Colts Second-Year Defensive Tackle Foster Spending Off-season Focused on Pass Rush
INDIANAPOLIS – Eric Foster knows what's imant as a defensive lineman around the Colts.
He knows because anyone who's around Colts defensive line coach John Teerlinck and anywhere around the Colts' defense long enough knows:
1) Pressure the quarterback.
2) Get to the quarterback.
3) Sack the quarterback.
So, while Foster said he knows as he enters his second NFL season that he must work on all elements of his game – run-stopping included – he said there is one statistic from his rookie season he particularly plans to change.
That's the one that shows him with no sacks.
"Right now, I'm focusing on basically finishing – basically pass rush," Foster said recently during the Colts' off-season conditioning program at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"I have to get after the quarterback, finish my moves."
Foster, who signed with the Colts as a free agent shortly after the 2008 NFL Draft, started 11 of the 13 games in which he played last season. He had 49 tackles and six quarterback pressures, but said he thought more after the season about not reaching the quarterback than the times he came close.
Which led to what he called his homework assignment.
Since the end of the season, Foster said he studied tape of every NFL interior defensive lineman, studying pass-rushing moves and inside rush techniques.
"I'm looking at every sack reel of inside guys around the whole league," Foster said. "I just want to see what moves are more beneficial to the inside guys. I just really broke down film a lot."
The idea, Foster said, was Teerlinck's, long considered one of the NFL's best pass-rushing coaches.
"He told me to record down each pass rush move, and which one was most effective," Foster said. "I came in the next day and had it all prepared. I was just really, basically toning up my skills and making sure I use my repertoire of moves I have and also look at the moves that work in the NFL against bigger guys – to add that in my repertoire as well."
Once Foster finished studying the sack reels, he said Teerlinck began having him do "a lot of bag work." Teerlinck coached perennial Pro Bowl tackle John Randle in Minnesota, and Foster spoke to Randle shortly after joining the Colts.
"That's all he did – major bag work," Foster said of Randle. "Hands and bag, hands and bag."
The ability to use the hands effectively during a pass rush is one of the hidden elements of the NFL – an important enough factor that Foster said, "if you don't have hands, you lose basically every battle."
"Any time you see a guy who makes a sack it's because he has done a great job with his hands," Foster said. "You can run as fast as you want and get push on the quarterback. If you don't have hands to finish that move to get the (offensive lineman's) hands off of you, it's useless.
"I think a lot of people have the notion that you have to be big. Of course, you have to have the speed to get around a guy, but hands are the No. 1 thing. Guys who use their hands effectively are the most successful guys."
Foster, who calls himself a "film guy" in season and out, said he spent the off-season focusing on honing and developing moves with the hope of having them ready by training camp in early August.
"The season ended, and I took a couple of days and was back at it," he said. "I wasn't killing myself, but I'm not used to being away from the game for long. I'm so used to being in that mentality. And it's fun for me. It's not like I get tired of watching film. I enjoy it.
"I jot things down, so it's not just watching film and trying to remember on memory alone. I steal a lot of pass-rush moves. That's my thing. I see things I like and see if I can add it to my repertoire."
That Foster had so many opportunities to create a reel of his own was something few expected a year ago. But when Quinn Pitcock retired before training camp and Ed Johnson was dismissed from the team in September, Foster ascended to the starting defensive tackle role.
"I think it helped me a lot," Foster said of the experience of playing. "I came into this thing an undrafted free agent, undersized, but I never prepared like it. I never came here just to make a 53-man roster. I came here to be a starter and to contribute to the team and to win championships. Being thrown into the fire? I prepared my whole life for that moment, what happened last year, but having that opportunity to start right away? I didn't think that it would come so soon, but those were my goals and obviously I was blessed to get the opportunity to do so.
"I want to take it from there and keep building on that."
And as far as building – as far a way to define improvement – Foster said there's only one way.
"Sacks," he said.
"Sacks," he said again, shaking his head. "I never played football going the entire season without a sack. There were times I was pretty close and times I'd get picked up by another guy. There'd be times I'd make a good move and not get there. But I've got to get sacks. I want sacks. That's all I care about. Sacks.
"I feel I'm taking my game to another level. There's a lot more stuff that I know and a lot more stuff that I'm allowed to do. Part of getting great and being competitive, playing at a high level, is knowing when you can do certain things. I think having a year under my belt and examining all the game film, knowing what I have to do in different situations will definitely help me out this year."