ANDERSON –One thing was clear when Owner and CEO Jim Irsay and General Manager Ryan Grigson named Chuck Pagano the team's head coach on January 25 – a change in defensive philosophy was being ushered in.
Pagano spoke quickly about the team moving to a 3-4 attack that had not been employed in Indianapolis since 1992. A component to implementing that was installing Greg Manusky as coordinator on February 2.
Manusky has overseen the process through the spring and the first week of training camp, and he reiterates the mentality of having an aggressive approach to set a tone.
"(Being aggressive is) the mentality we want to have as a defense across the board," said Manusky. "We want to strike people, and we want to separate from people. We don't any one-for-ones.
"We want to make sure we can kick a player's butt and then go make the play. That's what we talk about. It's kicking somebody's butt and making a play. There's nothing wrong with that. That's what we're looking for."
Defensive end Cory Redding has played in the league for nine previous seasons. Not one of those seasons was under Manusky, but he feels exactly the same way after playing on such a unit in Baltimore.
"We all know and say every day that games are won and lost in the trenches, up front on the offensive and defensive lines," said Redding. "We have to be the tone-setter every single day. There may be some days you don't want to do it. You have to, period.
"You have to go out there and go up and beyond, fly around, be loud making plays because the team goes as we go. As long as we continue to do that, we'll be successful. These guys are hungry, and these guys want to be great."
Job one for success of the defense is limiting the ground game. With an influx of personnel this year, mainstays Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis remain keys to the mix. The former Pro Bowlers have moved to outside linebacker in the hybrid 3-4 set, and their force on the edges of the unit is essential.
"The first thing is we have to make sure we stop the run by setting the edge with the two guys (Freeney and Mathis) we have on the edge," said Manusky. "The second thing is never trade one-for-one. We don't want to trade one player for another. I think guys can beat guys across the board. Then the third thing is we just have to have a tempo each and every snap and each and every play."
Much of the speculation has been where Freeney will be located a majority of the time. Asking Freeney does not shed much light.
"Now, you don't know where I'm going to be at," said Freeney. "I might be up, I might be in the middle, I might drop back. It creates some hesitation for the offensive tackle. It's not always just about me. He has more things to worry about. There could be a guy blitzing in that 'B' gap. There are certain things he needs to worry about, not just am I getting off the ball the same way."
Camp is the time to work on all projects, and that is what Manusky is doing with Freeney.
"I told him, 'I want you up, and I want you down. Play with it a bit throughout training camp. I didn't want you to get to Chicago and all of a sudden stand up.' So sometimes he's dropping, sometimes he's rushing, and it's just up to him whatever he feels comfortable doing," said Manusky.
In being new around Freeney and Mathis, Manusky enjoys the two defensive specimens. While he has seen a number of players in his 12 playing seasons and 10 more as a coach, he has not seen their type of talent recently.
"Well it's just great to see them strike individuals and the power that some of the players have, especially the two guys (Freeney, Mathis) off the edge," said Manusky. "Seeing how special they are, good pass rushers, great pass rushers and we're only trying here to get them to continue to be great pass rushers in the next couple years.
"I haven't been around two guys like that in a long, long time. Great individuals, football players and the sky's the limit for those two."
Manusky likes the physical presence of Redding as well and would like to see the defense take the form of the one Redding thrived in with the Ravens.
"It's been great, coming from Baltimore with the system they had there and the players they had there," said Manusky. "He's (Redding) just an individual, a big man that's playing a big game, and he's a big leader amongst the guys on the defense because he's been in the system. He knows what it is, and he's pulling them all together.
"I think there is evidence of it (team growth) from down to down to down. It might be a 12-play drive. It might be a three-play drive. We're looking for more three-and-outs, and that's what we are trying to do."