INDIANAPOLIS – The changes have been immense.
Through free agency and the draft, the Colts have brought in 16 new faces on defense, of the team's 20 total free agents/draft picks this offseason.
Jim Irsay has seen all the turnover unfold over the past few months and gave his thoughts Saturday about the new-look Colts:
On Chris Ballard's first draft and offseason as a general manger: "I could not be more excited watching him work. He has a lot of tendencies that remind me of Bill Polian, which of course are good. He has some that don't remind me of Bill, which is also good (laughs). He has really talked to (guys from the Polian era) and really communicated and wanted input from those guys. We are really excited."
On the draft focus on defense: "It would have been pretty hard to not see at least a majority of (the draft picks) on defense. I think we probably were going to be heavier on defense but we have some needs on offense as well and we didn't want to neglect what the board was showing us at each pick."
On the remaining needs: "Obviously, pass rush is an area we have to address and will continue to address. That remains to be seen. Corner is another area. With (Quincy) Wilson and looking at the whole roster, we have really two outstanding corners that can start and a third for nickel. I think you almost need four these days with injuries and things like that. I think we have a lot of needs on defense---outside linebacker (rush linebacker), corner. We are addressing them and we hope to see that we've really made some progress there. The opening game last year speaks for itself. You score 35 points at home and you can't win the game. That's a problem. A return guy, we've talked about that. It's been a while since we've had a really consistent, special return guy. Those guys can change games, change momentum and you look for that."
On finding a running back: "It'll be interesting to come up with a young (running) back. Everyone remembers what Vick Ballard did for us in 2012 before he had the unfortunate injury. We would like to get a young back as well."
On the selection of Malik Hooker in Round One: "We didn't think Malik would be there and we really think he's going to be a special player, a special player."
On Andrew Luck: "I think Andrew has a lot of great football left in him. I don't think he's reached that halfway point (of his career) by any means. I think he's going right into that sweet spot area. I've talked before about Peyton not even winning his first playoff game until almost six years into it. We have an excellent chance to be scoring high 20s and even low 30s a game. We really do. I want to see us run the ball, like I think we can. If we can run the ball, just continue that trend of running it better, this offense is going to be dangerous and consistent. There's no question that defensively we have to become good enough to finish games, good enough to win games. I don't think right now we are talking about a defensive team that is going to go in and dominate on defense. I do think in this league the hardest thing on offense is to be able to score consistent."
On 2017: "We have with Andrew, in my mind, the special element. To have that quarterback and to have that quarterback that has that type of leadership and that type of passion to win. I can't emphasize enough Andrew's leadership skills and that passion to win a World Championship. How much that means to him, big time. It's his focus. It's what his life is based around. That's exciting. And we are trying to get that on defense. We need leaders on defense. If you have some guys that are on the fence, guys that may have some inconsistencies with effort, bring those (leaders) up and are willing to look them in the eye and say, 'It's time. Let's go.' We are looking for leadership on defense. Andrew is healing up really well and I really think we have an excellent chance to have an outstanding year. I know we are going to be a lot better on defense. We are not there yet. There's no question about it, but I look for us to go out there and compete and have a winning season. We are not sure how good we can be but we sure are looking to be playing in January. That's our goal and I don't think that's unrealistic at all."
On free agency: "The signings that we had were excellent. They were well thought out. They were financially prudent, responsible, smart. In the end that's going to pay off. There's no question we would rather overpay on our own guys than overpay in free agency."
On the championship outlook: "I'd much rather win two Lombardi's and endure several losing seasons than have one Lombardi and be in the playoffs every single year and never have a losing season for 10 years or what have you. It's about greatness. It's about World Championships."
On the offensive line: "That offensive line is a lot better than I think some people maybe think. That offensive line, particularly if it can stay healthy, and we can get a five that's consistently playing together, that is going to become a strength. Not 'it's okay, it's decent enough. let's have Andrew do his work.' No, it's going to be a strength. I really see that there. Not only with the five starters, but when I look at the depth, making sure that we have some guys that can come in for injuries and fill some spots. I'm excited about the offensive line and I really believe that with the skill positions we are going to be able to score points."
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