Many fans don’t bat an eye when you bring up OTAs, but this is a significant time for many teams. OTAs are useful for various reasons like player development, scheme, and team culture. Undoubtedly with all of the changes this off-season on the coaching staff and the roster, it is important to start everything on the right note. It’s especially crucial for the Colts as they look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2020, and more importantly win the AFC South for the first time since 2014.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) April 19, 2022
1. How does Matt Ryan set the tone as a leader?
At this time last season, I think many Colts fans overlooked the questions that surrounded the leadership ability of Carson Wentz. However, with Matt Ryan in the fold, how does he set the tone as a leader? Last season showed us that we cannot overlook the importance of leadership from the Quarterback position with how the season ended.
A leader doesn’t let their team take their foot off the gas or get comfortable when the playoffs are on the line. A leader isn’t just along for the ride; he drives the team. A leader is felt by his teammates, coaches, and fans. A leader accepts hard coaching and demands a standard of excellence from everyone around him.
To follow in the footsteps of QBs like Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers requires a unique human being. Each Quarterback was “felt” as a leader, which showed on the field. Whether it was Peyton quieting down the home crowd when the team was on offense, or the team adopting River’s motto of Nunc Coepi, which is Latin for “A New Beginning”, you could feel the leadership of both players.
During Matt Ryan’s introductory press conference, I definitely “felt” him as a leader. Now it’s time for him to set the tone as a leader by being an excellent teammate, giving back to the community, taking hard coaching, and demanding a standard of excellence around him. I have no doubt that he will do that because he’s done these things throughout his career, but I think it’s something to watch. Pay attention to reports of how his teammates and coaches react to his presence because if this team responds to him, I think they can reach a whole new level.
2. How does Gus Bradley approach installing his new defense?
An overlooked part of OTAs or mini-camp is coaching staff turnover, and the Colts have an entirely new defensive staff, in case you haven’t heard. It will be interesting to see how Coach Bradley approaches installing his defense for his new players, and I am curious to see what he emphasizes.
While Matt Eberflus ran a good defense in Indianapolis, I think Bradley will better adapt his scheme to his players. Eberflus taught specific techniques and fundamentals to his players, with a particular emphasis on run defense and takeaways. I understand many fans think it was just Darius Leonard who was adept at taking the ball away, but it was the entire defense, and they had great success at taking the ball away because of Eberflus and his staff.
On the flip side, I think Eberflus had his faults in one critical department. Throughout his tenure in Indianapolis, the Colts never really had a good pass rush and struggled to get pressure on the Quarterback. This was due to his emphasis on containing rushes instead of allowing the athletic, toolsy defensive linemen that Chris Ballard gave him to get upfield and attack. His strict focus on containing the QB rather than attacking the QB hurt the Colts late in games.
With all of that being said, Coach Bradley was the architect of the famous Legion of Boom defense that did a terrific job creating takeaways and ushering in a new brand of football. I am fascinated to see how his new defense gets implemented and how well the players can adapt to his techniques. I’m guessing what he emphasizes will be refreshing to hear for Colts fans, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the defense take another step because of that. I encourage everyone to pay attention to the reports out of OTAs about this new staff because I think you’ll like what you hear.
3. From the WR group, who is gonna take another step?
After the Colts didn’t take another WR in the draft after selecting Alec Pierce in the second round, one thing became very clear: the Colts really want to see someone internally take another step with a new QB in Matt Ryan. The Colts lost Zach Pascal, and still haven’t re-signed T.Y. Hilton, their 2nd and 3rd best receivers last season, respectively. So far in the offseason, only Pascal has been replaced with the drafting of Pierce.
Currently, there is a lot of unproven talent on this roster, and I think Chris Ballard is making quite the bet on some late-round draft picks. It’s a tall task to for rookie Pierce to replace the production of both Pascal and Hilton. However, I still believe there is talent in this group, and if a couple of the WRs take another step in their development, the Colts will be fine at the position.
Two wideouts Colts fans should keep an eye on to take another step are Parris Campbell and Dezmon Patmon. I know at this point Colts fans are tired of hearing how good Campbell can be when healthy. If he can finally have a healthy season, the Colts won’t have to worry as much about the depth. Patmon is just as tantalizing, as he is about to enter year three on the team. He hasn’t made much of an impact in his career yet, but his unique combination of height, weight, and speed gives him a chance to really make strides, which we saw flashes of last year in the Christmas Day game against Arizona.
OTAs are a fantastic opportunity for players to showcase their skills and build continued development in specific fields. If someone from this WR group doesn’t take another step, we could see the Colts add a veteran WR to the room to bolster the passing game. I would definitely keep my eyes on the reports about this young WR group coached by Reggie Wayne. How this group shows up to OTAs could determine what moves the Colts make or don’t make before training camp starts.
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