Posted on June 25, 2017, by Travis Pulver
The Indianapolis Colts have one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL on their roster in Andrew Luck. Team owner Jim Irsay seems to think the team has multiple Lombardi Trophy’s in its future with Luck at the helm. But, if it is going to happen, there are several things the team must do better.
Protecting Luck is high on that list, of course. Irsay has already proclaimed that issue solved. But there is another fundamental skill the Colts need to improve upon just to get into Super Bowl conversations.
The team has not been the greatest tacklers of late. They certainly missed way too many last season, which helped the Colts fall to No. 30 in the NFL in yards allowed. However, while the need for improvement is apparent, there is one major concern when it comes to working on tackling—injuries.
Tackling means hitting. Hitting opens the door to injuries. Injuries mean being forced to play your back-ups—the guys that were not good enough to win the job outright. Winning games can be difficult when you are forced to start second string players.
But if you can’t tackle, you can’t win. The skill is as fundamental to playing football as throwing a pass or making a block. Much like blocking, it is hard to get better at tackling without—well, tackling.
When Chuck Pagano instituted a no-tackling philosophy in hopes of reducing injuries, it didn’t work. But tackling got worse and the Colts marginal defense became one of the worst in the NFL. So, this year, it sounds like they are going to hit—maybe.
“You’re always scared to death, but at the same time, if you don’t tackle, it’s hard to get good at tackling,” Pagano said (ESPN). “We do, obviously, a lot of what we call ‘thud.’ It’s first contact, it’s wrap up, and you try to stay off the ground as much as you can and take care of each other. But we’ll continue to have discussions regarding that, and there may be some periods come training camp that we decide we want to go live here.”
To be fair, working on tackling is easier said than done thanks to the rules governing contact during training camp set forth in the last collective bargaining agreement. Pads aren’t put on for three days when camp starts. This leaves teams with ten days of practice in full pads during the month of August.
Preseason games are also teaching moments so an argument can be made that teams have 14 days to work on tackling (ten padded practices and four preseason games). But when trying to evaluate which 53 guys of the 90 that are in camp to keep, it can be hard to find time to work on everything.
Teams must balance their time between implementing the playbook, evaluating talent, and making sure fundamentals like tackling do not slip. As a result, sometimes teams will breeze over the basics since professional players should be pretty good at them at this point in their football careers.
But as the stats and lack of success for the Colts show, that is not always the case. So, maybe—just maybe—the Colts should find the time to get back to basics and work on tackling.
You know, by actually tackling people.