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New pieces has Chuck Pagano excited about Indianapolis Colts' defense

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The Sports Xchange
Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano watches from the sidelines. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano watches from the sidelines. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

INDIANAPOLIUS -- Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano likes the way his retooled defense is coming together.

"We know some of these guys. We've got some film on them and know what kind of football players they are. It's not all the unknown, so to speak," Pagano admits.

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"I feel good about (linebacker) John Simon; I know what he is as a football player. I know what (linebacker Jabaal) Sheard is. I know what (linebacker Barkevious) Mingo is. I know what (defensive end) Margus Hunt is. (Defensive tackle Johnathan) Hankins and (nose tackle) Al Woods. We've got a bunch of tape on those guys. Now, it's just a matter of fitting them in and finding roles for everybody and making sure that everybody is on the same page."

Indianapolis was active in the veteran free-agent market during the offseason, adding Simon (Texans), Sheard (Patriots), Mingo (Patriots), Hunt (Bengals), Hankins (Giants) Woods (Titans) along with linebackers Jon Bostic (Bears) and Sean Spence (Miami).

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Getting all those new faces acclimated to the Colts' hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme is the first order of business. Then comes the issue of getting them to work well with the team's returning defensive players.

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"Those guys are, from a communication standpoint, learning the defense, learning the terminology, learning each other and learning how to play together. I like where we're at," the Indianapolis coach said.

"It's early, really early and we are in shorts. Again, from understanding and knowing the defense, communication, it's vital that all those guys are here and working together."

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Pagano thinks the Colts improved themselves throughout the defense, but especially at linebacker and along the defensive line.

But right now, at this point of OTA workouts, his emphasis is just getting everybody in synch.

"Again, we're trotting guys out there and we've got to have a first group, second group, third group. We've got 90 guys on the roster with 80-something practicing. Depth right now and where you're at on the depth chart is irrelevant. It's learning the position, knowing what to do and getting better every day," the Colts coach said.

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"That'll hammer itself out. We're in shorts and we've got to get to training camp. We've got to get the pads on and figure out who is going to end up being lined up. I like where we're at with those guys. I feel good about it. Jon Bostic has come in and done a nice job. Sean Spence has done a nice job. Of course (returnees) Edwin (Jackson) and Antonio (Morrison) are doing a great job. They know the defense inside and out. It's good competition there. (Linebacker) Luke Rhodes is in there doing some good things. It's a good group."

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Defensive end Kendall Langford continues to rehab from a knee injury that sidelined him for most of the 2016 season. Langford said a few weeks ago that he expects to be ready for the start of training camp. With no issues so far during his rehab, that schedule remains on track.

Defensive tackle Henry Anderson, meanwhile, looks to be returning to the form he displayed as a rookie in 2015. Anderson returned to the Colts' defensive lineup midway through last season after suffering a knee injury as a rookie. He played tentatively in limited work in 2016.

Hankins is versatile enough to play tackle, nose tackle or defensive end in the right situation. Pagano, however, is locking him in at defensive tackle to begin with.

Third-year defensive tackle T.Y. McGill, who has become a favorite of the defensive coaching staff, could end up seeing more work as well.

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