Achieving offensive-defensive balance critical as Colts move forward

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Robert Mathis and Andrew Luck

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 26, 2016) – The Indianapolis Colts are hoping their immediate and long-range future involves a delicate balancing act.

No one should ever question the franchise’s driving force. He wears No. 12, and as long as Andrew Luck is healthy and under contract, the Colts will be an offensive-driven team.

However, internally everyone – owner Jim Irsay, general manager Ryan Grigson, coach Chuck Pagano – realizes Luck and the offense can’t do it alone.

“The bulk of our winning has been from our superb quarterback play,” Grigson said. “But I also have a defensive coach (Pagano) and he wants to build the defense.

“You want to be able to have balance. It’s hard if you go one way because it’s hard to build sustained success if you’re just going all-in in one certain spot in all three phases.”

Since Irsay put Grigson and Pagano in charge in 2012, the Colts have leaned heaviest on their offense. And that’s only natural considering they’ve had Luck under center.

Prior to last season when Luck missed nine games with a slew of injuries, the offense ranked No. 3, No. 15 and No. 10 in total yards. It set team records in ’14 with 6,506 total yards and 5,062 passing yards, and finished No. 2 all-time with 458 points and 42 passing touchdowns. Luck set a franchise single-season mark with 4,761 passing yards and let the NFL with 40 touchdown passes.

The defense has lagged behind, ranking 26th, 11th, 20th and 26th since 2012.

According to Overthecap.com, the Colts didn’t get the bang for their bucks last season. In cash spending, they had the NFL’s most expensive defensive roster ($77.3 million). The offense ranked No. 29 ($47.8 million).

Look for that budgetary anomaly to change moving forward. After signing offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo and wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to lucrative extensions last year, the Colts are bracing for a Luck extension that will make him one of the highest-paid players in league history. It also won’t be cheap to retain tight end Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen.

“I feel like we need to build that defense,” Grigson said. “I feel like we have a lot of good pieces on offense.”

Pagano was asked if the blueprint Denver followed in its Denver 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50 might influence how the Colts move forward.

The Broncos reigned despite getting a tepid performance from Peyton Manning – 141 passing yards, a 56.6 passer rating – and only 194 yards from their offense. They ruled because of a defense that sacked Cam Newton, the league’s MVP, seven times and harassed him throughout.

“First and foremost we just saw Denver win a Super Bowl with a phenomenal defense and a great quarterback,” Pagano said. “I think you always want to be balanced.

“It’s hard with the salary cap and paying certain guys certain amount of money based on that cap. But would love to build a quality, dominant defense. At the same time, we certainly know that it’s very important that we protect our quarterback, we keep our quarterback upright.

“We all know when he’s healthy and when he’s out there that we have a great opportunity to win a lot of football games.”

The Colts’ defense will have a new leader in 2016 with Ted Monachino replacing Greg Manusky as coordinator. Monachino spent the last six seasons as a Baltimore Ravens assistant, and worked with Pagano in 2010-11. When Pagano served as the Ravens’ coordinator in ’11, Monachino was his linebackers coach.

“Ted and I obviously have history together,” Pagano said. “We want to be multiple. We want to be ‘simple-me, complex-you.’ We always want to be aggressive. We want to be attacking. We want to be sound.

“When you turn the film on, I think the hallmark of a great defense is a great tackling defense and we want to be a great tackling defense. We want to accentuate and put a premium on fundamentals and technique and then communication.

“Stopping the run is always first and foremost, as you know. You know that was going to come out of my mouth. There are a lot of things that we looked at and we’ve got to be better on third down, we’ve got to be better in the red area, we can’t give up big plays.

“I’m excited for where we’re headed.”

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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