INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Ted Monachino can already sense the pressure building outside the locker room.
Fans are weary of seeing the same old problems from a defense that has been unable to stop the run, chase down quarterbacks or get off the field consistently.
So Monachino has changed things up. His solution is to be more aggressive and creative with play calls — a philosophy that could give the Colts a whole new look.
“We have to manufacture some pass rush by bringing them from different areas,” Monachino said Wednesday. “We can’t just line up and say our four are better than your five and we will get home. We’ve got to create some looks and some things that confuse protections and break down some of the organization of the offense.”
It’s about time.
For four seasons, coach Chuck Pagano has preached about the need to build a championship defense, and general manager Ryan Grigson went all in on finding help in free agency.
The problem was, it didn’t work, largely because the Colts have struggled to find a second consistent pass-rushing threat opposite Robert Mathis.
While the 2013 NFL sacks champion remains one of the league’s most feared pass-rushers and at age 35 has shown no indication of slowing down, the Colts still need someone else who can put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
The numbers tell the tale.
Despite missing the 2014 season with a league-imposed suspension and a torn Achilles tendon, Mathis’ 34½ sacks remain a team high and account for 23 percent of the Colts’ total from 2012-15. None of Mathis’ teammates recorded more than 12 sacks during that same span.
So they brought in Monachino to find a solution.
“We’re going to play aggressively and if we handle the run, we’ll put ourselves in position to pin our ears back and rush the quarterback,” inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “We have guys like Rob, whose proven he can get after it, and it’s up to the linebackers as well.”
Just don’t make any judgments based on what the Colts do Saturday night against Philadelphia.
While Pagano said earlier this week that he’s likely to play the healthy starters into the third quarter, Monachino will be dealing with a young, makeshift lineup.
Mathis is expected to sit out his third straight preseason game.
Indy’s starting cornerbacks, Vontae Davis (ankle) and Patrick Robinson (groin) and backups Jalil Brown (knee) and D’Joun Smith (ankle) have already been ruled out. The injury-filled secondary is so depleted Pagano even joked about moving safeties Mike Adams and T.J. Green outside.
Defensive tackle Henry Anderson was activated from the physically unable to perform list this week and cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who signed Monday, are not expected to play.
With so many guys out, where will the pass rush come from?
Indy is hoping this year’s draft picks — Green, defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, inside linebacker Antonio Morrison and outside linebacker Trevor Bates — will take advantage of their opportunity to prove they are part of the solution.
Even if the Colts are playing it close to the vest.
“It’s hard to say right now because it’s only the preseason and we can’t show you or tell you everything we’ve got,” Adams said. “But you got to have a plan and we’ll have something for everybody.”
Monachino isn’t dropping many hints. But the key to improving, he believes, has more to do with putting players in position to get after the quarterback rather than relying on one or two.
“I think we have just the men for the job in the front end and in the back end,” he said. “Am I completely satisfied with where we are? Absolutely not, just because we are still giving up yards that we shouldn’t. Am I pleased with the group of guys and their work and attention to detail? Absolutely.”
Notes: Pagano opened Thursday’s news conference by offering support to the victims of Wednesday’s tornadoes in Indiana. A group of players was scheduled to visit the American Red Cross shelter in Kokomo on Thursday afternoon. … Pagano said Thursday right tackle Joe Reitz is questionable with a sore back. If he can’t play, Pagano said the Colts would plug third-round pick Le’Raven Clark into the starting lineup. … Safety Dezmen Southward missed Thursday’s practice because he was ill. … Pagano also hopes this week’s game will help sort out the running back depth chart behind Frank Gore.