The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — One of the biggest themes throughout the Indianapolis Colts' offseason has been physicality on defense.
General manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano sought out players that fit their vision for a more rugged unit that will stand up better against the run. The Colts allowed 2,200 yards on the ground in 2012 and ranked 29th among the league's 32 teams.
But Pagano said, even last season, Indianapolis showed flashes of the team it can be.
"We played really good run defense at times, and we had our moments at other times," he said. "We had injuries. We were plugging guys in. I was sitting down the street (at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center) watching things transpire.
"We had guys coming in on Tuesday, getting the physical, practicing Wednesday and then starting the game on Sunday. So there's a lot of things that play into that (poor run defense ranking). We're going to get that thing shored up, and we're going to stop the run."
Pagano said rookie offensive guard Hugh Thornton, who wore a boot and did not practice Sunday or Monday, was injured late in a mini-camp practice last month when another play fell and rolled into the back of his leg.
Thornton suffered an ankle injury and will miss "a little bit of time."
"But it's not that severe," Pagano said. "We expect to get him back sooner than later."
Nose tackle Brandon McKinney, who missed all of last season on injured reserve, also hasn't practiced yet at training camp because of swelling in his knee. Fellow nose tackle Martin Tevaseu suffered a shoulder injury and ended Monday's practice on the sideline with his right shoulder in a sling.
Rookie tight end Justice Cunningham and rookie defensive lineman Montori Hughes also left practice briefly Monday. But Pagano said both players were suffering from cramps.
A Band of Tigers
Defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois is one of four former LSU Tigers on the Colts defense. He said having former college teammates around will help him make the transition from San Francisco to Indianapolis this season.
Jean Francois also spent two seasons with Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky when he was in the same position with the 49ers.
"Oh, it boosts my confidence level a lot higher," Jean Francois said. "To have him here, he already knows how I play, he already knows what I'm about. And to have older guys in front of me, and especially to have a few of my older (college) teammates — Drake Nevis and to have possibly one of the best safeties in the NFL, LaRon Landry, in the back — man, that just makes your job a lot easier. And that makes your confidence level a lot higher."
If you build (the monster), they will come
Crowds for the first two practices have been healthy at Anderson University. School officials announced 4,440 fans attended Sunday's first public practice and 2,488 fans made the trek to Monday's afternoon session.
The Sunday crowd is the largest since the Colts returned to AU in 2010 for any practice held outside of Macholtz Stadium.