ANDERSON – The Colts take one step closer to real football on Wednesday night.
Full pads are being dusted off in the equipment room, preparing to be put on for the first time since the Colts loss in the AFC Championship back in January.
The debut of a full padded practice on Wednesday night makes Colts linebackers coach Jeff Fitzgerald one eager teacher.
"I've been waiting a long time to take on blockers and tackle with gear on," Fitzgerald says.
"We did as much as we could (in the spring). We did some things that parlays into tackling, but you just don't get the physical part of it."
Fitzgerald's fervor to strap the pads on comes from what he witnessed on tape last season.
As a 15-year veteran coaching NFL linebackers, Fitzgerald has a pedigree well respected around league circles.
It's why he has the full attention of his starting inside linebackers, Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson, when stressing the importance of finally having full pads on at practice.
"We broke down the missed tackles last year. We had way too many, obviously, for those two guys," Fitzgerald says.
"I analyzed them, then I assigned them to analyze themselves on a sheet of paper, describing their thoughts in terms of what they think they need to do to get better. We compared notes and we moved forward from there."
According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson had 12 missed tackles in 1,007 snaps last season (11th most among inside linebackers in a 3-4 scheme). Freeman had 11 missed tackles in 781 stops (14th most).
"I don't want to miss one (tackle)," Freeman said earlier this week.
"To have that amount of missed tackles bothers a guy like me who is a perfectionist. It definitely is a point of emphasis (this offseason)."
A guy who considers himself responsible for "freeing" up Freeman and Jackson for those stops is nose tackle Josh Chapman.
In the middle of the 3-4 defense, Chapman wants to see the Colts continue to rise from their No. 18 ranking in rushing yards allowed per game last year (the defense was ranked No. 26 in 2013).
The pads on Chapman (and the rest of the Colts) come Wednesday. For the beefy nose tackle, that means time to "raise hell."
"Being hell in the middle, we preach knock them back, creating another line of scrimmage, make the guys double team you, make the guys triple team you. Being in 3-4 defense, if they single block you on a run, that's disrespect," Chapman says of the responsibility to being stout as the anchor of the Colts three-man defensive front.
"Put it on me. I take it upon myself. I put it on my plate and let's go with it. If it's on Josh Chapman, it's time to dominate."
A black and white look at the Colts training camp weight room in Anderson.