. It’s why they thought Khari Willis was one of the top safeties in the draft.
The NFL does not have the luxury of college football where you have 85 scholarship players dressing for a game.
It’s a limit of 46 guys suiting up each week, with typically around 22 or 23 defenders available to play.
When injuries arise, you have to turn to guys that can play multiple spots in a pinch. And Ballard even likes what guys with versatility can bring from a schematic standpoint.
“A lot of our defense, because it is simple, is in the disguise,” Ballard says. “That’s an important element of it. So when you have versatile pieces on defense, it allows you to disguise even more.”
In today’s ever-changing, chess-match league, Ballard has a focus when looking to diversify and build his defense.