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INDIANAPOLIS – The last time the Colts took the playing field, Matt Eberflus had his finest hour as defensive coordinator.
A drastic shift in philosophy had the Colts tormenting the Chiefs by using gobs and gobs of man coverage.
Will that continue?
“When you play each individual opponent, you kind of look at where your coverages are set up, what’s best for that opponent and you kind of go from there,” Eberflus said on Tuesday, meeting the media for the first time since his defensive masterpiece against the Chiefs.
“In the NFL, it’s all about matchups. When you do play man-to-man coverage, you have to talk about those things and who is available to you, and also who is on the other squad. Those are things you look at every single week.”
Against Kansas City, the Colts knew they had some 1-on-1 pass rushing advantages with their defensive line going against the Chiefs offensive line. Kansas City was also nowhere near the rushing team like Houston this weekend. Lastly, the Colts the Chiefs were without the explosive WR-Tyreek Hill, and WR-Sammy Watkins left the game on the opening drive.
Just because the Colts used more than 70 percent man coverage against the Chiefs, doesn’t mean that blueprint will be in the game plan every week.
But the fact that the Colts have shown on film, they can/will play a lot of man, it makes opponents think twice when preparing for the, normally, simple Indy defense.
“I certainly think when you show different coverages, a man-matchup, a man, different types of man, when you get the variations of that, that certainly helps you,” the Indy DC said on Tuesday. “Now the key is can you adjust week-to-week and also just really do a good job of disguising your intentions, which we are always trying to do as well. Being multiple with what you are doing, but also being simple, so you can execute. We are playing with a lot of young players at all levels. I think it’s important that we have that balance, where you can be simple, but also be multiple enough to be effective.”
From a personnel standpoint, Eberflus will have his best player back this weekend.
Darius Leonard’s return does create a (good) jumble at linebacker. Anthony Walker moved over to the WILL position with Leonard out for three straight games. Rookie Bobby Okereke then stepped into the starting lineup at the MIKE position, which is where Walker typically starts.
Even though Okereke might have a few more desirable traits on passing downs, the Colts are not going to supplant him into the starting lineup for Walker.
“All 3 of those guys are going to play,” Eberflus said on Tuesday. “I thought Walker did a heck of a job coming in and replacing Darius and his role as a WILL linebacker. And then Bobby, having his first starts under his belt, obviously that was really important for his development. And he improved every single week. He got better and had his best game (against the Chiefs). I see all those guys playing and being productive in there at linebacker.”
And when the Colts go into their base defense, thus involving a SAM linebacker, it sounds like rookie E.J. Speed could be seeing some more action, as long as he fulfills what Eberflus wants in practice.
“He’s made some nice plays, along with the rest of the rookies,” Eberflus said of the 5th round pick from Tarleton State. “He’s developing. I think the way he practices and earns trust on the practice field, with his alignment, assignment and those types of things, he’ll see an increased role with that SAM position, but we will wait and see how he does this week. His playing time will be based on how he works in practice.”
Continuing on the personnel front, Eberflus is busy trying to figure out how the Colts will replace their most effective speed rusher.
Kemoko Turay’s season ending ankle injury has the Colts likely expanding the role for rookie Ben Banogu, who has some similar speed traits to Turay.
Second-year lineman Tyquan Lewis has had a very quiet start to 2019, but he could be an option out at d-end, as more of a power rusher, once his ankle injury heals.
“We will certainly ask those guys to step up and those guys know that,” Eberflus says. “I think Banogu has been practicing well for a few weeks now and I think he’s going to do well there.
“We have other guys, too, that will step up in their roles as we go and we will leave that to the practice field. The way guys practice, if they practice really well and do a nice job with the running game and also rushing the passer, those guys will see their time increase during the game.”