In the wake of a free-agent shopping spree this week that netted seven players at a potential cost of $127 million, Colts coach Chuck Pagano joined general manager Ryan Grigson to address the media Friday morning.
Here are some quick hits — hot reads, if you will — on the primary topics of discussion.
>> Neither Pagano nor Grigson could contain his delight over the acquisition of safety Laron Landry.
“He’s a game-wrecker. He’s a game-changer,” Pagano said. “People are going to look at the defensive personnel and one of the first guys they’re going to talk about is Laron Landry and they’re going to say, ‘We’ve got to account for this guy. We’ve got to make sure we block this guy.’ He’s a game-wrecker. He’s a difference-maker.”
“I could have my 89-year-old grandmother put on the tape and she’d know he’s a special talent after three plays,” Grigson said. “It’s like a stick of dynamite going off when he hits somebody. His range, his top-end speed, his versatility … the word ‘freak’ gets thrown around a lot but he is a true freak.”
Grigson also made it clear Landry was the top priority, not Ed Reed.
“That’s who we wanted, that’s who we targeted and we got him,” he said. “We felt he was the best option for us in the free agent market. “
>> The Colts looked at headline pass-rushers like Cliff Avril and Paul Kruger but Erik Walden was their guy.
“We looked at everyone, we looked at the landscape, we looked collectively as an organization at who the best fits were for us moving forward,” Grigson said. “Chuck and I talked about Erik Walden early on in the process and we looked at the film. When they first started taping practices at NFL Network it was like, ‘Who is this No. 93?’ You could just see him playing at a different speed than everyone else in terms of his hustle and the way he gets after it. He’s a very confident guy. He has the will to get to the quarterback. Sometimes it’s more about the will than anything.”
“On first and second down he sets the edge as good as anybody,” Pagano said. “In the NFL and in our division, if you don’t set the edge, we always say going in ‘no edge, no chance.’ He’s going to be a great edge-setter and then when we do bring him, he’s going to add that pass-rush capability on third down. He’s a high-motor guy, a high-energy guy and he’s got a great repertoire of pass-rush moves, a lot of tools in his toolbox. But a lot of it is just outworking guys and this guy’s got a motor that doesn’t stop.”
>> Adding Gosder Cherilus at right tackle and Donald Moore at left guard strengthens the offensive line.
“I got a solid six hours (of sleep) last night, no interruptions,” Pagano said in response to a question about how confident he felt in the group. “I feel really good. What we have coming back and adding Gos and Donald, it’s hard to find guys like that, it’s hard to get them in here. I feel great about the group. Our top priority is we’ve got a really special guy under center and when he’s upright and he’s healthy and we keep him clean, then we’re going to continue to win a lot of football games around here. So adding those two guys was huge and paramount to us moving forward in our success.”
>> Though Josh Chapman, Fili Moala and Brandon McKinney are expected to be back at full strength after injury problems in 2012, there was a need to supplement the defensive line rotation, hence the investment in Ricky Jean-Francois.
“These are big men that push on big men,” Grigson said, “and they have to be comfortable, I want them to be comfortable mentally and from a physical standpoint before we throw them out there because this is a physical, violent game that people get hurt in. You don’t ever want to rush somebody back too quick – but we also have to bolster this roster and we always want to look ahead to getting the best players on the field day one. Hopefully everyone else gets well, they enter the mix and then it shakes out.”
>> Though Andrew Luck proved remarkably durable as a rookie and the team is high on Chandler Harnish, the search is on for a veteran backup to replace Drew Stanton, who followed Bruce Arians to Arizona.
“The backup quarterback position’s always a big deal, at least in our eyes,” Grigson said. “This is a rough game, a physical game and you always have to have a doomsday scenario, have to think about those things, have to always be prepared. Chandler’s coming along well. We all feel very good about Chandler and just like every position, we always want to create competition and let the best emerge. We’re not just trying to be average or good around here, we’re trying to be great. …We’re going to look and see who shakes free, look at our situation, and keep evaluating.”
>> With so many needs filled through free agency, there is no reason to deviate from the best-player-available approach to next month’s NFL Draft.
“You look at things a little different but it’s still the same philosophy,” Grigson said. “If there’s a great player staring at us, how do you pass on a guy like that? You have to at least have that discussion. We’ll always want the best players and we’ll always try to get the best players because you add those type of people to any mix it’s going to make people around them better.”