Monachino Will Lean On Veteran Defensive Leadership

Intro: In his first year as the Colts’ defensive coordinator, Ted Monachino has eight players with at least eight years of NFL experience on the defense. He said he’s already taking advantage of those opportunities.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Ted Monachino's résumé certainly speaks for itself, but in his first year as a defensive coordinator in the National Football League, he said he's fortunate to have an abundance of veteran defensive leadership on which to lean over the coming weeks as the unit begins to form its identity.

Monachino says he knows better — it's never been his way or the highway.

"This is Colts defense," Monachino told reporters Tuesday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "It's certainly not Ted Monachino's defense. This is the Colts' defense, and this is the way we're going to do things moving forward."

The Indianapolis defense in 2016 features eight players with at least eight years of NFL experience under their belts. Leading the way, of course, are pass rusher Robert Mathis, who his entering his 14th year terrorizing quarterbacks, and Mike Adams, who is entering his 13th year at the safety position, but at each level, Monachino said he has multiple opinions he knows he can count on as he gets more and more comfortable with the tools at his disposal.

At many junctures, it's the vets — and not the coaches — that can get to the rookies and younger players the easiest.

"Lean on them every day, every meeting." Monachino said. "You count on them to be able to put some things in their lowest common denominator with a young player. I think that we're doing that as a defense right now, not only as a staff but as a group of players. We're able to talk the same language every day, and that's helpful, but I lean on those guys every day."

It's that give-and-take approach that has gotten Monachino where he is today. His 10 prior seasons coaching the NFL have been highlighted from 2010-15 on the Baltimore Ravens' staff, where he quickly earned the respect of their top pass rusher, Terrell Suggs.

"He's revamped my career," Suggs told the Ravens' website of Monachino's influence. "…It's definitely a winning formula, and I love the guy. I would play for him with one arm."

It's also in Baltimore where Monachino formed a relationship with Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who coached under current Ravens head coach John Harbaugh from 2008-11 and knew the kind of coach, and man, he was getting as his new defensive coordinator this offseason.

While many things will remain the same from previous defensive staffs — the Colts will still employ a 3-4 base defense, for example — Monachino said it was important to have that trust from Pagano to implement little tweaks here and there to get the most out of his unit.

"Going into this part of the process, every time I open my mouth, coach's (Pagano's) voice should come out in the meeting room," he said. "He's been crystal clear — and I've been clear about the things that I would like to see added into the system — but he knows where the core of the system is, and that's the point we're at right now: we're getting the core in, and then we'll build off of it as we move forward."

For this defensive staff, the core principles will be based on getting a quality pass rush first and foremost.

When running correctly, Monachino said that pressure will be coming from a variety of sources — whether it's from a three- or a four-man front — to help the team's top pass rushers: Mathis, Trent Cole, Erik Walden and Earl Okine.

"We love pressure, but pressure can come from a variety of different ways, right?" Monachino said. "Yes, I'm a pressure guy. I think the best pass defense is a good pass rush, and that's where we're going to begin in the system. But there's enough variety that you're really not going to know who it is and from where they're coming."

Then, in the back end, quality pass rush typically means a quick-triggered quarterback, leading to plenty of opportunities for the defensive backs to make big plays.

"The front guys' job is to get the ball out of the quarterback's hand as quickly as possible, so the secondary guys don't have to cover as long," Monachino said. "So they work together, they feed off of one another, and we've got to continue to ramp both up so we can play really great defense.

Getting to that point will still take some work, however. But with a large group of defensive leaders already in place, Monachino said it's easy to come to work each and every day.

"I lean on those guys every day," he said. "And I ask them, you know, if the install's going the way that they foresaw it going. They're excited about where it is right now, they're all on board, they all understand the process and how it goes from here."

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