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INDIANAPOLIS – This is the system and scheme Chris Ballard loves.
He wanted this defense implemented in making a coaching change following the 2017 season.
And even though the Colts defense regressed late in the 2019 season, Ballard is still a strong supporter of Matt Eberflus’ core principles.
Giving up ‘dink and dunk’ is okay, says Ballard.
But giving up the big plays, along with not creating enough turnovers, are areas the Colts must improve.
“When I’m in the (press) box watching our games, if a team goes 80 (yards) on us, dinking and dunking the ball down the field, I can live with that,” Ballard says. “What I can’t live with is us giving us shots. Houston (game)? Five (big plays). That can’t happen.
“Giving up explosive plays gets your ass beat. If you look at the tight games we lost, that’s what happened.”
Late November losses to the Texans and Titans were crippling, and the allowance of big plays cost the Colts dearly.
That was one area Ballard stressed when sitting down with Eberflus after the 2019 season ended.
The other aspect of the defense that Ballard wants to improve on is taking the ball away. Finishing tied for 10th in the NFL with 23 takeaways this season wasn’t enough for Ballard (the Colts ranked 10th in takeaways in 2018, too, but had 26 forced turnovers).
“We’re not taking the ball away at a rate that we need to, to be successful,” Ballard says. “We have to be better at that, and that falls on me, too. I’ve got to find players that can take the ball away.
“We have not done that at a level that I think is good enough yet.”
Another part of the defense where Ballard believes he needs to do his part in helping Eberfluls comes with having a few more veteran voices on that side of the ball.
“We missed the leadership of a guy like Al Woods, a guy like Mike Mitchell,” Ballard said of two 2019 free agents who the Colts chose not to re-sign. “Those players, maybe I took it for granted a little bit that I could just throw in a bunch of young players and they would — I don’t think you can ever overestimate the power of veteran leadership, even if they’re not frontline players for you. Just when it gets a little hard, they’re a calming factor. That’s my fault. And I’ve got to do a better job of acquiring the right type of veterans on the defense and on the offensive side of the ball who can help guys get through these rough moments.”
Defensively, things were very rocky to close out the 2019 season.
While Ballard was pleased with how the defense played during the middle portion of the season, it must be pointed out that the Colts were facing several subpar offenses during that stretch.
If we are talking about a specific defensive position Ballard wants to upgrade, he goes to the middle of the defensive line.
“We’ve got to be able to get some more interior pressure,” Ballard says. “The 3-technique (defensive tackle) drives this thing. It does. Every time I’ve been a part of this, the 3-technique drives this.”
After the Colts brought back all 11 defensive starters in 2019, the strides weren’t enough with Ballard now looking to make some changes this offseason.