INDIANAPOLIS — Dave Borgonzi is in his first year as the linebackers coach of the Indianapolis Colts. He recently talked to reporters about the state of his position group as it continues through offseason workouts and heads towards the 2018 season:
Where do you feel you guys are at right now?
"I think it's a good group. I think the guys are working hard. I think it'll all play itself out. So in terms of depth right now, we call it, really, a 'rep chart.' Guys are just getting reps. There's really no depth chart right now. It's open competition, and there's a lot of practices, there's a lot of preseason games — it'll all work itself out. So we're not really worried about depth right now — who's starting, who's backup — 'cause, really, that stuff works itself out over practices and games."
On the dynamic of having a wide-open competition at all three linebacker spots:
"Yeah, I mean, we're starting from scratch here. So the guys know that. We're a new staff, we're getting to know them — their strengths and weaknesses. They're learning a new system. So every year, no matter where you are, you've got to start over. It's a new season, new guys emerge, so that's what we're doing: we're teaching our system, guys are getting a lot of reps right now. And, so, again, it'll all play itself out, but the attitude, the effort, I've been really impressed with the group. It's a really good group of guys."
On how he would separate the traits between the WILL, MIKE and SAM linebacker positions:
"Yeah, so I think of a WILL linebacker, you think of a great WILL linebacker in the system, you think of Derrick Brooks. You think of a speed guy; fast. You think of a MIKE linebacker: bigger body; you think of a great guy in the system, Brian Urlacher. You think of a bigger guy. SAM is a guy that's going to play, really, in base offense, first and second down. So those guys those play as much — you know, they play 20 to 25 snaps, because you're going to in sub; the nickel (cornerback) comes in, the SAM comes out. So trait-wise, the WILL's probably the more athletic of the three, the MIKE's the bigger guy, and the SAM's more base offense, first- and second-down player."
Chris Ballard said Darius Leonard has those traits you'd want in a WILL linebacker:
"Yeah. Darius, right now he's a WILL linebacker. But he's a big, strong athletic guy, so he could be a lot of things."
Does the MIKE position worry you? Why or why not?
"No. Because I like the group. I think they work hard…"
Who's the group?
"Well, the group that we have on our roster right now."
Which players fit into that group?
"Again, I think it's an open competition. We've only been with these guys for a month now, so in terms of who's going to be our starting MIKE right now, I can't answer that. I think all of these guys are getting reps at it, and, again, it's going to be an open competition, and that's what they're hearing right now and that's what we're doing. And so, really, it's hard, because until you play games and really practice … again, we're going off classroom and we're going off Phase 2, (where) we can't even go against each other. So it's hard to definitively say, 'Hey, this is our guy.'"
In reality, how long does the switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3 take? A couple years, right?
"No, I don't think so. I don't think so. … Well, because we're a system where we … don't have a ton of different things that we do. We do what we do, so in terms of teaching what we do, it's simple. We make the simple complex. So in terms of learning, the learning's going to be we're going to make it as simple as possible for these guys so they can play fast. So there's not going to be a whole lot of variables in what we do. We do what we do, and we're going to play fast."
On the intrigue from the coaches about who will step up at linebacker:
"Yeah, that's what's great about it, is because it'll play itself out. And so, you know, you have your thoughts, you have your ideas, but you don't really know until you start playing the games. So you start practicing, 11-on-11 football, run, pass — you have all those elements, and then you can really see who's going to be your one group, who's going to be your two group."
On how a player will separate themselves to win a job, especially at the MIKE linebacker spot:
"We always talk about 'Hits on the ball.' A guy who can get to the ballcarrier. Whether it's run or pass, guys that can react. It's not just who's the fastest, who's the biggest. It's guys who can get to the ballcarrier. Whether it's a run play or a pass play — and a lot of linebacker play is instincts. So guys gotta have great instincts. Now you're in the middle of the defense, so you've gotta see a whole lot. You've got to see guard pulls, you've got to see running backs, you've got to see dropback, playaction, boot — there's a lot of things you have to see. So that's where your instincts take over sometimes."