INDIANAPOLIS – It’s only natural to expect the Indianapolis Colts’ offense to change this season under Jacoby Brissett.
As much respect as the franchise harbors for the 26-year-old quarterback, general manager Chris Ballard made it clear Saturday night they won’t ask him to be Andrew Luck.
But don’t expect Frank Reich to complete overhaul his scheme.
That’s not what happened when he took over for an injured Jim Kelly with the Buffalo Bills during their heyday in the early 1990s. And it’s not what happened when Reich was the offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017 and Nick Foles took over for an injured Carson Wentz ahead of a remarkable playoff run.
“Completely different quarterbacks in many respects but the same offense,” Reich said this week at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. “It’s just interpreted in a slightly different way. We’ll accentuate some of Jacoby’s strengths and some of our team’s strengths, but the playbook won’t change.”
Brissett’s ability to lead the offense will be the storyline of 2019 in Indianapolis.
There’s a healthy concern amongst the fan base about Brissett’s role during a 4-12 season when he first arrived with the Colts two years ago.
But there are high expectations from nearly everyone in the building.
Reich long has referred to Brissett as a top-20 quarterback in the NFL.
Ballard traded for him on cut-down day in 2017 because he was entranced with the passer’s potential.
Even future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri – who’s been around a franchise quarterback or four – holds a lofty opinion of the team’s new starter.
“He’s awesome,” Vinatieri said before Tuesday’s final preseason practice. “I love the guy. He’s a super, super competitive type guy. He’s got all the physical abilities to get it done as well. What we were two years ago is a different team than what we are now. It’s been built differently, and the supporting cast, quite frankly, I think we’ve got a better team around him as well.
“So I’m excited for him. I know he’s excited to be out there and stuff. And it should be fun. I think we’re still gonna score a bunch of points with him as well.”
Reich made his commandments for the quarterback clear, and they are the same he would expect from any player who steps under center.
“Have a plan on every play,” Reich said. “Keep it simple. Keep it simple, and don’t try to be a hero. Don’t try to be a hero. Just play good football. You’ve got good guys around you. That’s really the message to any quarterback. Those are kind of core principles for any quarterback.”
Reich has seen growth in Brissett as a passer this offseason, and he praised the work the quarterback has put in to learn and decipher the team’s myriad pass protection schemes.
There will be plenty of responsibility on the quarterback’s plate, including checking out of plays at the line of scrimmage and learning the “why” behind each and every play call.
But the Colts won’t expect Brissett to win games alone.
Reich mentioned his hope for a top-five rushing attack before the first rumbles of Luck being injured began this offseason, and Indianapolis has a host of offensive weapons including wide receivers T.Y. Hilton and Devin Funchess, tight ends Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle and running back Marlon Mack.
Brissett is comfortable in the system and well aware he’ll be asked to prove himself over and over again.
“I’ve been here for two years, same system with a lot of the same guys,” he said. “I think that will help me out, help us out a lot. We’ve gained a relationship. We’ve had those tough conversations, so it’s an ongoing thing. It’s not like, ‘He’s all that.’ It’s still week after week, day after day, we have the opportunity to get better.”
Wide receiver Reece Fountain returned to the locker room Tuesday for the first time since suffering a dislocation and fracture in his ankle during a training camp practice with the Cleveland Browns.
Though his 2019 season ended just as he was making a name for himself on the roster, Fountain was in high spirits and looking toward a bright future as he talked with the media.
“I’ve just gotta keep a positive attitude and just keep working,” he said. “’Cause I know, at the end of the day, rainy days don’t last forever. This was devastating. I’m not gonna lie. I’m not gonna take anything away from that, but I know better days are gonna come.”
Reich said defensive end Jabaal Sheard (knee) and reserve running back Jordan Wilkins (foot) continue to make progress returning from their injuries, but no update was available for either player’s status for the start of the regular season.
Wide receiver Devin Funchess has missed the last three practices after suffering a back spasm, but Reich said the team is simply taking a cautious approach and is optimistic he’ll be ready for the opener Sept. 8 at the Los Angeles Chargers.