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INDIANAPOLIS – Amidst all the hoopla surrounding his return to Lucas Oil Stadium last month, Andrew Luck couldn’t help but notice the youth.
The new lights and new turf aren’t the only fresh things inside the Colts’ new home this season.
The days of the Colts being littered with 30-plus year old talent on both sides of the ball is rapidly dwindling.
Luck noticed that when he took the field for the team’s preseason opener against the Ravens.
“I sort of looked around and realized, ‘Man, there’s some really solid veteran pieces, but we’re a young team and just for us, it takes being out there and doing it and messing up and learning from it and going out again and doing it a little better,’” Luck said after the team’s preseason home opener back on Aug. 20.
Chris Ballard first began the veteran purge last offseason when more than a half dozen defenders, over the age of 30, all exited.
Such moves continued on a lesser extent this past offseason.
It’s a clear objective to get younger, as the Colts rebuild.
“We are young. There’s no doubt,” Ballard said before the start of Training Camp and repeated on Sunday when talking about the roster cuts he made over the weekend.
“We are trying to establish a new culture, establish a new mentality,” Frank Reich says. “It’s not automatic just because you are a younger player you buy in, but you get guys – a younger team that learns to do it your way and don’t bring quote, unquote baggage from other teams. So, we have to play that to our advantage.
“Obviously, there are disadvantages to playing young guys. Young guys tend to make a couple more mental mistakes than the older guys, but you got to fight your way through those.”
Take away the 45-year-old Adam Vinatieri and the Colts have the yougest roster in the NFL. The Colts could very well start 4 rookies in Sunday’s season opener.
Knowing that the Colts needed to get younger, Ballard was adamant that this new coaching staff had to be about teaching and developing.
Defensively, coordinator Matt Eberflus thinks the Colts will be that as he coaches a unit which will be incredibly inexperienced at linebacker and in the secondary.
“If you look at the history of the system we have been able to play with younger players faster, I believe,” Eberflus says. “I don’t have statistical data to back that up, but in just my experiences it seems like we have been able to get young linebackers on the field, young defensive ends and those types of players and really acquisition players as well. Have them come in, learn the system and have them play right away and play pretty effective. I think it’s really based on the laws and principles of teaching we have established over the course of the time we have ran the system and the course of the time the system has been ran. So it’s a simplistic way to teach and it turns guys loose and it should be fun to watch and fun to play in, and that’s what we are searching for. We aren’t there yet, but that is what we are searching for.”
A roster littered with youth has the Colts being pegged as a team missing the playoffs again for a fourth straight year. It would be the longest playoff drought for the Colts since 1988-1994.
Ballard has made it clear though that the greenness of the 2018 Colts will not be an excuse.
“There’s a way to win every game, even if your talent level isn’t where you want it,” Ballard says. “Don’t turn the ball over. Don’t make dumb mistakes. Play to your player’s strengths. Don’t make dumb penalties. Keep the game close and give yourself a chance to win it at the end.
“Are we going to be young? Are we where we exactly want to be right now? Not exactly. I do think we do have good young talent. We are young. There’s no doubt, but anytime you get a chance to line up, you play to win. That’s the business we are in. We are judged on wins and losses. Last year was definitely not good enough. That’s on me. Falls on my shoulders. I think we are going to put a team out there that’s fun to watch, young and we are going to watch them grow, come together and play good football.”