Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton is so excited these days, he’s created a catch phrase.
All in good fun, he’s suggesting the Colts’ improved offense could be the “Greatest ‘Shoe on Turf.”
“I was joking with you guys in saying we have a chance to be the ‘Greatest ‘Shoe on Turf,’” he said recently during offseason training activities. “Basically what I’m saying is we have a lot of different ways to attack our opponents. We should be able to use a lot of different personnel groupings to create the matches that are going to be in our favor.”
The guy calling the plays has wide receiver Andre Johnson to go with pass catchers T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and rookie first-round pick Phillip Dorsett, among others. There’s also tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener.
It obviously helps that Hamilton is sending in plays to quarterback Andrew Luck, coming off his best season and third Pro Bowl in as many years.
“I would liken it to playing chess and replacing my pawns with bishops and knights,” Hamilton said. “Honestly, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to really see if we can live up to the so-called hype.
“I think on paper we have guys that have a ton of field credibility and they’re well-accomplished in the National Football League, but I do think there will be a time of just calibrating this group and clearly defining everybody’s role on my behalf and then going out and seeing if we can score a lot of points.”
The Colts averaged 28.6 points per game last season. That’s up from 24.4 points in 2013 and 22.3 points in 2012, when Luck, Hamilton, head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson arrived.
As is often asked when an explosive offense has so many options, can one football keep everyone content?
“I don’t think that’s been an issue the past few years, distributing the ball and finding ways to create the matches that are in our favor,” Hamilton said. “I feel like there will be more times than not when we should be able to find that matchup and exploit that matchup. I don’t know that we have anybody that’s playing a skill position for us that shouldn’t be able to win a one-on-one matchup and that should be something that can help us to get over the hump and defeat teams that like to play a lot of man coverage.”
That sounds like Hamilton is referring to the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, who shut down the Colts on both sides of the ball in a 45-7 AFC Championship Game rout at Foxborough, Mass., in January.
The Patriots were able to limit No. 1 wide receiver T.Y. Hilton to one 36-yard reception and Luck couldn’t find any other consistent alternatives in arguably the worst game of his career, 12-of-33 passing for 133 yards with two interceptions. The Colts finished with just 209 total yards.
When the Colts drafted Dorsett with the 29th overall selection on April 30, owner Jim Irsay said two days later that it was important for the team’s third pass-catching option to win battles against the other team’s defender.
But the Colts’ tinkering with the offense obviously goes beyond adding an exceptionally fast rookie wide receiver. That’s why they gave three-year contracts to Johnson and Gore, to ensure Luck would have more weapons against the elite teams.
Hamilton said utilizing Gore will depend on what opponents choose to defend. Ideally, he foresees the Colts’ offense forcing opponents into a constant series of adjustments. If defenses stack the box to stuff Gore, the Colts will throw the ball all over the field. When defenses drop back to cover the receivers, that opens run lanes.
Hamilton mentioned 2013, when the Colts had a league-low 14 turnovers. But he was criticized for being too conservative in his playcalling. When the Colts opened it up more last season, they scored more but also had 31 turnovers.
“You guys were not right,” Hamilton said. “I really do feel like there’s no can’t-dos. I’ve said that from day one. When we need to run the ball, we should be able to run the ball as well as when we need to pass the football. I think we have a pretty good trigger man.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.