Colts coach Pagano sees team making progress

INDIANAPOLIS — Making progress.

That’s how Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is rating his
team’s first week of training camp practices.

“You know, I think this is pretty much standard. I think the
defense is probably a little bit ahead than the offense right now,”
Pagano said. “That’s not to say we’re not doing some good things.
We started to run the football a little better. But I like the way
our defense is coming together.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys that are tough and smart and playing
together. Not giving up big plays and playing smart so I like that.
I like our front. I like our linebacker play. We’ve got some
athleticism in the back end. Again, offensively, we’ve got some
playmakers on the outside.

“Quarterbacks are doing a good job. They’ve had to step up filling
in for Andrew’s (Luck) absence. They’re doing a good job. We’re
making mistakes. It’s not going to be perfect, it’s not going to be
clean.”

The Colts’ coach has been particularly pleased with the
developments on special teams. Veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri is the
most important holdover for Indianapolis. Former punter Pat McAfee
unexpectedly retired during the offseason while veteran long
snapper Matt Overton was released last spring.

“(Coordinators) Tommy (McMahon) and Mo (Maurice Drayton) have done
a great job with that union. It’s completely turned over,
everything,” Pagano said. “They’ve got a rookie snapper (Thomas
Hennessy). (Linebacker) Luke Rhodes (is) developing into a fine
snapper. That’s going to be a heck of a competition there.

“Then two kickers that are new here. (Punter) Jeff (Locke) has done
a nice job and (undrafted rookie punter) Rigoberto (Sanchez) is
doing a great job. I’m pleased with where we’re at (overall). But
nowhere near where we need to be, but we’re making progress.”

One area the Colts have stressed during training camp is
physicality. Indianapolis has had limited contact in previous
training camps since Pagano was hired in 2012. The Colts, however,
have started sluggish in each of the previous five seasons.

“I think there’s a perception out there, and we have to change it,”
the Colts coach said, referring to the team’s slow starts.

Tackling better as a defense is crucial. That’s also been an issue
in recent seasons.

“You’ve got to practice it. If you don’t practice it and you can’t
tackle on defense, you’re not going to be a good defense. So we’re
putting an emphasis on it,” Pagano said.

–The Colts and Detroit Lions will practice together in
Indianapolis Thursday and Friday. Indianapolis and the Lions are
slated to begin the pre-season Sunday (1:30 p.m.) at Lucas Oil
Stadium.

The joint workouts are closed to the public. Detroit head coach Jim
Caldwell previously served as the Colts’ assistant head
coach/offensive coordinator and succeeded Tony Dungy as head coach.
He was on the Indianapolis coaching staff from 2002-11 and was head
coach from 2009-11.

–Defensive coordinator Ted Monachino likes what he’s seen so far
from rookie safety Malik Hooker and rookie cornerback Quincy Wilson.

“When you saw what we saw on college tape, you knew that was the
truth,” Monachino said. “You see that carrying over in everything
that they’re doing. They’re competing not only out here, but in the
meeting rooms and in the weight room, everything we’re asking them
to do.”

NOTES: QB Andrew Luck has been pretty much invisible during the
Colts’ early training camp practices as he continues his rehab from
offseason shoulder surgery. Luck, though, made an appearance at
Saturday night’s workout at Warren Central High School and was also
a very obvious presence at Sunday’s practice session. … OLB
Jabaal Sheard hasn’t disappointed the Colts’ coaching staff during
the first week of training camp. The former New England Patriots’
linebacker has been as good as advertised. “A lot of the stuff that
we saw on tape. Obviously, a quiet guy. He doesn’t say a whole
lot,” Pagano said. “He demands in his own way of himself and his
teammates. But he’s a big, physical guy and he’s a good pass
rusher. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have double-digit sacks
for us this year. “We’re going to do a lot of things. He’s good
against the run, he’s hard to block, he plays with great leverage,
he’s got good length and he’s got good strength. If we do our job
on first and second down and we get in third-down situations,
(defensive coordinator) Ted (Monachino) and those guys are going to
put him in position. He’s going to have his fair share of singles
and then we’ll do some stuff to try to get some free runners. He’s
doing a nice job right now.” … DT Johnathan Hankins tweaked his
ankle during the team’s training camp practice at Warren Central
High School last Saturday. The injury is not considered to be
serious but Hankins, who signed as a veteran free agent during the
offseason after playing for the New York Giants, was held out of
Sunday’s workout.

Tags: ,