INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard followed his gut.
Watching game tapes only reinforced the notion that his team needed to get younger, faster and tougher.
So Ballard spent the offseason releasing aging team leaders, allowing other established starters to walk away in free agency and changing directions with mostly low-risk, relatively inexpensive gambles. Now everyone inside the organization is eager to see if Ballard's bets pay off.
''The hardest thing this year was staying disciplined in free agency, because I knew we needed to add, I knew the problems we were having, and the holes we needed to fill,'' he said. ''Staying disciplined to your process that was the hardest thing this year.''
At the moment, it's impossible to know exactly where the Colts' transition stands.
NFL rules prohibit contact during offseason workouts and restrict teams from putting on pads for the first three days of training camp. Indy's wait ends Tuesday when the team could get its first glimpse at a camp Pagano and Ballard have promised will be more physical.
For now, though, there are more questions than answers.
Defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins and linebacker Jabaal Sheard must show they can be locker room leaders while receiver Kamar Aiken, linebacker John Simon and nose tackle Al Woods will be put in more prominent roles.
As first-round draft pick Malik Hooker and converted right guard Jack Mewhort continue to fight back from injuries, former first-round picks Phillip Dorsett and Barkevious Mingo will have another chance to demonstrate they can finally live up to their pre-draft hype.
''A lot has changed. We are much younger,'' said safety Darius Butler, Indy's fourth-oldest player at 31. ''But the guys are hungry and they're buying in. Every rep, every drill, I think brings the best out of everybody.''"
While the offense has made tentative position changes along the line and tight end Dwayne Allen was traded to New England, kicker Adam Vinatieri is working with a new long snapper, a new holder and a new kickoff specialist.
But the primary focus has been on a massive defensive overhaul.
Robert Mathis, the longtime face of Indy's defense, retired at 35. Indy also cut ties with four other starters in their 30s - former Pro Bowlers Mike Adams and D'Qwell Jackson, defensive tackle Art Jones and linebacker Erik Walden.
So far, things seem to be working.
As Ballard added speed and depth in the linebacking corps and secondary, the Colts biggest move might be pairing the 325-pound Hankins, 25, with the 330-pound Woods, 30. It would give Indy its biggest run-stuffing tandem in years.
''I can't wait till tomorrow and see if they can move us,'' Hankins said. ''I think we can be the best (defensive line) in our division.''
That's saying something with J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney still anchoring Houston's front seven.
It's not the first time Hankins has promised big things. In May, he told NFL Network the rebuilt Colts have ''probably the best defense in the AFC,'' a comment that has led to playful banter between Hankins and former college teammate Bradley Roby, a cornerback with the Denver Broncos.
Pagano learned to embrace that sort of swagger during his previous stops at the University of Miami and with the Baltimore Ravens. But it's been a missing ingredient in Indianapolis.
''If you're going to do it, you've got to back it up. You put it out there, you better show up,'' Pagano said in June. ''Guys can use whatever they want to use, bulletin board material. I don't sit there and promote that. I don't think any coach at any level promotes that. I just know that if you're going to talk, you better walk it.''
Add the playmaking skills of Hooker, a safety, with the potential pass-rushing skills of rookie linebacker Tarell Basham and some experienced inside linebackers in Sean Spence and Jon Bostic, and it looks like the Colts' defense has a whole new identity - one that comes straight out of Ballard's playbook.
''We're trying to be a physical, nasty defense that can close games out. That was a problem we had last year specifically,'' Butler said. ''If our offense puts up 17 to 20 points a game, we should get a win.''
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