The Road to Lombardi: Larry Coyer

In years past, the Indianapolis Colts have been among the most vanilla NFL teams when it comes to formation diversity. They have run their three-wide single-back sets roughly the same percentage of the time from season to season, and it's been up the individual players to out-execute the defense and make things work. Similarly, Indy's defense under Tony Dungy and former defensive coordinator Ron Meeks was a straight 4-3 Cover-2/Tampa-2 with very little in the way of blitzes or advanced coverage concepts. The Colts have been able to out-scout most teams, and they have been able to get the players to make simpler concepts work.

In 2009, the Colts' offense has been a bit more diverse, using motion and power up front than in previous years, but the real change has been on the defensive side of the ball with new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer. In his first year with the Colts, the former defensive coach with the Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers dialed up some different things. According to Football Outsiders, the Colts rushed three just 3 percent of the time (down from 5.3 percent in 2008), rushed four 71 percent (down from a league-leading 84.8 percent in 2008), rushed five 20 percent (way up from a league-low 7.8 percent in 2008) and brought six or more 4 percent of the time -- twice as often as their league-low total of 2.1 percent last season. It's not exactly "Blitzburgh", or Gregg Williams' pressure craziness, but it allows the kind of positional flexibility needed when everyone's questioning the health of a player of Dwight Freeney's(notes) caliber.

"Our defense is a lot deeper than in years past," Freeney said Wednesday morning. "Unfortunately, with a lot of the injuries that have happened in the past at other positions, we had to work on the depth of our safeties and corners and so forth. I also think our defense is h=now designed to handle situations like (his injury) because of the way that we play. We bring different blitzes and change coverages -- we do a lot of things where we disguise (coverages). So, it's not that the burden is put on one particular player -- now, we can do some things of that nature and make some things happen. "

Raheem Brock(notes), who will see more time outside than he would if Freeney was 100 percent healthy, agreed about the advantages to the change in philosophy. "Definitely -- we're faster, and we're blitzing form everywhere. I think it's helping us overall, and especially with our speed." Brock mentioned that while Dungy and Meeks had a scheme in place, the players seem to prefer Coyer's more aggressive style. Because Coyer's schemes place equal responsibility on the playbook and the players who execute those plays, the Colts will be in better shape if they have to go without Freeney (or go with him on a limited basis) than they may have been before.

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