The Indianapolis Colts' offensive linemen and Joe Philbin share one major attribute in common: they all have a huge chip on their shoulders.
For the linemen, 2016 is all about getting the bad taste of the 2015 season out of their mouths, a year in which the group certainly had its ups, downs, nicks and bruises.
For Philbin, signing on with the Colts as their assistant head coach and offensive line coach allows the 14-year NFL coaching veteran a chance to focus his attention in one specific area, as opposed to his most recent stop as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, where he compiled a 24-28 record from 2012-15 and was responsible for each and every facet of the organization.
So with that in mind, the new coach and his players have spent the last few weeks getting to know each other in an up-close-and-personal setting, starting with Phase 1 of offseason workouts — in which players have some, but not much in the way of positional meetings — and, more recently, with Phase 2 — in which players and coaches can move onto the field for individual and positional drills.
Here's how some of Philbin's veteran offensive linemen have reacted to their first few weeks under their new coach:
• Center Jonotthan Harrison: "Oh, Coach Philbin — boy, he's a big tempo guy. He has a lot of knowledge, he's been coaching for a while. And we really get after it for a while, and we're going to be in great shape come season time. He's taking the time to break down, explain the offense to us in a way that all of us understand — not saying that we didn't understand it last year, but, you know, he's just really placing an emphasis on that, and definitely upped the tempo at practice for the offensive line."
• Guard Hugh Thornton: "Just being in meetings with him and obviously Phase 2 started this week, having the chance to see how he coaches and the style and the passion that he brings to the field I think is going to be great for us, and it's going to be great to not only have him, but to have Coach (Joe) Gilbert and Coach (Frank) Giufre out there. So, I mean, as far as right now, the teacher-to-student ratio, three-to-eight or -nine guys in the room, I don't think you could find that anywhere. So the more people you have in there, the more knowledge you have available to you, the better. With that being said, knowledge is only knowledge with application."
• Tackle Denzelle Good: "Coach Philbin is a great coach. It's been really quick these past few days as far as stuff we're putting in, but he seems like he knows his stuff, and he's really a technician. He's making me focus a lot of my technique and what I'm actually doing, why I'm actually doing the stuff that I'm doing on the field, so it's nice."
• Tackle/guard Joe Reitz: "He's been great. He's been great so far in the meeting room, out on the field — we're practicing quick, we're practicing fast. He obviously has a great track record and has been a part of great offensive lines throughout the years, and he has helped build those. So (I'm) excited to work with him, I know like all the other guys are. So we're building something special in the O-line room, and I firmly believe that. And get all these young guys and get everybody going — and we've got plenty of guys in there and plenty of talent in there — so as quickly as we can build and come together, you know, we can, and we need to be, a strength of this team, and I firmly believe we're going to be that moving forward here in 2016."
• Tackle/guard Jack Mewhort: "Oh, he's been awesome. You know, I've said it before: we all know what he's done at every level that he's coached at. He's a guru; he's the best at what he does, and to be able to go out there and learn from him every day is a pretty cool experience. He's got a good command of the room. Like I said, he knows his stuff and he's pretty funny guy, too, on top of it, so he's a perfect fit for us."
'Lucky that we got him'
Head coach Chuck Pagano continued to sing Philbin's praises on Saturday, after the second day of rookie minicamp practices wrapped up at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Philbin was chirping throughout Saturday's practice session, being sure to offer up hands-on tips and constructive criticism to each and every lineman — everybody from first-round pick Ryan Kelly to tryout tackle Amadou Konte' — during a multitude of drills.
"He's a great teacher, he's a great person," Pagano said. "We're trying to give them tools to not only be the best football players that they can be, but give them the tools necessary so they can be great men off the field as well. He's a great role model. He's a great teacher. We got lucky we got him."