INDIANAPOLIS – Brandon McKinney is one of many new faces with the Colts in 2012.
The seventh-year defensive tackle is with his third team, having entered the league with San Diego in 2006 as an undrafted free agent.
McKinney was signed by Indianapolis on April 5 as an unrestricted free agent with the aim that he can help bolster a line on a unit that is under transformation.
Indianapolis Head Coach Chuck Pagano was in Baltimore for the same tenure as was McKinney. Pagano was the secondary coach for three seasons before moving into the coordinator's role in 2011. Now the two are united with the Colts, and the team is moving toward a 3-4 presence that has not been seen locally since 1992.
McKinney, who has opened six of 61 career games, is adapting to new teammates and a new city in a defense that is familiar. He likes the opportunity of playing in an old system in a new setting.
"It was a great opportunity for me," said McKinney of his time in Baltimore. "I'm ready to come here, make plays and be the anchor for the defense."
A number of players in Indianapolis previously have departed. Some remain and are being thrust into a new system. The club is in the throes of off-season work that started in early April, and McKinney has been honing his game while assisting in the orientation of others.
"I feel like I'm being a coach on the field. I've been in this scheme for four years," said McKinney. "I think I can be valuable to the people struggling trying to learn the defense.
"A lot of it is terminology. Some things are different but for the most part, it's the same thing. The learning curve is pretty steep for these guys. The last couple of weeks, they've learned a lot. They're eager to learn the defense. That's what makes it a little bit easier and takes the edge off it (the learning process). … I see people who are eager to learn and want to learn."
Middle linebacker Pat Angerer was the club's leading tackler last year and was in the heart of the action in 2011 to the tune of a team-leading 146 tackles. Angerer is trying to become as familiar with the scheme as McKinney, but it is a learning process.
"It's good. It is exciting. You learn something new every day," said Angerer. "You learn a lot of new stuff. It's like throwing mud on a wall. Some is going to stick, some of it is not. You just learn every day and try not to get frustrated."
McKinney made four of his six career starts in Baltimore, with those coming in 2010. Last season, he was a reserve in 12 outings, and he learned a great deal from stalwart defensive performers like tackle Haloti Ngata.
"It helped me a lot, especially learning how this particular scheme is played," said McKinney. "He (Ngata) helped me a lot coming from Baltimore.
"Alignment is the biggest thing (for this to be a good defense). In getting lined up, you have to believe the coaches are going to put you in a position to make plays. After that, it's total chaos."
Baltimore specialized in defensive mayhem, sporting the NFL's third-rated defense in 2011. The Ravens ranked second against the rush and fourth against the pass. The club was third in NFL scoring defense (16.6) for the fourth straight season, while producing 48 sacks. Baltimore was first in red zone defense, opponent quarterback rating, fewest offensive touchdowns allowed and fewest touchdown passes permitted. The defense held nine opponents to 17 or fewer points and had four Pro Bowlers – Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Ngata.
McKinney, 6-2, 345, hopes to establish a playing heritage like that with the Colts.
"It's a big thing. Being a starter in this league is pretty (special)," said McKinney. "Coming in here and trying to be a starter is a good thing but at the same time, I want to be a part of a great defense. I also want to win. I always will do what I am asked to do.
"I've been successful so far for seven years. I was undrafted, so I have beaten the odds already. Starting is a goal. At the same time, I'm competing with (Antonio) Mookie Johnson. We're making each other better, regardless of who starts. If he's the starter, I'm going to be on him. If I'm starting, he's going to be on me. We want to make each other better."
Veterans will have a series of organized team activities later this month that run into June. A mandatory mini-camp from June 12-14 will draw to a close the pre-training camp work. McKinney looks to keep developing during off-season work.
"My biggest thing is to work on my pass rushing," said McKinney. "I feel like I have work to do on that part of my game. This is the time of the year to improve."
By now, other Colts have picked up on the style of Pagano, something with which McKinney is familiar. It is a style that is firm, but friendly.
"He's a pretty laid back coach, a player's coach, a good guy," said McKinney. "At the same time, he wants everyone to play hard. You want to produce for any coach and for yourself but you get a guy like Chuck, he'll make you want to play harder while he's doing it."