Take away from Chris Ballard and Frank Reich


INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts concluded the 2020 NFL Draft on Saturday with nine exciting new prospects – five in offense and four in defense – to work with. What were the main points to remember from the three days of action by general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich?

You can listen to the entire Ballard and Reich videoconference with the local media above, but here are a few things to remember:

Jacob Eason has the tools to become a solid NFL quarterback, but right now he’s just competing for the No. 3 quarterback position: Ballard has always said that the team did not feel pressured into obtaining a “future quarterback” and that it would not be forced into this position in this year’s draft. So, despite the fact that Eason had the draft buzz as the first or second round possible, the Colts spotted him as usual and put him on their board accordingly.

When the team clocked in the fourth lap at 122nd overall, the decision was simple – the board said to get Eason, so that’s exactly what the Colts did.

Reich said the team spent “quite a bit of time” with Eason throughout the pre-draft process, and between those conversations, his “size, strength and very good arm talent” (the best talent of arms in his draft class, in fact) and what he showed on tape, he thinks there is a lot of potential for him to use this opportunity to one day reach his ceiling.

“You are personally comfortable with someone,” said Reich. “You dig deep and try to figure out what motivates a guy, so at the end of the day (he) felt like we could spend enough time with him to feel that. “

However, Reich and Ballard warned that it was not because the team had selected Eason in the repechage – the first time the Colts had taken a quarterback in the repechage since 2012, when they took Andrew Luck and Chandler Harnish – that he was not going to start on the ground floor and go up from there.

“Phillip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett are our first two (QB), and Chad Kelly and Jacob are competing for the next place,” said Ballard. “Jacob has talent; he has to work and he has to earn it. “

The team has no plans to get rid of Jacoby Brissett: The fact that the Colts both signed a free agent quarterback (Rivers) as their new starter and also took a quarterback in the fourth round of the NFL draft (Eason), all in the same offseason , could announce the death of the former starter in most situations across the league.

But Brissett, Ballard insists, does not move as the Colts quarterback for the 2020 season.

Now it’s the NFL, and the plans may change. There is always a chance that another team can find out about Brissett’s availability and make an offer that is impossible to ignore, but as far as Ballard is concerned, the No. 7 stays at Indy this year – which benefits everyone. .

“We think he’s a starter in the league,” said Ballard of Brissett. “Jacoby continues to improve. … All that Jacoby represents is what we believe in. … We are lucky to have Jacoby Brissett. “

Reich believes second-round pick Michael Pittman Jr. has everything you could want from a wide receiver in the NFL: At 6 feet 4 inches and 223 pounds, Pittman’s height is the first feature you’ll likely notice, but turn on the movie and the USC product will display a full repertoire at the receiver position.

“Michael is tall, he has strength, he has good speed for his size, and then he has good body speed,” said Reich.

Pittman Jr. was one of the best pass catchers in the country in 2019, finishing with 101 receptions for 1,275 yards (12.6 yards per reception) and 11 touchdowns in 13 starts, and was named finalist of the Fred Biletnikoff Prize – presented each year to the top receiver in college football – and was also a member of the All-American Second Associated Press team, as well as a selection of the All-Pac-12 first team.

With no choices in the first round in this year’s NFL draft, the Colts had plenty of time to consider their options for the start of Day 2 because they had second choice in the second round, and Reich said there were no reservations at all Pittman Jr. was the man for them at No. 34 overall.

“He was a guy I think there was very strong consensus in the room from day one,” said Reich.

The Colts will revert to a “committee back” approach with the addition of Wisconsin star player Jonathan Taylor: The Colts in 2019 placed seventh in the NFL in the race and actually finished just 1.5 yards per game out of the top five.

So imagine what’s going on in Reich’s mind as he develops the game manual for the 2020 season and can add a double Doak Walker Award winner – awarded each year to the best runner in college football – to his attack.

The 5-foot-10, 226-pound player made 926 rushing attempts for 6,174 yards (6.7 yards per attempt) with 50 touchdowns, as well as 42 receptions for 407 yards and five scores in the air, during his three years with the Badgers. , showing a rare mix of strength, speed and footwork.

Running behind this Colts offensive line? Yeah, it’ll be fine. You can see why the Colts were so willing to trade to get Taylor in the second round.

Now, the obvious question here is how Taylor’s role will affect returning starter Marlon Mack, who got his first performance in 1,000 yard racing last season and, when in good health, has turned out to be one of the most productive offensive backlashes in the league. .

But according to Reich, Mack and Taylor will complement each other perfectly like a dangerous 1-2 punch.

“Marlon has a great vision,” said Reich. “Jonathan, he has the size and the speed. “

Add to that this mix of Nyheim Hines, who plays more of a third role, and Jordan Wilkins, who has performed very well by spelling the other backs both in the past two seasons, and the Colts motto of “Run The Dam Ball “takes on a whole new meaning.

Ballard is satisfied with the way the team has met their needs to this point in the off-season; now is the time to work: When Ballard and Reich sat down to review what went well and what didn’t work for last season’s 7-9 team, and what needs to change or be added to move forward , they really highlighted three key areas.

Defensively, there was an obvious need for a dominant tri-technology; someone at the front who wreaked havoc from the inside and collapsed the pocket several times a game and forcing the wrong decisions of the opposing quarterback.

Offensively, the team wanted a more consistent field game outside of their passing game, and they also wanted more explosive options and depth in general across the field.

Ballard’s first step in free agency is the exchange of the team’s first round choice (13th overall) against the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for DeForest Buckner, who, at just 26 years of age, is the ‘one of the three best techniques in the League.

Then, to boost the passing game, the Colts signed eight times Pro Bowler Philip Rivers, who had previously worked with Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni when they were with the San Diego / Los Angeles Chargers a few years ago years.

Then, thanks to the repechage, Ballard and his team were able to check the last box. Pittman Jr. and Taylor are about as explosive as possible at their respective positions after the college game, while sixth round pick Dezmon Patmon is another big body receiver who has the traits and potential to develop into an offensive weapon down the road.

The pieces are in place, and now is the time to translate that into Sunday wins.

There is a lot of time between now and week 1 to do the work necessary to accomplish this feat.

“We think we have done a good job. Now we have to prove it, ”said Ballard. “It’s like anything else … now we have to work and come together and earn it every day. This is what makes it so unpredictable and so special for these reasons. “


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