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ANDERSON – It's a stretch to believe the Indianapolis Colts are going to turn into the University of Oregon Ducks or Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles, but a faster tempo is a hot topic this preseason.
With quarterback Andrew Luck entering his third season and a wealth of talent likely at his disposal, the Colts offense should be sharper, quicker and – just maybe – more uptempo.
That would be a long way from the run-first self-description of a year ago.
“(Up tempo) is starting to become a trend in the National Football League and, considering our first two opponents, our defense needs us to give them somewhat of a look of what to expect against Denver and Philadelphia,” Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton said. “We were able to change up our tempos over the course of last season.
“By the end of the year, we felt like the uptempo offense gave us a heck of an opportunity to feature our playmakers, as well as we kind of wear the opponent down,” Hamilton said. “Ultimately, when we start game-planning our opponents, we'll find ways to put our guys in a position to make plays.”
There have been times, primarily in comebacks and specifically in the tremendous comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs in last year's playoffs, where Luck has run an uptempo offense to near-perfection.
When he's in a rhythm with his line and receivers, he is more than capable of moving the offense down the field rapidly.
That involves the no-huddle and an increased emphasis on Luck's ability to call plays at the line of scrimmage.
With an offense that should – presuming health – include Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton, Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the amount of weapons available for an up-tempo offense is tremendous.
Luck acknowledges the increase number of options could present matchup problems, but shies from labeling this year's offense more dangerous than a year ago.
“Coach (Chuck Pagano) told us never to compare seasons to seasons because you end up devaluing someone along the way,” Luck said. “So I'm not going to compare it to whatever I've played with in the past with some awesome, awesome dudes. But, again, it takes a bunch of guys throughout a season and we know that. So the way the guys are playing now, it should be a lot of fun.”
Pagano said the offense will work on up-tempo during training camp and preseason practice in large part to help prepare the defense for the Broncos and Eagles. Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is a master of the no-huddle, of course, and the Eagles under Kelly have implemented a more college-oriented, run-as-many-plays-as-possible approach.
But it will be fascinating to see how far the Colts are willing to go to open up the offense. It seems to go against the conservative nature of Pagano, who remains rooted in a defensive-oriented approach.
Pagano said he believes that Luck will have a better season that he did in his first two years.
“The game's slowing down for Andrew,” Pagano said. “The identification, getting us in the right place, getting us out of bad plays. He's further ahead than he's ever been. He'll continue to work on his fundamentals and his technique, and work his eyes, and controlling safeties, and moving the defense, and working the cadence. Again, he's not light years (ahead of last year) but he's on schedule to have a great season again.”
Luck had three passes intercepted in practice on Monday, and at times has made a point of talking to the defensive backs afterward. He's always looking for a way to improve, and mentioned how much backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck helps him, too.
“It's fun to pick the defensive guys' brains sometimes, especially savvy guys like D-Buts (Darius Butler) and (Josh) Gordy and D'Qwell Jackson, guys who have played a lot of ball,” Luck said. “They'll say, 'Well, you tipped me off on that one Andrew because of this.' OK, I've got to put that in (my) memory bank and go from there. …We have unbelievable coaches, but you learn as much from your teammates, I think, as anybody else.”
The Colts announced Tuesday they have signed former Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner and rookie linebacker Jonathon Sharpe.
Tanner, who is 5-foot-10, 208 pounds, spent the last three seasons with the Cowboys, rushing 56 times for 149 yard and two touchdowns. Sharpe (6-foot, 235) was a starter for North Greenville University and attended the 2014 Super Regional Combine in Detroit.