INDIANAPOLIS – Who knows if Chris Ballard knows the stat or not.
When Ballard took reigns of the Colts in late January his early analysis of the roster told him one thing.
The defense needed help. A lot of it.
"We had some holes that we needed to fill," Ballard explained after taking his third defender, in three picks, to start the 2017 NFL Draft.
"Look, you all watch the same games I do. We had some older players on defense that were great, that were great Colts. But it was time to move on and find some younger players."
The stat that further explains Ballard's point is this:
*Since 2007, the Colts have drafted 34 defensive players. Only one signed a second contract in Indianapolis. That was Fili Moala (2009 second-round pick) and his tenure with the Colts lasted just one season into that second contract signed. *
The lack of building blocks on the defensive side of the ball has been absent in Indianapolis.
Ballard knew that had to change.
Hence the reason for three straight defenders to start a Colts' draft for the first time since 2010.
"I have been lucky between Chicago, where we were always good on defense, and in Kansas City, where we have been good on defense," Ballard said of the defensive importance following the third round of the draft.
"It's a quarterback's friend – extra possessions. And defense travels. It travels on the road when things aren't going good on offense. When you have a good defense, it keeps you in ball games and gives you a chance to win. We have a lot of new faces and it will take this group some time. But we think we have added some young players on the roster that can grow together and become the defense we want them to be."
It started on Thursday night when Ohio State safety Malik Hooker's surprising fall was a gift to the Colts. In Hooker, the Colts selected an elite playmaker who had seven interceptions in 13 games last season. For comparisons sake, the Colts had just eight picks in 16 games last year (29th in the NFL).
The secondary was not touched during free agency, but it's received major attention in this draft. After the 21-year-old Hooker went on Thursday, the Colts took 20-year-old cornerback Quincy Wilson in Round Two. Wilson, who played at Florida, was the SEC's top cornerback last season and his 6-1 frame could very well start opposite Vontae Davis in 2017.
Any defensive focus was left incomplete until a pass rusher was found. The Colts went that route in Round Three with Ohio's Tarell Basham. Unique length and initial quickness from Basham has Ballard believing the 29.5 sacks from the MAC can translate to the NFL.
Hooker. Wilson. Basham.
Get to know the names because the building is starting to receive some structure in Indianapolis.
"It's going to take time. It's going to take time," Ballard reminded of the defensive building. "I don't want to put that type of just stamp and say, 'Hey, we've taken these players and now it's fixed.'
"You want (a defense) that is athletic and that can take the ball away. That plays hard. That plays aggressive. That people know when they come into our building and when we go on the road, they are in for a four-quarter fight. It's going to take time to get there, but we think we have added some good pieces."
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