Colts run new route with younger, faster, cheaper play­ers

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY MICHAEL MAROT

Team Canada, with Strat­ford na­tive Emma Jinks, fin­ished ninth in the team com­pe­ti­tion at the re­cent women’s world ju­nior squad cham­pi­onship in Tau­ranga, New Zealand.

The Cana­di­ans downed Aus­tralia 3-0 in the 9-10 plac­ing match. Jinks won her bout with Lauren Aspinall 3-1 (11-4, 3-11, 11-8, 11-2).

Canada, ranked sev­enth, lost its open­ing match 3-0 to sec­ond-ranked Malaysia, then dropped a 2-1 de­ci­sion to 10thranked Ger­many.

The Canucks re­bounded with a 2-1 vic­tory over Korea (12th) be­fore fac­ing the Aussies (ninth).

Over­all, Jinks went 3-1 in her matches in the team event.

In­di­anapo­lis Colts gen­eral man­ager Chris Bal­lard fol­lowed his gut.

Watch­ing game tapes only re­in­forced the no­tion that his team needed to get younger, faster and tougher.

So Bal­lard spent the off-sea­son re­leas­ing ag­ing team lead­ers, al­low­ing other es­tab­lished starters to walk away in free agency and chang­ing di­rec­tions with mostly low-risk, rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sive gam­bles. Now ev­ery­one inside the or­ga­ni­za­tion is ea­ger to see if Bal­lard’s bets pay off.

“The hard­est thing this year was stay­ing dis­ci­plined in free agency, be­cause I knew we needed to add, I knew the prob­lems we were hav­ing, and the holes we needed to fill,” he said. “Stay­ing dis­ci­plined to your process that was the hard­est thing this year.”

At the mo­ment, it’s im­pos­si­ble to know ex­actly where the Colts’ tran­si­tion stands.

NFL rules pro­hibit con­tact dur­ing off-sea­son work­outs and re­strict teams from putting on pads for the first three days of train­ing camp. Indy’s wait ends Tues­day when the team could get its first glimpse at a camp Pagano and Bal­lard have promised will be more phys­i­cal.

For now, though, there are more ques­tions than answers.

De­fen­sive line­man Johnathan Hank­ins and linebacker Jabaal Sheard must show they can be locker room lead­ers while re­ceiver Ka­mar Aiken, linebacker John Si­mon and nose tackle Al Woods will be put in more prom­i­nent roles.

As first-round draft pick Ma­lik Hooker and con­verted right guard Jack Me­whort con­tinue to fight back from in­juries, for­mer first-round picks Phillip Dorsett and Barke­vi­ous Mingo will have another chance to demon­strate they can fi­nally live up to their pre-draft hype.

“A lot has changed. We are much younger,” said safety Dar­ius But­ler, Indy’s fourth-old­est player at 31. “But the guys are hun­gry and they’re buy­ing in. Ev­ery rep, ev­ery drill, I think brings the best out of ev­ery­body.”“

While the of­fence has made ten­ta­tive po­si­tion changes along the line and tight end Dwayne Allen was traded to New Eng­land, kicker Adam Vi­natieri is work­ing with a new long snap­per, a new holder and a new kick­off spe­cial­ist.

But the pri­mary fo­cus has been on a mas­sive de­fen­sive over­haul.

Robert Mathis, the long­time face of Indy’s de­fence, re­tired at 35. Indy also cut ties with four other starters in their 30s - for­mer Pro Bowlers Mike Adams and D’Qwell Jack­son, de­fen­sive tackle Art Jones and linebacker Erik Walden.

So far, things work­ing.

As Bal­lard added speed and depth in the lineback­ing corps and sec­ondary, the Colts big­gest move might be pair­ing the 325-pound Hank­ins, 25, with the 330-pound Woods, 30. It would give Indy its big­gest run­stuff­ing tan­dem in years.

“I can’t wait till to­mor­row and see if they can move us,” Hank­ins said. “I think we can be the best (de­fen­sive line) in our di­vi­sion.”

That’s say­ing some­thing with J.J. Watt and Jade­veon Clowney still an­chor­ing Hous­ton’s front seven. seem to be

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