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INDIANAPOLIS – The first conversation was still in its early stages, yet Frank Reich and Chris Ballard were definitely aligned on their general philosophy of how to build a football team.
It was a step in the right direction for the Colts after the previous regime in Indianapolis had a clear disconnect atop the organization.
Let Reich take you through that initial sit-down with his general manager:
“I know as the former quarterback you would think as a pass guy you might think that I am going to come in talking about throwing, throwing, throwing,” Reich says when asked about his team building philosophy. “My attitude was the exact opposite, this thing has got to be built from the inside, out. It’s got to be from the inside, out. Almost all the good teams I have been a part of you have got to be able to run the football. Last year, being a part of the Eagles, we were a top-five rushing team and had the year that we did. Even going back to some of the years when I was playing, the best teams we had we were running the football, even though there was a great air attack as well. So it starts up front and that is on both sides of the ball.
“Chris felt the exact same way. It was like, ‘Okay, we can check that box.’ That’s the most critical one and I think it was really important that the two of us connected on that front.”
The next question was how long would it take for the Colts to get this singular focus lead to results on the field.
Well, not very long.
It’s happening right here in the 2018 season.
Offensively, the Colts have protected Luck like he’s never been in his career. Luck is on pace to be sacked just 18 times this season. In his four prior healthy NFL seasons, Luck averaged being sacked 35 times per season.
Three of the Colts’ top four rushing efforts in Luck’s career have come this season. The Colts are 3-0 in those games (Buffalo, Oakland, Dallas).
And defensively, the numbers say it all even though the personnel is still probably another year or two away from being truly where the Colts want it:
That unit has supported Luck majorly this season.
Colts Defensive Rankings
2018: 10th ranked total D, 8th ranked rushing D, 11th ranked in points
2017: 30th ranked total D, 26th ranked rushing D, 30th ranked in points
2016: 30th ranked total D, 25th ranked rushing D, 22nd ranked in points
2015: 26th ranked total D, 25th ranked rushing D, 25th ranked in points
2014: 11th ranked total D, 18th ranked rushing D, 19th ranked in points
2013: 20th ranked total D, 26th ranked rushing D, 9th ranked in points
2012: 26th ranked total D, 29th ranked rushing D, 21st ranked in points
Last year, Ballard was embarrassed at times watching his team play in the trenches.
Now, it’s the Colts’ trenches often embarrassing their opponents.
It all goes back to Ballard’s words at his opening press conference in January 2017.
“I’ll repeat this as many times as I can,” Ballard said some 23 months ago, “Andrew can’t just wave a magic wand.
“It’s about the 53-men in that locker room. It’s about them playing together as a team, playing for each other and fighting for each other. That’s when you get the special teams.”
Assigning a ‘special’ label to the 2018 Colts is way premature.
But the vision that Reich and Ballard agreed upon back in February is seeing desired results in Year One.
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