2 Indianapolis Colts Tony Dungy's game plan: more simplicity on defense, fewer turnovers on offense

September 01, 2002

For 48 hours last January, Tony Dungy was content to remain a
former NFL head coach. Following Tampa Bay's second consecutive
wild-card playoff loss in Philadelphia, Dungy was fired, an
inglorious end to his six-year tenure as the most successful
coach in the team's history. Upon receiving the news, he huddled
with his wife, Lauren, to weigh his options. Though his name was
already being mentioned for other jobs, Dungy considered another
calling: prison ministry. "It's something I've always wanted to
do, and I thought that maybe the time had come to try it," he
says. "I wasn't sure I still wanted to be a coach in the NFL."

As devout and straight-talking as they come, Dungy would no
doubt have been a tremendous minister. But when Colts president
Bill Polian offered him his team's coaching job (vacant after
the firing of Jim Mora), Dungy accepted. Now, he ministers to
Indianapolis defenders, who last year were shackled by then
defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's complicated, zone-blitz
packages, for which they were too slow and inexperienced. Dungy
preaches a simpler, ball-hawking Cover 2 scheme, inspiring a
defense that last season gave up an NFL-high 30.4 points and an
AFC-high 357.2 yards a game to think that this could be a
breakout year.

"I've studied film of Tampa's defense for a long time, just
because it's such a beautiful thing to watch. Having it here,
well, it's been like night and day," says defensive tackle Ellis
Johnson. "Last year we were taking on too many blocks and trying
to read then react, instead of just flying to the ball. Guys were
being asked to do things they couldn't really do. I mean, Ph.D.'s
couldn't have figured out our defense."

"The worst part is watching film from last year and seeing how
many big plays we gave up because of stupid mental mistakes,"
says defensive end Chad Bratzke. "It always felt as if we were
one step behind." Bratzke, the Colts' best defender and leading
sacker in each of the last three years, routinely faced double
teams in 2001, partly because Indianapolis had so few playmakers.
That will change if rookies such as left end Dwight Freeney of
Syracuse and tackle Larry Tripplett of Washington--both
exceptionally quick for their positions--are able to give the
Colts the multipronged pass rush they've lacked since Bratzke
arrived as a free agent from the Giants in 1999. "This defense
needs speed, and our young guys give us a lot more this year,"
Bratzke says. "It's exciting when guys are swarming all over the
place. Having a scheme that fits our personnel makes it fun
again."

When it comes to the offense--again led by the formidable trio of
quarterback Peyton Manning, running back Edgerrin James and
wideout Marvin Harrison--the fun should be all Dungy's. (Also back
is offensive coordinator Tom Moore, who recruited Dungy at the
University of Minnesota.) "When you change jobs, normally you
don't inherit a Pro Bowl quarterback," Dungy says. "Our offense
is in good hands."

Manning threw for 4,131 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, but
he also tossed 23 interceptions, second most in the NFL. That
number will decline if James (who looked good in camp after
returning from surgery to repair the left ACL that he tore last
October) returns to form and Qadry Ismail, a free-agent pickup
from the Ravens, emerges as a steady alternative to the
ever-dangerous Harrison.

"The perception is that our defense lost games for us last year,
but the reality is that we lost as a team," Dungy says. "We have
to cut down on the turnovers, improve on special teams, improve
our team speed. If we do those things, we should be fine."

But if the Colts are to reverse field after last year's 6-10
debacle and step up to challenge the Titans for AFC South
dominance, their revamped defense must come through. Polian, for
one, is certain that Indianapolis got the right man for the job.
Asked the difference from last year to this on defense, he cuts
the question short. "It's a sea change," Polian says. "With Tony
here, it's as dramatic a change as you can get." --J.E.

COLOR PHOTO: PAUL BATTAGLIA/AP A beefed-up rush will make Bratzke (92), the Colts' best defender, even better. COLOR PHOTO: NFL PHOTOS ISMAIL

NEW TWIST

Tony Dungy believes that a reason for the Colts' defensive
struggles last year was an overworked starting front seven that
played an average of 80% of the snaps. To keep defenders fresh
and maximize their speed (a must in his Cover 2 schemes), Dungy
will liberally rotate the front seven, aiming to keep each
player's average snap count below 55%.

ENEMY LINES an opposing team's scout sizes up the Colts

"It'll be interesting to see if Tony Dungy inspires them, since
his approach is so businesslike. We're going to find out if it
was Dungy or [Bucs defensive coordinator] Monte Kiffin who got
those defenses fired up. I think Tampa Bay's defensive success
was more Monte's doing.... They have the best offense in the
AFC. Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison are all
top 3 in the league at their positions, and Marcus Pollard is an
underrated pass catcher.... Their O-line should be all right,
since their zone-blocking schemes don't force their guys to be
superior technicians. Jeff Saturday is an above-average center,
but Tarik Glenn has gotten sloppier the last couple of seasons.
They'll need to step it up for James, who's going to have to
regain confidence in his left knee.... Qadry Ismail should be a
good Number 2 receiver for them. In the past he didn't take
practice seriously enough. Being around guys like Harrison and
Manning should bring him around.... The question is whether
they've got the right personnel for the Cover 2 schemes,
especially at linebacker and cornerback. Other than Mike
Peterson, their linebackers--particularly Rob Morris and Marcus
Washington--aren't quick enough to cover the field.... Walt
Harris has always been a good cover corner, but will he get
bored playing zone, and will he have the discipline not to take
too many chances?... The offense will have to carry this team
again because the defense is a year away."

SCHEDULE

Sept. 8 at Jacksonville
15 MIAMI
22 at Houston
29 Open date

Oct. 6 CINCINNATI
13 BALTIMORE
21 at Pittsburgh (Mon.)
27 at Washington

Nov. 3 TENNESSEE
10 at Philadelphia
17 DALLAS
24 at Denver

Dec. 1 HOUSTON
8 at Tennessee
15 at Cleveland
22 N.Y. GIANTS
29 JACKSONVILLE

SCHEDULE STRENGTH

NFL rank: T16
Opponents' 2001 winning percentage: .500
Games against playoff teams: 5

PROJECTED LINEUP with 2001 statistics

COACH: Tony Dungy; first season with Indianapolis (54-42 in NFL)
2001 RECORD: 6-10 (fourth in AFC East)
NFL RANK (rush/pass/total): offense 7/2/2; defense 25/27/29

OFFENSIVE BACKS PVR*

QB Peyton Manning 7
547 att. 343 comp. 62.7% 4,131 yds. 26 TDs 23 int. 84.1 rtg.

RB Edgerrin James 13
151 att. 662 yds. 4.4 avg. 24 rec. 193 yds. 8.0 avg. 3 TDs

RB Kevin McDougal 359
17 att. 48 yds. 2.8 avg. 1 rec. 10 yds. 10.0 avg. 0 TDs

FB Jim Finn 472
0 att. 0 yds. no avg. 0 rec. 0 yds. no avg. 0 TDs

RECEIVERS, SPECIALISTS, OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

[PVR*]

WR Marvin Harrison 10 109 rec. 1,524 yds. 15 TDs
WR Reggie Wayne 151 27 rec. 345 yds. 0 TDs
WR Qadry Ismail [N] 9 74 rec. 1,059 yds. 7 TDs
TE Marcus Pollard 82 47 rec. 739 yds. 8 TDs
K Mike Vanderjagt 140 41/42 XPs 28/34 FGs 125 pts.
PR Troy Walters [N] 266 11 ret. 6.3 avg. 0 TDs
KR Troy Walters [N] 266 18 ret. 23.6 avg. 0 TDs

LT Tarik Glenn 6'5" 332 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
C Jeff Saturday 6'2" 291 lbs. 16 games 16 starts
RG Rick DeMulling 6'4" 304 lbs. 7 games 0 starts
LG Ryan Diem 6'6" 331 lbs. 15 games 8 starts
RT Adam Meadows 6'5" 290 lbs. 15 games 15 starts

DEFENSE

LE Dwight Freeney (R)[N] 49 tackles 17 1/2 sacks
LT Larry Tripplett (R)[N] 38 tackles 2 sacks
RT Ellis Johnson 20 tackles 3 1/2 sacks
RE Chad Bratzke 45 tackles 8 1/2 sacks
OLB Mike Peterson 46 tackles 1 1/2 sacks
MLB Rob Morris 84 tackles 1 sack
OLB Marcus Washington 73 tackles 8 sacks
CB Walt Harris [N] 48 tackles 1 int.
SS Cory Bird 27 tackles 0 int.
FS Idrees Bashir 59 tackles 1 int.
CB David Macklin 53 tackles 3 int.
P Hunter Smith 68 punts 44.5 avg.

[N] New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 98)

"In the past, Ismail didn't take practice seriously. Harrison
and Manning should bring him around."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)