INDIANAPOLIS — Mid-80s, mostly sunny and humid, with a slight wind coming from the southwest.
It's definitely a perfect time in Indy for "Baldinger's Summer Tour."
NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger, with Lucas Oil Stadium pictured behind him, did just that this week, as he broke down four specific ways the Indianapolis Colts can improve to not only compete for the AFC South Division title in 2017, but take it home for the first time since 2014.
Baldinger, of course, likely has a lot of love for the Circle City, as he was an offensive lineman for the Colts from 1988 to 1991. In all, he played in 64 games with 36 starts with the Colts, where he was a solid option at each position across the line. He even recorded his only-career reception while playing for Indianapolis, a 37-yard play in a 20-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers Nov. 13, 1988.
("We did pretty good except when the big hog caught the pass," Packers linebacker Johnny Holland then told The Green Bay Press-Gazette of the play, in which Baldinger lined up as an eligible tight end in the Colts' wishbone formation and escaped safety Chuck Cecil to get an extra 20 yards. "It was really a challenge.")
Anyway, check out Baldinger's Summer Tour video here, with a capsule of his thoughts below:
"When you look at the Indianapolis Colts, it's all about defense. All across the board you gotta get better.*
And it starts with the nose tackle position: Johnathan Hankins; signed in free agency. Watch what he does to Travis Frederick of the Cowboys. Look at the penetration right here — he blows him up; he knocks him off balance. Now he resets, he disengages and he brings down Ezekiel Elliott. A one-man wrecking game in the middle of that defense — something they haven't had.**
On the outside, they went out and got themselves a good pass rusher in Jabaal Sheard. Underrated — 13 sacks in only 1,100 snaps in New England. But watch his ability to covert speed to power, and that's where he gets his penetration. He's able to collapse the pocket; when you can collapse the pocket — even when you don't get the sack — it affects the quarterback, and that's what they have to do better: affect the quarterback.**
And on the back end of the defense, they've got to find a corner that can cover opposite Vontae Davis. So, you look at a guy like Quincy Wilson they drafted, or Malik Hooker, the safety they drafted, maybe they'll be able to double Amari Cooper better than they did a year ago, and stop the big play from going down the field.**
And ultimately, offensively, it comes back to protecting Andrew Luck. Sacked the most he has been in his career a year ago. But watch this blocking scheme: you're asking the left guard to come over and block the defensive end, alright? That's a tough assignment. You get shift help from the tight end here on the defensive end. And even with all of that, Andrew Luck's arm is going to get hit, and affecting this throw against Tennessee, and the result is an interception.**
If the Colts can tighten up these areas of the team, they can break out of that 8-8 duldrum they're in right now, and compete for the AFC South title.*"
The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.