INDIANAPOLIS—Back during the combine in February, coaches and general managers from around the NFL were peppered with questions about defending spread offenses.
Coach after coach, and GM after GM, took their turn at the podium inside of Lucas Oil Stadium and answered inquires on the growing NFL epidemic that was going to be a major priority to research during the upcoming offseason.
The Colts were no different from that group and spoke with college coaches, along with picking the brains of a few current staff members who have had the task of defending the spread.
Those hours spent studying and preparing could very well be put to use on Sunday, as it appears the Oakland Raiders will start dual-threat quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
“We all know what (Pryor) can do, outside the pocket, what he can create, the read-option,” Pagano said on Wednesday.
“He gives you another dimension from a defensive standpoint that you’ve got to take care of. Whether they are running the read-option, or he’s dropping back to pass, the guy can take off. He can scramble, scramble and run and make a play down the field.”
Pagano said that the Colts will prepare for both Pryor and quarterback Matt Flynn but all indications point to the former Ohio State quarterback starting on Sunday afternoon.
While the Raiders won’t operate exclusively in a spread system, Pagano offered some insight into what Colts fans may see from their opposition in Week One.
“Some (spread systems) are more in the pistol and have one back back there. This team will come in here on Sunday and they could be in that scenario or as many as three backs back there in a diamond formation, with the quarterback in the pistol,” Pagano said.
“We definitely did our research as well as everybody else did. If we get caught with our pants down, they can make you look really silly.”
For each unit of the Colts defense, the keys heading into Sunday’s opener revolves around staying “disciplined”.
Up front, nose tackle
His Alabama defense dealt with Cam Newton in college and Chapman talked about his responsibilities in dealing with similar quarterbacks.
“As a defensive lineman it’s everybody staying in lanes, collapse the edge of the pocket, and forcing him to step up,” Chapman says.
“If they don’t hit their first read than they look to beat you with their feet. They’re dangerous because some guys are fast but you’ve got some quarterbacks that are pretty heavy up top, so you’ve got to wrap up real well.”
“As a defensive back, you’ve got to trust your eyes,” Toler said of his unit’s keys. “You can’t really play into too much watching the quarterback.
“The read option may stretch the play for the receivers to get open but if you keep your eyes on your luggage than you should be able to make a play.”
In between Chapman and Toler’s units on Sunday will be
Freeman’s keys this week aren’t a mouthful but he knows the consequences if they aren’t achieved.
“Be disciplined and be consistent. If one man messes up, it’s going to be exposed.”
Those keys will be called upon few more times early in the year as Sunday is the initial of three games against dual-threat quarterbacks to open up the first month of the season.