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Coach Speak: Matt Eberflus Talks Colts Defense

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INDIANAPOLIS — Matt Eberflus is in his first year as the defensive coordinator of the Indianapolis Colts. He recently talked to reporters about the state of his unit as it continues through offseason workouts and heads towards the 2018 season:

Can you describe your defense?

“Well, the defense is built on the athletic, speed players that can affect the pass. So we’re looking for those guys first and foremost at all positions. Then, really, from there, we’re going to play with four down linemen and we’re going to run a varied scheme from there. So over the years that system’s been described as the Tampa 2, and we’ve run all different coverages — you know, we run a four-man line and a couple different fronts. And we’re built on effort and execution; those are what the main thing is.”

Are Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin two of your mentors?

“Absolutely, and Coach (Tony) Dungy. Yes. So, Coach Dungy is a mentor of mine in many ways. And Coach Marinelli, I got a chance to work with him for the last five years or so. And Coach Kiffin for a couple years there as well. Those guys have all been great teaching the system and really executing the system. Really teaching the fundamentals of the core of what the system is really about.”

The Colts defense in the 2000s had the two defensive ends in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. Does that make it easier?

“Yeah, it’s always rush and cover. You always want to build it on rush and cover for sure. When you have four guys humming there, the ball comes out fast and then your athletic, speed players in the passing game affect the pass.”

Is the transition from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3 a challenge? If so, how much is a challenge?

“Yeah, we did this back in 2013. The team I was with, we switched over from the 3-4 to the 4-3. And we had guys that were outside backers that were moved to defensive ends. It’s an adjustment. You have some guys that are outside backers to move to linebacker. So it’s always adjusting your personnel, trying to put the best people on the field, and like I said, you get your athletic, speed players out there and we’ll find those guys.”

On how much of a transition John Simon will be making going from outside linebacker to defensive end:

“Yeah, I mean, it’s a transition for everybody. I think when you go from a stand-up player to putting your hand in the dirt, it’s going to be a transition. You know, the great thing about a lot of the players out there is they’re all hard workers, they’re all good pros, they’re all trying to learn it, and we’re excited about where they’re going.”

What’s your breakdown at linebacker as far as what you’re looking for at WILL vs. MIKE vs. SAM:

“Yeah, there’s always been a lot of conversation about those positions. We’re looking for guys that can play in nickel defense, first and foremost — guys that can cover; they can cover space in zone, they can man cover, and guys that are, I’ll say it again, athletic, speed players that, really, are just going to affect the pass. And those are the guys we’re looking for. So when you’re looking for the guys — the guys that we drafted this year, or the guys that are currently on the team — those are the things that we covet. You look at instincts, quickness and striking ability are really the three things that we look for.”

On if Darius Leonard fits that description:

“Yeah. We’ll see where he fits in. Right now we’re starting him there, and we’ll see where he fits in. But he certainly has all of those traits.”

On his reaction when he found out Josh McDaniels was not going to take the Colts’ head coach job after he was already hired on to be the team’s defensive coordinator:

“Yeah, when you get a situation like that — and I was here with Chris (Ballard), because Chris and I had been talking and I got hired here beforehand — so to me it was a situation where I trusted in Chris, where Chris’ vision was and what he was doing, what he’s all about — the kind of man he is; really the kind of organization this is, from Mr. (Jim) Irsay all the way down. And, to me, it was not unsettling at all. It was very calming to me; it wasn’t a problem, and I knew I wanted to be here, and I’m excited to be here in Indianapolis.”

On eventually becoming Frank Reich’s defensive coordinator:

“Well, I just found out right from the beginning what kind of guy Frank Reich is. I mean, he is a high-character — same with Chris, same with Mr. Irsay. You find that out when those things happen, and you’re dealing with solid individuals and a solid franchise. And, to me, it was, ‘Step forward from there and let’s go.’”

On if there were any concerns on his part that he wouldn’t be retained after McDaniels didn’t take the job:

“No. Nope. As soon as it happened, Chris walked right in my office and we had a conversation, and it was done from that point.”

That had to be comforting to have that assurance moving forward:

“Yeah — especially when you talk to your wife.”

On how he deals with the situation after you up-root your family and the guy you’re supposed to work for decides not to take the job at the last minute:

“Well, you know what? In life adversities happen, and it’s how you handle them that count.”

On what’s impressed him about the young players at defensive end making the switch from outside linebacker to defensive end:

“All the positions are being evaluated. I think it’s important to look at those guys in a couple of things: effort is No. 1, ‘cause we’re an effort-based defense, and we’re based on hustle, we’re based on intensity, we’re based on execution. So, really, those are the three things we’re looking for. So I’ve been impressed with the guys the way they have worked. They really have done a great job putting out the effort, hustling every day in practice, and then really trying to execute the calls. So, to me, that’s what they’ve all done, and we’re excited to work forward with these guys. And it’s a a day-to-day basis, and we’re on the details in terms of those things in terms of executing and finishing.”

On the fact the Colts’ offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators are each NFL coordinators for the first time, and what they bring to the table:

“I think our systems are such that they’re player-friendly and they’re easy to understand, but they’re hard to execute, meaning that the effort needs to be there, the intensity needs to be there day in and day out with all of the systems that we’re implementing. So I think that those are the things that are comforting to a guy — a guy knows what to do; now he’s gotta go out and do it. So that’s through coaching. It’s coaching player/player and coach about execution; it’s about us drillin’ ‘em, us workin’ with them, and then him going out and doin’ on a day-to-day basis.”

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