Colts Q&A With Gilbert Gardner

Gilbert Gardner explains the role of the strongside linebacker in Tony Dungy's defense and the true measure of success at the position. And guess what, it has nothing to do with tackling stats. Find out his assessment of his progress as a starter, his thoughts on Rocky Boiman and Freddy Keiaho, and more!

Ed Thompson: Help the fans understand the role of the strongside linebacker in Tony Dungy's defense a bit better. A few years back when David Thornton switched from weakside to strongside, the defensive stat that the fans notice most -- tackles - decreased for him. Does this defensive scheme limit the strongside linebacker from being in the limelight quite as much as the other two spots? Or is it simply a matter of the strongside backer usually having a tight end blocking him or taking him downfield on a pass route? 

Gilbert Gardner: The strongside linebacker is more of a position of assignment, it's not really a position where you can go out and make every play that you see possible because we kind of make it the corner for the defense.  And if the strongside isn't assignment- sharp it can really hurt the defense. It's not really a position where you're going to make the biggest plays, you're going to make plays, but you have to go out and take the opportunities that are given to you. 

ET: What would you say is the true measure of success when rating a strongside linebacker, as far as whether or not he's doing a good job? 

GG: In my opinion, especially after watching David Thorton when he played strongside, the way he helped his teammates out was pushing everything back towards the middle and helping get guys off of other guys so they can become free to make a play. As a strongside linebacker that is the best indication, in my opinion, not the tackles or how many stats you get because the opportunity isn't the same at that position. 

ET: Is it also fair to say that the strongside linebacker gets a little more tied up because of the attention the tight end pays to the linebacker? 

GG: It does, we do wrestle with the tight end a bit during the game. We go to the strongside of the formation and that's usually the strong tight end. We definitely wrestle with the tight end a little bit more and usually the lead blockers so we're always hitting somebody. 

ET: Do you find in this defense that you are primarily responsible for that top tight end if he goes out for a pass route? 

GG: In our defense we play a lot of different stuff, so very rarely am I the only person responsible for the tight end when he goes out; very rarely will we play a defense like that, we try to mix things up. It happens on occasion, but not all the time.

ET: You've got six weeks under your belt as a starter at strongside linebacker now. How are you feeling out there? 

GG: I'm still learning actually, it's early in the season and every game I learn more…I'm still trying to get better. 

ET: What are you most proud of so far in regards to your own progress out there? 

GG: Really just trying to gel with my teammates and with our defense. We're young, we've been struggling with injuries, and we've been dealing with some new acquisitions and really just starting to gel has become a sense of pride of our defense. It takes a lot to put together a good defense and I'd say that's a good part about us. 

ET: We witnessed significant improvement against the run against Washington despite them having a pretty good running back out there in Clinton Portis. What made the difference from what you saw out there? 

GG: We're getting some more guys to help, Anthony McFarland coming in as a true run-stopper that we really needed on our defense.  And also just paying attention to detail; it's still early in the season and all you can do is try to improve every week. A lot of people expect us to be perfect every game and it's not going to happen; we just keep trying to improve every week. 

ET: You've been on the injured list with a thumb problem. When and how did that happen? And is it limiting you at all out on the field? 

GG: I don't know exactly what happened. I just alerted the trainers that it was bothering me and they took the proper procedures. It's not limiting me as far as my play on the field I still try hard in everything I do.

ET: Tell us a bit about the guys on the depth chart behind you - Rocky Boiman and Freddy Keiaho

GG: Rocky is a guy who played as a starter at Tennessee for three years. Rocky's a good player. He's a hard-nosed, in-your-face kind of guy. It's funny how, when he came to our team, he's one of the biggest linebackers we have, and when he was at Dallas he was one of the smallest linebackers they had. It's kind of funny to see how he fits into that program, but Rocky's a really good player and so is Freddy. Freddy's more of a hyper guy (laughs), he really likes to stay busy and keep involved, so I'm really excited to have those guys on our team. 

ET: Anything else I can pass on to the fans for you at this point?

GG: Just keep rootin', keep rootin'.

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