INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard is getting quarterback Andrew Luck plenty of help.
No, Ballard hasn’t spent the offseason signing and drafting a bunch of receivers and running backs. He’s getting Luck help on defense, which was not the Colts' strength during Luck’s first five years in the NFL.
The Colts have used all three of their draft picks on defense. Those three players go with the seven defensive free agents the team has signed so far this offseason.
“We had some holes that we needed to fill,” Ballard said. “Look, you all watch the same games I do. We had some older players on defense that were great, that were great Colts. But it was time to move on and find some younger players.”
It didn’t take Ballard long to spot the weaknesses on the roster when he was hired back in January.
Defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs. Or simply: the entire defense.
The Colts are coming off a season where they finished 30th out of 32 teams in total defense. That won’t cut it no matter how good Luck is. They’ve traded out old and slow defensive players for what they believe will be an aggressive athletic unit that will cause havoc with turnovers.
“I have been lucky, between Chicago, where we were always good on defense, and in Kansas City, where we have been good on defense,” Ballard said, referring to the two previous teams he worked for. “It’s a quarterback’s friend -- extra possessions. And defense travels. It travels on the road when things aren’t going good on offense. When you have a good defense, it keeps you in ball games and gives you a chance to win.
“We’re not there yet. We have got work to do. We still have work to do. We have four picks tomorrow. I think I have said this numerous times: It takes time for people to come together in that locker room. We have a lot of new faces, and it will take this group some time. But we think we have added some young players on the roster that can grow together and become the defense we want them to be.”
The selection of Ohio State safety Malik Hooker and Florida cornerback Quincy Wilson in the first two rounds marked the first time that Indianapolis had taken defensive backs with its first two picks since selecting Kelvin Hayden and Marlin Jackson in 2005. The Colts selected Ohio University defensive end Tarell Basham in the third round.
Those three draft picks go with defensive linemen Margus Hunt, Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods and linebackers John Simon, Jabaal Sheard, Barkevious Mingo and Sean Spence as free agents the Colts have signed.
Ballard, as he often does, warned that it will take time to develop the defensive unit.
“I don’t want to put that type of just stamp and say, ‘Hey, we’ve taken these players and now it’s fixed,’” Ballard said. “It takes time to build the defense. It takes time, a few years to fix a defense completely, to get it to where you really want it.”