How Will The Colts Playbook Change Under Jim Caldwell?

Corey McSweeneyAnalyst IMay 14, 2009

SEATTLE - DECEMBER 24:  Assistant head coach Jim Caldwell of the Indianapolis Colts looks on against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field on December 24, 2005 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Colts 28-13.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The philosophy of the Indianapolis Colts for the past handful of years has been fast guys on defense under Tony Dungy’s Cover Two scheme, and basically let Peyton Manning do what he wants on offense. That underscores it a little bit, but not too much.

The offense is this: offensive coordinator Tom Moore puts in three plays for Manning to pick from, usually two passes and one run. Manning then goes to the line and picks the best play based on the situation and the defensive alignment.

The Colts do not huddle too much, which can lead to confusion on the defense’s part as they have less time to set up and react. The Colts have perfected the hurry-up offense with the use of high-intelligence players who are mature enough to handle a hurry up.

I don’t see the offensive scheme changing too much with the coaching switch. While Caldwell is an offensive guy with specialties at WR and QB (even though he played DB in college, explain that one to me), I think it is obvious to most that the statement “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here. Manning and Co. will be just fine.

I know most people are intrigued by the running back battle, but it seems to me that the team realizes the running back position is increasingly going towards the two-back system in this league.  The front office recognized Donald Brown is a smart player that will fit in great, as crazy as that pick seemed at the time.

I do not feel this is an indictment of Joseph Addai’s ability, it’s just a move saying that he cannot and should not handle the entire burden, and Brown was too attractive a choice to pass up. Think about it, is it ever a bad thing to give Peyton Manning more toys to play with?

The most interesting offensive storyline coming into the season is how the team will use Anthony Gonzalez.  With the retirement of Marvin Harrison, it would seem that he would jump into the Y position, or the other outside receiver spot.

Not so fast.

Even when Reggie Wayne surpassed Marvin two years ago, Marvin was still the X guy. The Colts scheme is geared towards guys filling a specific role, and the coaching staff has been hesitant to move receivers around once they find a comfortable spot.

Gonzalez thrived last year in the slot, and with the Colts playing in a three-WR set most of the time, look for Gonzalez to stay in the slot, with Austin Collie, Roy Hall, and the versatile Dallas Clark rotating in the Y position as Reggie Wayne finally moves over to Peyton’s right in the X position.

However, I do expect Gonzo to be the second most productive receiver with a chance to catch 70-80 balls running slants like nobody’s business.

While I feel the offensive scheme will stay mostly in place, I think there could be some more dramatic switches on defense. While new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer brings the same 4-3 scheme and coached in Tampa Bay last year, where Dungy’s Cover Two is still in effect, I think Coyer might bring a more aggressive approach, especially from the linebackers.

For the last few years, linebackers, especially OLB’s, have started to become more of the hybrid rush/pass specialists. Think of guys like Shawne Merriman or DeMarcus Ware.

The Colts haven’t played defense like that. They are notorious for rarely rushing more than four guys with an occasional corner/Bob Sanders blitz because Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have more than sufficed.

However, those two are still fairly small and I would think that the coaches would start to realize that having the two go full bore every single play because they aren’t getting help from the edges might not be the best philosophy. Look for more exotic blitzes from the Colts.

I do think that the rest of the defense will remain mostly the same because, as the Cover Two demands, the players the Colts have are built for specific roles. It will still be a fast defense that is punishing on the run but still might be susceptible in the passing game.

The Colts are also notorious for making few free-agent moves, and took this to a new level with no moves this offseason. That was funny to me.

Every couple of weeks in the offseason my local newspaper lists all the free-agent moves, not just the notables. Most teams have dozens of small moves, like special teams changes or other little moves that make the column of total free agents extremely long, and the Colts still had ZERO. Unbelievable. The biggest move was re-signing Jeff Saturday. Yawn. While he’s good, it makes the offseason less fun.

This made the draft a must-see event for me. The two defensive tackles taken, second-rounder Fili Moala (who takes the position of having the coolest name on the team from Melvin Bullitt) and fourth-rounder Terrance Taylor will get playing time immediately as two big, beefy guys to help out the “Lean and Mean Brothers” Keyunta Dawson and Eric Foster.

The Colts might also get help from re-signee Ed Johnson, but I’m sure he is on a short leash if he slips up again. The Colts D faltered in the playoffs against the Chargers last year as their famous run defense crumbled because the defensive line personnel was too small. These additions should shore up the weaknesses there.

I’m getting excited for the season, my friends. 


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