INDIANAPOLIS – Gone are six of the top 18 defenders from last year in terms of playing time.
A seventh, safety Clayton Geathers, will miss at least the first month and a half of the 2017 season.
Yes, the Colts' defense looks very, very different from how that group lined up last year.
Chris Ballard chopped up that side of the ball this offseason and has infused it with a mix of free agents and draft picks.
Newness at every level of the defense for coordinator Ted Monachino.
"We are so different right now than we were this time a year ago," Monachino says. "The roster looks completely different."
After a week of Training Camp, there's still plenty of interchanging within the starting lineup, even with some names beginning to cement themselves in the first 11.
"We're in a place right now," Monachino says, "where the thing is set up where each guy can know exactly the competition above and below, and that's really important this time of year to see who develops and who emerges as players in the system and as role players going forward."
Inevitably, Monachino is going to have to tap into the 2017 rookie class for some significant playing time.
Defensive backs Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson are potential starters.
Fellow rookie defenders Tarell Basham, Grover Stewart and Anthony Walker could fill some rotational roles.
Any fear in playing rookies?
"I love those young guys," Monachino says. "I learned a long time ago, you can always tell a rookie, you just can't tell them much.
"We're excited about all of those guys. We evaluated the heck out of them in the offseason and the job that our personnel staff did was off the charts. We know everything there is to know about those guys. What we don't know is how they'll perform as pro football players yet. Once we start to figure that out, those preseason games become really, really important for those young guys. I know that from what I've seen, they're all mature and they all have a pro mindset. I think that they'll perform in those games just exactly like we'd expect."
The preseason will be extremely important to get those young guys up to speed and the overall defense as cohesive as possible.
Rubbing a magic eight ball isn't going to instantly solve the Colts' defensive issues.
Ballard knows the progression will (hopefully) be gradual as the rebuilding on defense continues.
"It takes time to come together," Ballard says of the defense. "You want to see them come together as a group and play good team defense. We have a lot of new faces on defense. What I do think you'll see is a bunch of younger players coming together, playing very hard, running to the ball and doing things that our defensive staff is emphasizing.
"I'd like to see a focus on turnovers, which they did in the offseason, but I want to see that translate into game time and watching our guys take the ball away."
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