News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 12, 2013

Colts' coordinators enjoying getting rookies acclimated

Manusky impressed by first-round pick's burst off line

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — While the Indianapolis Colts put their rookies and a handful of second-year players through workouts this weekend at the team’s Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, a pair of first-year coordinators are getting a chance to do some valuable on-field work as well.

Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton and special teams coordinator Tom McMahon joined returning defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on Saturday in reviewing the Colts’ progress during rookie camp, which wraps up with a single session this morning.

Manusky liked what he’s seen of outside linebacker Bjoern Werner so far.

“Usually it takes players probably a whole offseason to get their feet underneath them. For him, he looks good the first day I saw him out of a two-point stance,” the Colts’ defensive assistant said of the team’s first-round draft pick.

“He’s been working I know down in south Florida. He’s been working on it a lot. Usually the hardest thing is once they stand up, they don’t shoot their hands, but he seems like he’s doing a pretty good job of it right now. It’s a pretty good situation right now. We just know his burst off the ball, he uses his hands well and we’ll see it once the pads come on.”

Hamilton and McMahon also  also discussed how the veteran group has done through off-season workouts and looked ahead to the start of organized team activity (OTA) workouts, which are set to begin on May 20.

“I saw a lot of young guys that are ambitious and excited about having the opportunity to be a part of a pretty good football team,” Hamilton said.

“The kids are working hard. The coaches have done a tremendous job in the short amount of time of getting these guys ready to go out and execute the plays that we are asking them to execute in practice.”

n Hamilton’s new offense — The former Stanford offensive coordinator admits that Indianapolis’ new-look offense remains a work in progress, in terms of figuring out what he and head coach Chuck Pagano want to do this fall.

“Like I said before, we are going to do everything we can do to feature our playmakers. It’s still early. The one thing I can tell you is [wide receiver] Reggie Wayne is going to touch the football. [Running back] Vick Ballard is going to touch the football,” Hamilton said.

“We will get our tight ends involved. We are going to allow [quarterback] Andrew Luck to really have a myriad of things at his disposal, but it’s early. Once we get to training camp and we get a chance to practice against a defense, we will have a better sense of what we are.”

He’s not concerned about how outside observers will try to describe his offense. West coast, multi-dimensional, a hybrid. Take your choice.

“I think the coaches, we really want to press upon our guys to be open minded. We are going to continue on the success that they had last year,” he explained.

“They were able to push the ball down field and make a ton of big plays in the passing game. But we want to try and balance it out some and be able to run the football and do a good job of creating conflicts for our opponents.”

Balance and efficiency are the keys.

“It’s hard to predict what the exact number [of runs to passes] may be, but I think the better we can run the ball it’s going to open up opportunities for us to pass the ball. As long as we keep the defense honest and force them to defend the run, as well as the pass, it plays in our favor,” Hamilton said.

“We can’t waste plays. We have got to stay away from the friendly fire – the turnovers, the pre-snap penalties, all of the things that tend to put you on the wrong end of the score on game day. We’ve got to stay away from those things. We have tough, smart guys as well as our coaches who are doing a really good job of preparing our guys for what’s to come.”

One thing is certain. Indianapolis figures to show a lot of different formations in order to try and keep opposing defenses guessing.

“We are going to have a lot of different ways to run a few basic concepts. That’s a big part of it. We have to have the ability to create matchups, create the matchups that we want. We’ve got to be able to feature our playmakers,” he noted.

n Chapman, McKinney due back — Manusky can’t wait to get nose tackles Josh Chapman and Brandon McKinney back on the field this offseason.

Both defensive linemen missed the 2012 season with knee injuries. Chapman, a fifth-round draft pick last season, appears ready to go. McKinney, though, should also be in the mix.

“Josh has been working with the first unit [in offseason workouts] and getting some quality reps. McKinney is getting in there. He’s still wobbling a little bit, but we are looking forward to getting both of those guys really, really healthy and ready to roll,” the Colts defensive coordinator said.

“We are starting to fit those pieces of the puzzle together based on what that 3-4 defense is supposed to look like. It’s good to get additions across the board, d-line, linebackers and the secondary. It’s always good.”

n McMahon’s take on special teams — Indianapolis has had special teams issues — in several areas — going back as far as the 2002 season.

Kickoff and punt returns, as well the coverage units in both those areas, have been particularly iffy.

“Being my first year, I don’t know what it’s been in the past. I’ve been very happy with what’s been stressed in this building. Anywhere you see it is through the players. It comes through Coach Pagano and [general manager] Mr. [Ryan] Grigson,” McMahon — the Colts’ fifth special teams coach over the past 11 years —pointed out.

“But at the same time, these players, when you get them in the meeting room, it’s important. They stress it within this locker room. It’s the players that make plays and they are the ones that stress it.”

A former special teams coach with Kansas City, he knows what he needs to get accomplished.

“To me, at the end of the day, when we come in on Monday and we evaluate any play, whether it’s a field goal play or a kickoff return play, it’s the fundamentals. It’s the skills within that scheme that break down. We are trying to perfect those skills really,” he said.

“The schemes right now, you can’t do any scheme without being on the common language with communication. That’s the biggest thing we are trying to do is just different terms that I use on how to block, how to protect, all of those things. That’s what we are getting through right now.”