INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts got better this week. But now the work really begins.
That's the message moving forward at the team's West 56th Street facility, where Indy wrapped up the 2017 NFL Draft on Saturday with its five picks in the fourth and fifth rounds.
In all, the Colts selected eight players — six alone on the defensive side of the ball — and hope each and every one of them can come in and add to the already-building competition on the field and in the meeting room.
The team enters the 2017 season with a lot of unknowns — the Colts had their most active free agency period ever, and then will bring in eight draft picks and several other undrafted free agents — but there's no doubt that a real sense of excitement is building about Indy's already-powerful offense, new-look defense and solid special teams.
So with the draft out of the way, let's hear the Top 10 quotes from the newest member of the team, as well as team Owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard, who talked to reporters on Saturday.
• "I could not be more excited watching him work. He has a lot of tendencies that remind me of Bill Polian, which of course are good. He has some that don't remind me of Bill, which is also good (laughs). He has really talked to (guys from the Polian era) and really communicated and wanted input from those guys. We are really excited." — Colts Owner Jim Irsay, on general manager Chris Ballard's first draft and offseason with the team.
• "You're still always looking for depth throughout the roster. I think you all understand my philosophy now. We're going to continue to look. We'll have a rookie mini-camp here in two weeks where we'll have, including our rookies, about 60-65 players. Still trying to look and find guys on the street. We'll go through the summer and if anybody hits the street that we like, they'll definitely get consideration. When we start getting to the cut-down days, we'll continue to add players that we think can help us." — Colts general manager Chris Ballard, on if there remain any areas of concern on the roster after the draft.
• "Coach P (Joe Philbin) as an offensive line coach was one of the most impressive offensive line coaches I have ever met. Not only worked with for about a couple hours, but I am excited to work for. When it comes to that everybody else in the O-line. Like I said, those are my big brothers now and I'm just coming in ready to learn. When you talk about that upswing and upside, when you have a man in the backfield who leads us like that and who sets the tone – I am just happy to be a part of it." — Newest Colts tackle Zach Benner, on his thoughts of playing for the team's offensive line.
• "I see myself as an all-around back, but I'll start off at third down. Wherever the team needs me, I'll come in and help. Whatever they need me to do, I'm coming in to help and help the best way I can." — Newest Colts running back Marlon Mack, on the role he sees himself playing right away for the team.
• "Coming from the D-II, I came from Albany State, and playing in the bowl game I thought it was going to be a big change then. But I was looking at everybody like, 'You're from D-I, you should be good or whatever.' But I put on my pads, lined up against them and did what I had to do. I don't see any difference between it. I'm going to play like I play and dominate like I always do." — Newest Colts defensive tackle Grover Stewart, on the transition from a smaller school in college to the National Football League.
• "t's been such a long journey from playing wide receiver to playing corner, having to learn a new position and new technique. I always knew I had the talent to be an NFL player. When you're playing a new position and learning a whole different side of the ball, you have your bad days and you start to have your doubts. But my coach kept pushing me and I stayed with it and thank God I'm here where I am now." — Newest Colts cornerback Nate Hairston, on the journey of switching positions while at Temple.
• "Oh, I did. I did believe that that was definitely a great meeting, and I was definitely excited going into the draft that I could end up in Indianapolis. But after not having contact with them after was kind of out of my hands. But yeah, definitely. That was a good interview. I loved it. Definitely loved every second of being in that meeting room. Definitely sincere guys, and I was definitely looking forward to it." — Newest Colts inside linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., on how he "stole the show" during his interview with Indy at the NFL Scouting Combine.
• "We are looking for leadership on defense. Andrew is healing up really well and I really think we have an excellent chance to have an outstanding year. I know we are going to be a lot better on defense. We are not there yet. There's no question about it, but I look for us to go out there and compete and have a winning season." — Irsay, on expectations for the 2017 season.
• "Absolutely. You want to try and get as many high-end talents. They've got to have something unique. The good thing is – I can look at every one of these guys and tell you there's a unique trait. Grover (Stewart) is a big man with strength, good initial quickness and he can run. He's got a unique trait. Nate Hairston – good athlete, good speed, good toughness. Anthony Walker – burst, speed. Zach Banner, he's a giant of a man. All of them have something unique and now we turn it over to our coaches and let them bring their talent to light." — Ballard, on the risk/reward of taking chances on players in the final day of the draft.
• "I'd much rather win two Lombardi's and endure several losing seasons than have one Lombardi and be in the playoffs every single year and never have a losing season for 10 years or what have you. It's about greatness. It's about World Championships." — Irsay, on his championship outlook.
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