INDIANAPOLIS – When Bill Polian hired Jim Mora in 1998, he said Mora stood for having a "rock-ribbed" defense.
While the Colts improved and made the playoffs two of the next three years, the depiction never took full bloom.
When Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano paired in Indianapolis in 2012, the intent was to achieve that same type of defense presence, and it is blooming with some difference-makers.
LaRon Landry is one such player, a performer Grigson feels changes the look of the unit when he is on the field.
"I think everyone around here, especially the players, would agree it does," said Grigson. "From the first minicamp practice you could see it. He just emanates an air of intensity."
Landry debuted with 15 tackles against Oakland, causing CBS analyst and former quarterback Rich Gannon to note Landry's tone-setting difference, energy, ability to play anywhere on the field and for the need for opposing receivers "to have your head on a swivel when you go across that secondary against the Colts."
Landry followed with 11 stops against Miami, then missed four games with an ankle injury. The "rock-ribbed" safety had nine tackles against Denver and is tied for third on the team in stops.
"He is laser-focused and is just such a big and explosive presence back there he sticks out like a sore thumb. 'Imposing' is one word that comes to mind, maybe even 'menacing,' " said Grigson.
Sometimes it takes a thumper to know a thumper.
"He's a high-energized, high-motor guy," said Robert Mathis. "He's a big hitter who brings energy to the defense. Teams are not as inclined to come across the middle because they know he's waiting and has a willingness to make the big hit."
Teaming Landry with Antoine Bethea gives the Colts one of the league's hardest-hitting safety duos, players who are interchangeable and can cause pause to opponents.
"From a quarterback's perspective, you'd like to know if it's going to be one or the other, 'Okay, the blitz is 30 (Landry).' If it's 30 (Landry) and 41 (Bethea), then you get the seed of uncertainty because you don't know if it's coming from either side," said Gannon. "In the running game, you may work away from the down safety. Now you have to ask, 'Is it 30 or 41, is it both, who's the down player who can kill you?' It clouds the judgment of the quarterback. You want to create doubt and uncertainty."
Pagano had such performers at Baltimore, and Landry is a component here to help establish that same type of identity.
"Energy, energy, toughness, playmaking ability," said Pagano of what Landry lends. "Like Robert (Mathis), he's a guy that the way he plays and the speed that he plays at, it just tends to bring everybody else's game up a notch. Plus, he's got some game-wrecker ability in him also."
Though he has mixed in well with his teammates, Landry is restless with his game and wants the team to improve on its overall ranking (20th).
"I'm comfortable with the defense as a whole, but I'm always looking to do better," said Landry. "I don't set a bar for a comfort level for me. I'm my worst critic. I'm in competition with myself all the time. There's always something I can perfect and work on. I'm never satisfied.
"There still is more to come – more intensity, more great plays to make. We're not the number one defense yet. This is the highest rated defense I've played on. We're working on being number one. If ain't not first, you're last, right?"
PAGANO FRIDAY – Pagano indicated Josh Gordy, Greg Toler and Delano Howell will not play Sunday. Darrius Heyward-Bey felt his hamstring grab in Thursday's practice and was held out today but should be ready Sunday. He said either Darius Butler or Cassius Vaughn could start in place of Toler.
Pagano said practice this week with the offense was the same, no extra reps, despite the loss of Reggie Wayne. He would not say which receiver would go in the slot, where Wayne has prospered, and that the corps will get the job done.
"I've watched them practice not only this week, but weeks prior. I don't have any doubts they will line up, play fast, play hard," said Pagano. "Will it be perfect? No. We chase perfection at every position, every day we come in here. That's what we're chasing.
"They know what to do. They all practiced well. We'll get the job done by committee."
WAYNE UPDATE – Pagano said Reggie Wayne has visited with Dr. John Uribe and has been cleared to travel and is recovering well. Pagano joked, "if you can be ahead of schedule one week in, he's ahead. We anticipate him be able to start the 2014 season on time. He's doing great. It's a matter of a setting time to get back and figure out a rehab schedule."
PRACTICE REPORT – Did not participate: CB-Josh Gordy (groin), Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring), S-Delano Howell (neck), LB-Cam Johnson (knee); CB-Greg Toler (groin); Full Participation: C-Samson Satele (knee), LB-Bjoern Werner (foot).
INJURY REPORT – Out: Gordy, Howell, Toler; Questionable: Heyward-Bey, Johnson; Probable: Satele, Werner.