Chris Ballard’s first offseason as the Indianapolis Colts‘ general manager has been all about fixing the defensive side of the ball.
The Colts retooled their 30th-ranked defense during free agency, adding the likes of nose tackle Johnathan Hankins and linebackers Jabaal Sheard and John Simon. Indy then used its first three picks in the draft on defensive players, highlighted by first-round safety Malik Hooker.
Ballard was able to focus on defense because, though the Colts have work to do on the other side of the ball, they also have Andrew Luck at quarterback.
Not many first-year GMs inherit an elite franchise quarterback, but Ballard said the Colts can’t just rely on Luck anymore.
“Everybody knows how hard that position is to find,” Ballard told Albert Breer of the MMQB. “When you have a guy with special talent at the position and he’s got special character on top of it, that’s a pretty good thing. But the one big thing I’ve made a point of here, it’s not just Andrew. We’ve got to have the best 53-man roster, and that includes Andrew.
“That’s how well help him, by making the roster around him better both offensively and defensively. That’s what we’re gonna do. It can’t be just about Andrew.”
Despite the Colts’ stagnation as a whole last season, Luck returned to form following an injury-ravaged 2015 campaign, posting career highs in completion percentage and yards per attempt and finished with 33 total touchdowns.
Luck was still sacked 41 times, causing many to cry out for more offensive-line help for the young quarterback. However, Ballard believes the Colts already have the pieces for a solid line thanks to last year’s draft haul.
“I’ll give (previous GM) Ryan Grigson a lot of credit for this – he drafted (center Ryan) Kelly, (tackle Joe) Haeg, and (tackle) Le’Raven Clark all in one year,” Ballard said. “Thank god he did, because (the 2017 draft) was a down year for (the) offensive line. We gotta let those guys develop. So it’s the combination of (left tackle) Anthony Castonzo, (guard) Jack Mewhort, Kelly, Haeg, Le’Raven Clark, Denzelle Good, we signed Brian Schwenke from Tennesse, we drafted (Zach) Banner. …
“Are we perfect yet? No. But do we have a good group to work with? I do believe that. There’s definitely hope there. Now we gotta let those guys develop.”
While the Colts’ success will ultimately come down to the play of Luck, back-to-back seasons without a playoff appearance has proven that Indy needs to lessen his workload if it wants to compete for titles.
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