It's the "Chud" playbook now.
The Indianapolis Colts are in phase two of their offseason installation of a new blueprint, offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski explained Tuesday.
“What we do is, we go through Phase I, we do an installation, a lot of concepts, as far as teaching conceptually,” he said. “Phase II, we get out on the field so we do an install each day, there are typically eight or nine installs through that phase and then we repeat those installs through the OTAs and those typically will be installs that we’ll put in during training camp as well. So the guys get three or four shots at each install and get good exposure to a lot of different things.
“We’ve been pretty aggressive on those installs and have given them a lot and feeding them a lot and I’ve been really pleased with how the guys have handled it and their understanding and execution and those things as they’ve come along in the spring.”
It helps that Chudzinski, 48, is familiar with much of the personnel. His second season with the Colts took on a more important role in 2015, when the associate head coach replaced fired offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton after eight games. Although “Chud” called plays, he needed them to be interpreted in language the players understood.
When the Colts re-shuffled their coaching staff in the offseason, Chudzinski was retained as offensive coordinator. Now it’s his playbook and his terminology.
“The biggest thing for me is we’ve got a lot of coaches, new coaches, all getting on the same page with some of the things from my background,” he said. “It’s great that we have a staff full of guys that have a lot of experience and we talk through a lot of things and even when we get out there on the field, things always happen out there on the field. This whole process isn’t just for the players, it’s for us as coaches seeing the guys and what they all can do and what we can be best at as well as with the players learning themselves.”
Despite taking over in a short week, Chudzinski helped the Colts knock off eventual Super Bowl champion Denver in his first game as playcaller. But he couldn’t save an 8-8 season derailed by quarterback Andrew Luck missing nine games, including the last seven, due to several injuries, including a lacerated kidney.
Luck is healthy, 33-year-old Frank Gore is motivated to prove age is merely a number, wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Phillip Dorsett are flying around at mini-camp and tight end Dwayne Allen is content after receiving a lucrative four-year, $29.4 million contract.
Except for wide receiver Donte Moncrief, who is on the mend from toe surgery but should be ready for training camp July 26, as well as tight end Coby Fleener, who departed in free agency for New Orleans, the Colts have essentially the same arsenal of weapons. It’s up to the new coordinator to make them work.
The Colts dropped to 28th in total yards, 22nd in pass offense, 29th in rush offense and 24th in points in missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011. While much of the demise was attributed to Luck’s absence, the Colts have continually struggled to run the football consistently, which makes for a predictable one-dimensional passing attack.
Four of eight draft picks were used on offensive linemen, including the first-round selection of center Ryan Kelly, so the Colts have made it clear their No. 1 priority starts with being better up front.
“I think the biggest place where you don’t get as much of a view of what things are is the offensive line in the spring,” Chudzinski said. “It’s an assignment period, there’s not a lot of a real competition out there from that standpoint up front. They can’t hit each other, push around and finish blocks and see those things that are all about offensive line, right? The toughness in play and the physicality and all those things, and that’s really what defines guys up front and right now it’s all just projection.
“But there are a number of spots that we’ll have to work through and see. We’ll get the best five out there at the end of the day and that will be an interesting competition and I’m looking forward to seeing those guys because I’m high on a lot of those young guys and some of the guys that we have back that have been injured and will be back for training camp.”
The goal is to put together an offense suited for the personnel, he said. Some of the stuff the Colts are working on now, they didn’t practice last season, so there’s an element of understanding and adjusting to new wrinkles. Coaches also want to evaluate players in different situations to get a feel for their skillsets.
“I mentioned before we’ve been pretty aggressive with our install and throwing a lot at them, teaching, stepping back,” he said. “We’ve talked a lot about not just knowing what to do but how and why to do it and that’s been a big focal point. I feel like at the end of the day, players are the ones on the field that have to be able to make plays and everything is not going to go perfectly like it does on the chalkboard so those guys understanding what you’re trying to get done is as important as anything and then teaching the technique and the fundamentals to get that done on the field is the difference between winning and losing.”
It’s just offseason, but the coordinator likes what he’s seen on the practice field so far.
“I’m pleased with where we’re at,” Chudzinski said. “This time a year there is only so much you can get done without pads. You’re out there running around in shorts and it’s good, a lot of the timing things, the passing game, you can get things done that way. But until you get pads on and you’re hitting and you’re working on the run game, it’s a little more realistic once that happens in the fall. But this is a good time of year for learning and for guys to understand and teaching them, again, conceptually what we’re trying to get done and I think they’ve gotten a great grasp of that as we’ve gone.”
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