Indianapolis counting on beefed up defense to stop run
ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) The AFC championship game is a stinging reminder of how bad Indianapolis' run defense was last season - and why the Colts had a fix-it plan.
Now, after nearly seven months of reflection and five months of work, the Colts are eager to prove this season will be different.
''It's all attitude,'' inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson said Wednesday at training camp. ''As long as we take care of our business, we should be all right against the run.''
The Colts went a lot further after six losses in 2014 exposed glaring holes.
- Indy gave up the first 24 points in a season-opening 31-24 defeat at Denver.
- The next week, Philadelphia scored 10 points in the final 3 1/2 minutes to rally for a win.
- The two-time defending AFC South champs then allowed a season-high 51 points at Pittsburgh and 42 more in a meaningless late-season game at Dallas.
But the two games that really stood out were the blowouts against New England. In November, Jonas Gray ran for 201 yards and a franchise record four touchdowns in a 42-20 win. Two months later, the Patriots rushed for 177 yards and three more scores in a 45-7 blowout.
Those losses forced the Colts to do a cold, hard self-examination.
''Basically what you look at is the loss - and the way it happened,'' defensive tackle Josh Chapman said. ''Those guys had a plan and it worked. We look back on that and we don't want that to happen again.''
So general manager Ryan Grigson went to work.
He spent millions in free agency to beef up Indy's run support with the additions of defensive end Kendall Langford, inside linebacker Nate Irving, outside linebacker Trent Cole and safety Dwight Lowery.
Last week, team owner Jim Irsay said coach Chuck Pagano, the Baltimore Ravens' former defensive coordinator, would spend more time this season in the defensive meeting rooms.
Defensive tackle Art Jones appears to be healthy after being hindered by a sprained right ankle most of last season, and Jackson acknowledges he's more comfortable in his second season in Indy.
It is making a difference.
''We've got so much swag, it's pouring out of our ears right now,'' Jones said. ''We've got so many guys that want to be better, we've got no place to go but up.''
The questions linger.
Indy has only worked out in full pads for a week and defensive players are generally instructed not to tackle teammates to the ground.
The defensive starters, of course, are likely to be on a play count in Sunday's preseason opener at Philadelphia. And after Friday afternoon's last open practice at Anderson University, a Division III school about 45 miles from the team facility on Indy's west side, they'll do most of their work in private.
Players are convinced, though, that they're ready to take another step.
''I feel like we've got the right pieces to the puzzle,'' Chapman said. ''We've got a lot of guys who are doing the little things right, and that's the key to consistently do the little things right and be in your gaps so you can do your job.''
Now they must prove it.
After allowing 113.4 yards rushing per game, 3.9 yards per carry and getting carved up twice by their bitter rivals, the Colts understand that to get past the Patriots they must stop the run.
''Those guys are going to make plays and when people hit you with plays, you've got to stop the bleeding,'' Jackson said. ''We couldn't stop the bleeding. That's what we have to get better at this year.''
Notes: Agent Drew Rosenhaus was back at camp Wednesday and told reporters he was scheduled to meet with the Colts brass after practice. The topic: A contract extension with Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton. ... Receiver Donte Moncrief (groin) and linebacker Daniel Adongo (oblique) sat out the afternoon practice with injuries.
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