Top Takeaways: 2019 Colts Town Hall

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts on Thursday hosted their annual Town Hall event at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, where we heard from the likes of team owner/CEO Jim Irsay, vice chair/owner Kalen Jackson, general manager Chris Ballard, head coach Frank Reich, tight end Eric Ebron, linebacker Darius Leonard and quarterback Andrew Luck.

What were the top takeaways from the event, which was hosted by Colts great center Jeff Saturday?

» The Colts continue to strive to lead the way in the community: “As my dad always says, we really see ourselves as stewards in this community,” said Jackson, the youngest Irsay daughter. “Our title might be owner, but that’s not how we view it. We’re just so thankful and blessed with the opportunity to be able to be a part of this community, and that you guys trust us to really make the impact that we do.” There are several ways the Colts make an impact in the community, whether it’s player involvement year-round, or endeavors like the 50-50 raffles, which sees funds spent directly in the city and around the state. “We’ve really been able to take those funds and impact the community in a whole other way, that we wouldn’t have been able to do without you guys,” Jackson told the packed crowd at the Colts’ new Pavilion, which included season ticket members and other key supporters. “And, again, just thank you for trusting us to be able to make the impact on our community, and we’re really trying to spread the love in ways that make you guys proud.”

» Dwight Freeney will be the 16th member of the Colts Ring of Honor: Next up on the stage was Colts owner Jim Irsay, who announced that Freeney — the dominant pass rusher and key member of the uber-successful Colts teams of the 2000s — will be inducted into the Colts’ Ring of Honor at Lucas Oil Stadium during the 2019 season. “You’d flick on your camera to watch film, and there’s just mayhem on one side of the field,” Irsay said of Freeney, who finished his career with 125.5 sacks, 17th in NFL history. “And it’s right on that side where he is, and I mean, there’s three guys that he’s twisting and turning, punching, and never giving up. … This guy was a different generational player.” Freeney later tweeted that he was “honored and humbled to be inducted” into the Colts’ Ring of Honor:

» The Colts went defense-heavy in the 2019 NFL Draft, but that’s just how the board fell: “We knew we wanted to add on defense, but on the flip side, it was a very deep defensive draft,” Ballard told Saturday. “It just played out that we had some guys that fell right in our range that had the athletic skillset and the character we were looking for.” Of the Colts’ 10 picks, seven were on the defensive side of the ball: three linebackers, two cornerbacks, one safety and one defensive end — and good ones at that. “It’s just a great feeling when it works out the way you wanted it to work out,” Ballard said. “I kept a card and I wrote down, like, this one perfect scenario (in each round), and it had three names, four names and five names, and then four and three, and we got one of each that we wanted. So we were excited about that.”

» Frank Reich truly believes he has the three best coordinators in the NFL: Reich has an offensive background, having played quarterback in the NFL for several years and having coached on that side of the ball since 2006. So when he took the job to be the Colts’ head coach last year, he had to learn how he was going to try to approach the defensive and special teams aspects of what the team was trying to accomplish. It didn’t take long for him to realize that, while he can stick his head into meetings from time to time or suggest this or that to players, Matt Eberflus, the defensive coordinator, and Bubba Ventrone, the special teams coordinator, have their areas covered. “Matt has a great vision for the defense, and so I don’t go in there and try to micromanage that,” Reich said. “It’s his defense; he’s calling the shots. … The same thing, really, on special teams with Bubba.” And what about Sirianni? Reich said he was priority No. 1 his first day on the job. “I can spend time out of the offense every now and then because we’ve got such an incredible offensive coordinator in Nick Sirianni,” Reich said.

» Andrew Luck feels much more comfortable in Year 2 under Reich and Sirianni, but…: “A lot of work to do,” Luck told Saturday. “I was thinking about it at the beginning of the offseason, talking to Sirianni, it was like, ‘We’ve really only worked together for five months or something.’ And certainly we hit a little bit of a stride last year, and that’s great, but, you know, that was last year. … So certainly I think we’re starting at a different level, I know in my mind, with the offense — the comfort, personalities, communicating; it’s so important. … Certainly we’re in a different place, but the goal stays the same; it’s improve every day, it’s get better every day, it’s sharpen the sword every day.”

» Eric Ebron’s favorite game in 2018? Week 12 against the Dolphins: The Colts were down 24-14 to the visiting Dolphins with 13:36 left in the fourth quarter, and eventually came all the way back to earn a hard-fought 27-24 victory on a 32-yard Adam Vinatieri field goal as time expired. It was the Colts’ fifth straight victory, moving them to above .500 at 6-5 after starting the season 1-5. “We were down going into the fourth quarter, couple minutes left, and we just put together this drive, to drive down the field,” Ebron recalled. “We won that game, we comeback, we won. And we were building that streak, and it just kept goin’. And that, to me, that game was like, ‘OK, (we’re) on to something. This is it.”

» Darius Leonard was feeling good about his All-Pro rookie campaign, until…: Leonard reported for the first day of the offseason workout program a couple weeks back and was greeted by defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, and he wanted to watch some film with the linebacker. “(We) watched every last bad play I had,” Leonard said with a laugh. “And it taught me a lot, because especially coming off the season I had, and just thinking, ‘OK, maybe I did something.’ Then you go back and watch film and say, ‘OK, wait a minute, hold on. You’re not as good as you think you are.’ So it makes you sit and think, and even though the playbook is very simple and, you know, we have a simple playbook — sometimes you just wanna say, ‘OK, yeah, I know what to do here’ — but now in the offseason I sit down, I look at every run play against it, every pass play, I see how I get beat or what things I can do better, so all it is now is just mental preparation and technique and how to get better each day.”

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