After more than a decade of the cover-two, a bland but ultimately successful defensive philosophy, something very different is happening on the practice fields at Anderson University this month.
It may take a while to fully comprehend how aggressive head coach Chuck Pagano and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s scheme will be, just how much hybrid there will be in the hybrid 3-4.
Let us, then, turn to a respected veteran for an explanation.
“Pudding is pudding,” said defensive lineman Cory Redding. “You can’t mix it up and threw everything else in there. Vanilla wafers, you’ve got banana pudding. But it’s still pudding. That’s the basis of this defense.”
That’s right. One of the leaders of the defense, indeed, one of the leaders of the team, just said pudding is the basis of the 2012 Indianapolis Colts defense.
What, exactly, does that mean?
No matter how it is packaged, defense still boils down to the same basic concepts.
“We’re running around, flying to the rock, hitting guys, challenging every ball that’s in the air, stopping the run, not letting the offense get a blade of grass,” Redding said. “That’s our mindset. That (cover two) was in the past. This is looking forward — new system, new scheme, new attitude and the attitude is stop the run, period, and in your ears back and go get after the passer, point-blank. That’s it.”
One of three ex-Ravens defenders to follow Pagano to the Colts (along with safety Tom Zbikowski and tackle Brandon McKinney, Redding quickly has established himself as a vocal presence both on the field and in the locker room.
The nine-year veteran has 101 starts in his career with the Lions, Seahawks and Ravens, playing both end and tackle, and is well suited to line up on the left side. Though listed on the depth chart as an end, Redding effectively plays as a tackle when Dwight Freeney moves up from outside linebacker to play from his more natural three-point stance.
Along with Zbikowski and McKinney, he also plays a major role in smoothing the transition from the mild-mannered Tony Dungy-Jim Caldwell era to the more fiery, aggressive approach of Pagano.
“It’s been great, coming from Baltimore with the system they had there and the players they had there,” Manusky said. “He’s just an individual, a big man that’s playing a big game and he’s a big leader amongst the guys on the defense. He’s been in the system, he knows what it is and he’s pulling them all together.”
Redding started 22 games the past two seasons for the Ravens, producing 81 tackles and 7½ sacks. At 6-4 and 315 pounds, he has a big physical presence to match his natural ability to lead.
“That’s who I am as a person and Chuck understands that,” he said. “That’s why I was the first person he went for as far as understanding this system and understanding him and getting his program built here. He said, ‘Cory, I need you,’ and when I heard that come from him and the sincerity in his voice, that’s what made me forget all others, ‘I’m going with you, Chuck, let’s do this,’ because I know how important it is to you and it’s important to me and I want to be a part of that change, so hear I am.”
Though it can be difficult for a new face in the locker room to immediately step into a leadership role, not so with Redding.
“These guys have seen me play the last nine years so they know who I am,” he said. “Guys talk. Guys know who are leaders in this league and who are not. When I walked in the locker room, day one, it was understood. It wasn’t the fact I’m coming in and cracking the whip and me saying, ‘This is who I am.’ They accepted me because that’s who I am. A person can only fake certain things for so long. There’s no B.S.
“People can fake it to a certain point but after that they can’t do it any more. This is me, all day, uncut and raw. That’s never going to change. Accept me for who I am or get behind me. It’s all about team and that’s what I’m preaching to these guys. There’s not one person bigger than the other. I’m just helping because I’m that voice in the locker room along with Big B and Zibby to let these guys it is about team. There’s no faking behind that because it’s going to get us to the championship. It’s all us.”
Now that would be the icing on the cake.
Sorry: the whipped cream on the pudding.