Grigson, Pagano agree Colts must address offensive line, pass rush

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Colts head coach Chuck Pagano

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 25, 2016) – General manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano shared the local spotlight Thursday afternoon in a pair of press conferences at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Amid the generalities and vagueness that dominated their twin 15-minute sessions, a few specifics stood out. Coming off an 8-8 season that saw the Indianapolis Colts miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011, the franchise is:

  • Committed to upgrading the offensive line, most notably at guard and center. Pagano spoke highly of left tackle Anthony Castonzo, left guard Jack Mewhort and tackle/guard Joe Reitz. He mentioned 2015 seventh-round draft pick Denzelle Good has “a bright future.’’

“But we want to shore up the middle,’’ Pagano said. “The interior of that offensive line, the center and the two guard spots is the focal point.’’

  • Acutely aware it must do a better of keeping quarterback Andrew Luck out of harm’s way. He’s been sacked 115 times and hit more than 400 times in his 55 regular-season starts.

“Obviously we need to protect our quarterback better,’’ Grigson said. “Every team in this league knows no matter if you have a line full of 1s, your quarterback’s going to get hit. (But) you have to find ways, whether it be through acquiring better talent, smarter players, schemes . . . to protect your quarterback.’’

  • Aware it must bolster its pass rush, especially in the aftermath of the release of Jonathan Newsome and the uncertain future of veteran Trent Cole. The top returning pass rushers are Robert Mathis, who turns 35 Friday, and end Kendall Langford. They shared the team lead with seven last season.

“The old adage, you know, ‘If you have 12 pass rushers, go get 13,’’’ Grigson said. “But it’s easier said than done.

“I think everybody knows how important the pass rush is. We’ve got to be able to build that.’’

  • Motivated to put last season’s 8-8 finish behind it. Look for that non-playoff experience to serve as a major talking point when the team’s offseason conditioning program begins April 18.

Grigson was asked how he responded to 2015 after the Colts posted identical 11-5 records and reached the postseason the previous three seasons.

“An 8-8 year, I’m not one that’s never been through adversity,’’ he said. “Chuck obviously knows a heck of a lot about adversity. So we feel like as an organization, from me to our quarterback to our head coach to everyone involved, we’re going to use this and remember how tough this was because I don’t like losing.

“I’m not a good loser. Ask my mother. That’s just kind of the competitor in us that comes out. We’re never going to lose that. (Owner) Jim (Irsay) knows that. He wants us to compete regardless of what we have on the 46 (player roster) on the day of the game. We’re expected to win no matter what. What we did this year with what our backup, what Matt (Hasselbeck) did, I thought was exceptional in the environment there we were in.’’

Losing, Grigson added, “hurts and it’s painful and I’m old school to the fact that after a game if someone is laughing outside my office, it’s not something that seems like the right type of behavior because there is a 24-hour mourning process that you go through. I feel the pain you feel drives you not to have it the following week.’’

  • Moving on from the Newsome incident. The second-round linebacker was waived shortly after being arrested for possession of marijuana.

“I’m not going to go into great detail about that,’’ Pagano said. “(Newsome was) a bright young talent and it’s a shame what happened. We wish Jon well moving forward and it’s opportunity for somebody else to come in here and step up. It’s an opportunity to play.’’

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