BOCA RATON, Fla. – With his coffee in hand, Chuck Pagano met with reporters for over an hour on Tuesday morning at the NFL's Annual League Meetings.
With the Colts' quieter approach to free agency in 2016, the crowd gathered around Pagano at this year's AFC Coaches Breakfast was much smaller in numbers.
The national attention wasn't immense on Tuesday, but Pagano believes the Colts are still a major player in what teams will be around come next January.
"We're probably not as far away as maybe some might think," Pagano said on Tuesday at the Boca Raton Resort in Florida.
"We're going to continue to build this and build it the right way and try to acquire the necessary pieces. But it's easy to look back and say we were real spendy in the past with all the hype that surrounded the 2015 season, Super Bowl or bust, this and that. Again, the expectations for ourselves don't change. We have one goal and one goal only. That'll never change and we'll keep chasing that goal until we reach that goal and then we'll start over again."
Pagano started off by saying the past few weeks has unfolded like the plan the Colts took into March.
Limited cap space in 2016 didn't allow for anywhere near the haul, or spree, of last offseason.
The team still is looking at possible additions (for example, last year's starting safety Dwight Lowery wasn't signed until April of 2015) and Pagano believes that there is draft depth at the need positions for the Colts.
Here are 10 takeaways from Pagano's media session at the NFL's Annual Meetings:
Colts Still Looking For Free Agents
-We are two weeks into free agency and the Colts have been expectantly quiet. The Colts are still looking for additions though and have found success in recent years with an April signing of Dwight Lowery and a June addition of Mike Adams. Pagano pointed to the hope for a No. 2 cornerback, another inside linebacker and pass rusher as the defensive pieces remaining this offseason.Draft Depth Fits Colts Needs
-Just like the Colts said at the Combine, they like the depth they see with the 2016 draft class. It fits the needs for the team. Pagano's hope is someone of interest falls to the Colts at pick No. 18. The Colts have six picks to work with in 2016. They traded their sixth-round pick for linebacker Sio Moore last year.The Health of No. 12
-There were several questions thrown at Pagano on Tuesday about trying to instill the "when enough is enough" for Andrew Luck. Pagano says the Colts have to continue to allow Luck to make plays via his athleticism and you can't coach any player to be a "robot." However, Pagano thinks nine games on the sideline for Luck last season is enough of a message to know when it's time to get on the ground, out of bounds, throw it away, etc.When Will Henry Anderson Return?
-A November ACL injury for the second-year defensive end has his availability for the start of Training Camp in jeopardy. With the Colts starting camp a week earlier this year (due to playing in the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 7), Anderson is not likely to be ready when the Colts begin in Anderson. Last month, Anderson had said it was a goal to be ready for Week One of the regular season. The Colts are obviously going to be cautious about putting Anderson, one of their building blocks on defense, back into the trenches littered with double teams.Open Competition At Inside Linebacker
-Jerell Freeman is in Chicago, so the Colts have an open starting spot next to D'Qwell Jackson. On Tuesday, Pagano mentioned Nate Irving, Sio Moore, Josh McNary as the front runners for that spot, with last year's rookies Amarlo Herrera (2015 sixth-round pick) and Junior Sylvestre (on IR last season) as the candidates to fill Freeman's void. Irving had a couple of starts last season, but that lingering knee injury (Irving tore his ACL in November 2014) made for a difficult first season in Indy.John Harbaugh Didn't Want To Lose Ted Monachino
-The Ravens head coach had plenty of praise for his former assistant, now the defensive coordinator in Indianapolis. On Tuesday, Harbaugh said Monachino is "great in terms of run defense and pass pressures" and players love to play for him. For the Colts, Pagano wants to see defensive improvements in three specific areas this season---big plays, third-and-long and red-zone efficiency.D'Joun Smith's Fresh Start
-It was a difficult rookie campaign for D'Joun Smith, last year's third-round pick. Injuries and adjustments to how cornerbacks can play in the NFL were the most frequent battles for the Florida Atlantic product. As a former defensive backs coach and seeing the NFL evolve (the league had more than 18,000 passes last year, compared to around 13,000 runs), Pagano knows how vital it is to see where Smith can fit into the cornerback pecking order. A consistent second cornerback, along with a pass rush, is "paramount" for the future of the Colts defense. In other secondary news, expect Clayton Geathers to be the starting safety next to Mike Adams when the offseason program gets underway next month.More Zone Blocking?
-With Joe Philbin now as the team's offensive line coach, there is the thought the Colts will use plenty of zone blocking in 2016. Pagano said on Tuesday that there will be some zone concepts added, but the Colts won't use it exclusively, still employing gap schemes. It's evident the Colts head coach is going to lean on Philbin for various roles/duties, hence the title of "assistant head coach." Philbin, who has an extensive background working with the offensive line, spent the previous four seasons as the Dolphins head coach. On Tuesday, Pagano once again mentioned the focus on improving the line's interior.Jacoby Brissett's Expanded Role
-T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett---those are clearly the Colts top three wide receivers. How the Colts use Dorsett in 2016 won't be restricted to just as a "normal" receiver. Expect reverses and Dorsett's ability to run after the catch to be in the job requirements for the electric Miami product. At one point last season, the Colts were even lining Dorsett up in the backfield. Pagano said the Colts will be adding depth to the wide receiver group at some point this offseason. Of the Colts five wideouts currently on the roster, only the three above have caught a pass in the NFL.A More Competitive AFC South?
-The most national attention Pagano's table received on Tuesday was from fellow AFC South reporters asking about the division's active offseason. Pagano said that he thinks with the quarterbacks in place, plus the offseason moves of Jacksonville/Tennessee/Houston, the improvement is clear. The old saying of, 'If you have a quarterback, you have a chance,' certainly applies now to the South.