After a very eventful past week or so for the Colts, they have finally found their head coach in Eagles OC Frank Reich. This likely comes as exciting news to Colts fans around the country, as not only is Reich a Super Bowl-winning coordinator, he is also a former NFL quarterback with experience in developing and coaching that position. He also is not a lying, dishonest snake who would break his commitment to an organization. So yeah, there’s plenty to be excited about in Colts Nation.
The most exciting news in itself is just the transition from Chuck Pagano and his run with the Colts to a new face of the organization. Pagano’s tenure was filled with many issues that prevented the team from ever really improving or being a contender. Here’s what new head coach Frank Reich must do in order to make the Colts a relevant force in the AFC again:
Correct Use of Role Players:
One major issue of the Pagano era — if we really want to call it an era — is the incorrect use of many skilled players. For instance, how come Marlon Mack was only touching the ball 8 times a game last season when he was clearly the most versatile and dynamic of all the running backs on the roster? Or why was 2nd round pick Quincy Wilson only dressed to play in 7 games all last year? Expect these questionable decisions to change under coach Reich.
As the incredible Benjamin Solak told me on the Locked On Redskins podcast last week, one great thing that Pederson and Reich did this past season was not only bring in role players, but use those role players to maximize their ability. Take LeGarrette Blount for example. Teams refused to sign him last year because he was simply a slow, big, two-down running back. What do the Eagles do? They bring him in to be that bruising, wear a defense down type of back. And he excelled in that role. I fully expect Reich to implement this style of team building in order to find success with the Colts.
Another major flaw with the Pagano Era — shocking theme that there was a lot wrong with the Pagano tenure — was him and his coaching staff’s inability to adjust mid-game. It’s no secret that the 2017 Colts were not very good in record or in overall talent, but they did jump out to a lot of early leads. Shockingly enough, the Colts were actually tied or leading at halftime in 10(!!) games this past season. For a team that finished the year with only 4 wins, that is very impressive.
The major problem was not adjusting the game plan after halftime, which showed in their end of the year record. Expect this to change under Frank Reich. The Eagles this past season were one of the most diverse and adaptable teams in the NFL. They wouldn’t just run one game plan each week and hope it was successful. They ran a multitude of schemes, formations, and plays in order to find your weakness and bury you. I fully expect Reich to have a major impact in this area from day 1.
Speed, Speed, Speed:
The NFL is changing each and every year. The new trend throughout the league is the need for not only speed at skill position players and defensive backs, but speed in the front seven. Reich, and Ballard as well, need to make it a major focus to infuse speed to this roster. Frank Gore is still consistently chugging along, but the need for dynamic, every down back is needed more in today’s NFL than ever. TY Hilton is one of the league’s best deep threats but Reich and Ballard need to focus on adding play-makers elsewhere in the receiving core.
— NFL (@NFL) January 28, 2018
The linebacker group has been perhaps the slowest in the NFL the past few seasons under Pagano, featuring starter Antonio Morrison and his legendary 5.1 40 yard dash. The league asks linebackers to be so athletic now that the Colts must infuse some youthful, speedy guys in order to help the defense take that next step. These key position groups are lacking in one of the most important areas in all of football; speed. Ballard and Reich would be very smart to address these areas with youthful, dynamic difference makers early on in the off-season.
Make the Switch:
This point is already happening, so this is more of a point on why it is a great idea. The Colts have hired Cowboys linebacker coach Matt Eberflus to be the new defensive coordinator and his first step is converting the former 3-4 defense to a 4-3. This is an excellent adjustment, as the Colts’ personnel has been more suited for a 4-3 defense for the last few years. The Colts strength along their defense is their young, athletic defensive line, where their major weakness is their relatively ineffective edge rushers.
Instead of having these ineffective linebackers in a two-point stance hopelessly attempting to rush the passer to no avail, why not spread out these young players on the line and let them dominate opposing offensive lineman? I expect the Colts to improve upon their 31st ranked defense in sacks from 2017 and get much more pressure on the QB in 2018. Plus, switching to a 4-3 would be best for Bradley Chubb, if he were to be the Colts first round choice come Draft time.
Develop a Backup Plan:
When Andrew Luck didn’t play a snap last year, it was basically the end of the 2017 season. Scott Tolzien (bleh) was the next man up and he only lasted one horrible game against the Rams before the Colts realized that he can’t start in the NFL — you would think they would notice this sooner but I digress. Before Jacoby Brissett could even somewhat study the playbook he was the full-fledged starter because of the lack of readiness for something like this to happen.
Now, I know that none of us want to talk about a future without Andrew Luck, but this past season showed that the backup plan needs to be considered. Look at Reich and the Eagles last season. MVP Candidate Carson Wentz goes down with a gruesome injury, yet the Eagles still win the Super Bowl due to their preparedness for something like this to happen. Whether it be developing Jacoby Brissett or drafting another young signal caller, Reich must ave a plan in case Andrew Luck is ever unable to play in the foreseeable future.