INDIANAPOLIS – It’s the position group Gus Bradley has made sure to have his fingerprints all over it.
Bradley has a type at cornerback, and he doesn’t hide that.
And the Colts have been open ears to Bradley’s desire with re-building that position group.
They’ve overhauled their corners to find more size and length at the position.
With those sort of body types, the Colts are hoping they can tap into some more press coverage in 2023.
“Ideally, when we say we want to be an aggressive defense, obviously it starts up front, but on the perimeter we like to be aggressive,” Bradley, who is going into his second-year as defensive coordinator says. “So, there’s times we can (play press) and can’t, but if we can be, we want to be aggressive on the perimeter. That’s been a theme of us I think if anybody looked back, and would say that. We’ll ask those guys, all of our corners, to do multiple techniques. But there’s times when you need (press).”
Currently, the Colts have 9 cornerbacks on their roster. Seven of those 9 stand over 6-0. One of the two who don’t (Kenny Moore) were not on the roster before Bradley arrived in 2022.
Given Chris Ballard’s affinity for measureables, you know he’s a fan of this change at the cornerback position.
In this year’s draft, the Colts drafted three quarterbacks. JuJu Brents stands 6-2 (96 percentile among cornerbacks), and has 34-inch arm length (98 percentile among cornerbacks). Darius Rush stands 6-2 (96 percentile among cornerbacks), and has 33-inch arm length (98 percentile among cornerbacks). Jaylon Jones stands 6-2 (96 percentile among cornerbacks), and has 30-inch arm length (26 percentile among cornerbacks).
Following the second-round selection of Brents, it was Ballard explaining what that length at corner means to him.
“There are not a lot of guys 6-3 playing corner in the league, but he is a really good athlete,” Ballard said of the Warren Central product. “He’s a really good fit for what we want to do because he’s a press corner. We think he’s going to be really good at it. He’s a really good athlete and for a tall kid he can really change direction. We’re excited about it. We think he’s a really good fit for the defense. When you’re 6-3, there’s a difference. It gives you an advantage down the field because you’re not throwing over the 5-9, 5-10 guy. You’re throwing over a 6-3 guy. That looks different to a quarterback.”
Part of the hope with this change for the Colts is disrupting the timing of an opposing pass game with more frequency.
With the pass rush also factoring in, the Colts have struggled in recent years in keeping the opponent’s passing game out of a rhythm.
These are the rankings of completion percentage allowed in the Chris Ballard era: 2022-68.0% (31st), 2021-65.3% (13th), 2020-65.7% (17th), 2019-70.1% (31st), 2018-70.8% (31st), 2017-62.4% (17th).
At best, it’s been in an average group in this realm. At worst, it’s been in the basement of the NFL.
Will more of a focus on finding very specific length at corner allow for more disruption?
“Obviously, they all have got some length,” Bradley says of the new-look corners. “When they come into the building, you can see that. They’ve got the length that you look for at times – that can be good and that can be bad. It all comes back to ability, but it’s a good starting point with those guys. They use it as an asset for them.”
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