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Offseason Notebook

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Colts Offseason Notebook: Why Matt Ryan 'Fits Our Offense Perfectly,' How DeForest Buckner Sees Yannick Ngakoue Fitting With Attack-Oriented D-Line

The Colts will wrap up Phase 1 of their offseason program this week before moving on to Phase 2 next week at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. Here's what we learned after hearing from defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, quarterback Matt Ryan and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on Wednesday. 

Why Matt Ryan "Fits Our Offense Perfectly"

That quote is how Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady described Matt Ryan, who since being acquired a little over a month ago in a trade with the Atlanta Falcons has poured in countless hours getting to know his new scheme and new teammates.

But why is he a perfect fit for what the Colts want to accomplish on offense?

"Just as far as he wants to get the ball out quickly, he's in rhythm, he's an accurate quarterback," Brady said. "One thing that he brings differently, he's damn near a coach in himself. He's really been, like this week and last week, he's coaching up the receivers as well. Like, 'This is what I'm looking for. This is what I except. This is the body lean that I want you to have.' It's just kind of a breath of fresh air to hear that so the rest of the room is not just hearing it from the coaches, they're hearing it from their quarterback. Because it's really about them as far as getting on the same page and timing. Definitely was excited when we got Matt."

With a young receiver room – 25-year-old Keke Coutee is the oldest player in it right now – and position coaches/coordinators/the head coach not allowed on the field during Phase 1 of the offseason program, having Ryan lead on-the-turf drills as a pseudo-coach is a nice benefit for the Colts at this stage of the league year. As Ryan is working in meetings with Reich, Brady, quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich and assistant quarterbacks coach Parks Frazier on tweaking parts of the offense, he's taking those tweaks and bringing them to Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Mike Strachan, Dezmon Patmon, etc. on the field.

"When they are able to go throw, because we're not able to go out there on the field right now, he's able to go out there and coach these guys up and clean up a few things for those guys," Brady said. "It's definitely helping those young guys. We are putting a lot of trust in the guys that we have, right? We have these young guys that we're very excited about because they are very talented, they just need to get their reps. I think this is going to be an opportunity to get a nice, full offseason that when training camp rolls around that we can give them all these reps so they can be game ready."

Coaches will be allowed on the field with players when Phase 2 of the offseason program begins next week. But when Reggie Wayne gets with his wide receivers, it won't be the first time his guys will have heard and drilled that stuff with Ryan. At this point in the offseason – and with the Colts not having a normal offseason program since 2019 – that stuff all counts for plenty.

Hines, Catch Up?

Another aspect of Ryan's game Brady is excited to work with is his ability to click through his progressions and identify the right situations to throw check down passes to running backs. Notable here is how we've heard for weeks that the Colts are emphasizing getting Nyheim Hines more involved in the offense in 2022, this after the versatile running back had a career-low 40 catches in 2021.

But what Brady sees in Ryan is a quarterback who not only will look toward Hines – but give him, Jonathan Taylor, etc. opportunities to catch and run, not just catch. That's an important distinction for a team that's looking to improve on having the NFL's second-lowest yards after the catch total in 2021.

"(Ryan) loves getting the backs involved," Brady said. "His coverage recognition to understand, 'Okay, they're going to be deep. I'm going to find my back right now.' In rhythm and allowing our backs to catch the ball in space without a defender right on them where they can become who they are, which is great runners after the catch. That's just kind of his style. It's really just his timing, his rhythm and his accuracy is going to help benefit our backs catching the ball out of the backfield."

And Hines, who went from a career high 515 yards after the catch in 2020 to a career low 298 yards after the catch in 2021, has already impressed his new quarterback.

"He's got incredible work ethic, being around him," Ryan said. "He's a serious guy. When it's time to go, it's time to go. I think he's got really good speed, I think he's got great hands, catches the ball effortlessly. I think he's got ability to get in and out of cuts that is special. I think he's going to be a nice tool for us to find ways to use this season. Really love him as a teammate, he's been awesome to spend time with and fun to work with."

The Yannick Impact

This graphic our Colts social team put together stuck with DeForest Buckner:

"I saw a list of him with some, shoot, Hall of Famers," Buckner said. "Having a list of first six seasons in the league, eight-plus sacks — he was with Reggie White and Aaron Donald. That's an elite group."

No kidding that's an elite group. Derrick Thomas and Reggie White are Hall of Famers; DeMarcus Ware was a first-ballot Hall of Fame finalist in 2022; Aaron Donald looks like a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer a few years after his career ends.

So that's the caliber of player the Colts acquired from the Las Vegas Raiders in exchange for quarterback Rock Ya-Sin last month – a consistently disruptive, impactful, attacking presence off the edge who also brings veteran leadership to the locker room. Buckner quickly pointed to the impact Ngakoue can make on second-year defensive ends Kwity Paye (who spent months in college practicing Ngakoue's signature cross-chop pass rushing move) and Dayo Odeyingbo, as well as fourth-year D-end Ben Banogu.

But Ngakoue, who had 10 sacks in 2021, also should help take some of the focus off Buckner – who played at a high level despite being double-teamed more than any 3-technique defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald last season.

"Obviously he can take some doubles off me and make the quarterback step up a little bit," Buckner said.

The Colts are Ngakoue's third city in which he's been paired with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, along with Jacksonville in 2016 and Las Vegas in 2021. So Bradley is certainly qualified to explain the kind of person and player the Colts added in the 27-year-old defensive end.

"He does a really good job leading, bringing guys along," Bradley said. "He just really helped in a lot of areas and I think he's familiar with some of the things we were doing. He was that communication with some of the other players about what it should look like."

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