Adding wide receiver Andre Johnson and running back Frank Gore in free agency as well as wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the NFL draft to go with wide receivers T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and Duron Carter gives Luck an abundance of weapons. There’s a lot to like.
After the first workout of mini-camp Tuesday at the team complex, Pagano was asked if he’s concerned about the team’s strength being shifted toward offense.
“I think time will tell, but I think we’re more balanced than we’ve ever been because we added pieces that’s going to help our defense as well,” the fourth-year head coach said. “We’ve lost some good players, but we’ve added some players on both sides of the ball. But I think this is from offense, defense, special teams, again, time will tell, but I think it’s our most balanced team that we’ve had.”
Pagano spoke of Gore’s durability and professionalism as an established five-time Pro Bowl star in 10 seasons. He sees Johnson set a similar example in setting an example as a seven-time Pro Bowl star in 12 seasons.
The Colts have been a proficient pass-first team with Luck, who led the NFL with 40 TD passes and has passed more for more yards (12,957) in his first three Pro Bowl seasons as any quarterback in league history.
“Yeah, I mean, today’s practice, it was pretty sharp,” Pagano said of the passing game. “I would say from week one, phase one, whatever we could do in phase one to phase two through OTAs until now. Very, very impressive, the amount of work that they put in and the ground that they’ve gained as far as the new guys getting in sync and getting in harmony with the quarterback.
“Again, it’s very, very important. Today was obviously a bright spot in the pass game that we’ve got the ability. Obviously No. 12 (Luck) makes all that go. Matt (Hasselbeck) made some tremendous throws today. Guys were running great routes and catching the football and guys were putting it on the money. So I feel good where we’re at right now.”
What remains to be seen is how the defense will gel when the team re-convenes after Thursday’s final mini-camp workout for training camp on Aug. 1 at Anderson University. Outside linebacker Robert Mathis, the 2013 NFL sack champion and all-time franchise leader in that statistic, is missing OTAs and mini-camp as he recuperates from Achilles tendon surgery.
The Colts added outside linebacker Trent Cole, defensive end Kendall Langford, inside linebacker Nate Irving and safety Dwight Lowery in free agency. They also drafted five defensive players, most notably cornerback D’Joun Smith and defensive end Henry Anderson in the third round, safety Clayton Geathers in the fourth round and nose tackle David Parry in the fifth round.
Pagano was asked if the Colts need to be dominant on either offense or defense to fulfill Super Bowl expectations.
“Yeah, I think if you’re trying to build the type of program that we’re trying to build, one for sustained success,” he said. “We’ve talked about it since day one, we want to compete and win multiple championships. We’ve certainly got some of those pieces to the puzzle that give you a chance to do that. We know what the most important one is. I think we’re balanced, but we’ve got work to do. We’ve got to get through this camp healthy, and we’ve got to get to training camp. We’ve got to find out about some guys at training camp once we put our pads on.”
That the Colts have been touted as Super Bowl contenders is to be expected, considering Luck’s rising star power and the team has won 11 games in three consecutive seasons, the latter culminating in an AFC Championship Game berth in January.
But Pagano reiterated his players can’t pay attention to such talk.
“We can’t get caught up in the things that you’re talking about: the expectations, what people are saying about us and all those type of things,” he said. “As soon as we do that, you start getting comfortable and you stop pressing and you stop growing. That’s when you set yourself up.
“We’re just going to take this thing one day at a time. Finish up strong the next two days. We’ve had a really good offseason. We’ve had seven great weeks, and I want to finish with eight great weeks. We want to walk out of here with a great taste in our mouth and not worry about the expectations, not worry about the future. We’re worried about the next meeting, which comes up in about an hour, and getting the mistakes cleaned up from today. Then moving on to tomorrow and focusing on the offseason, training camp and then Buffalo. That’s it.”
The Colts open the regular season Sept. 13 at the Buffalo Bills.
The mini-camp routine deviates with a 5:30 p.m. Wednesday practice at Lucas Oil Stadium that is open to the public.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.