INDIANAPOLIS — Chuck Pagano doesn’t need game tapes to find flaws in the Indianapolis Colts defense.
He got a firsthand glimpse from the sideline last week.
If they don’t find a solution Saturday at Pittsburgh, he could be watching it all over again.
“We didn’t do enough things positively to make up for the things that we didn’t do well,” defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said. “We had some really good individual efforts and some guys that performed at a high level, but we’ve got to get more guys in that boat.”
Indy thought the solution might be a major offseason overhaul, which started with the shedding of some expensive, aging players. Popular personalities and stalwart leaders weren’t spared, either.
The next phase was free agency, where new general manager Chris Ballard invested heavily on defense. He scooped up run stuffers like Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods and potential edge rushers like Jabaal Sheard and Barkevious Mingo.
In the draft, Ballard used his first three picks on safety Malik Hooker , cornerback Quincy Wilson and outside linebacker Tarell Basham and spending six of his eight picks on defenders.
When the dust finally settled, with the release of defensive tackle Kendall Langford following a failed physical, only five returning starters remained. And one, safety Clayton Geathers, is expected to miss the first six weeks of the regular season with a neck injury.
So perhaps the growing pains should be expected. But even the usually tactful Pagano had a hard time stomaching the Dallas game.
He cringed after the Cowboys started the game with a seven-play, 95-yard touchdown drive. After Indy’s offense went three-and-out, Dallas drove to the Colts’ 7-yard line before Darren McFadden lost a fumble.
By game’s end, Dallas had 24 points, 467 yards, 6.7 yards per play and 32 carries for 160 yards.
“Not good enough. Poor tackling. Again, they expect better; we expect better,” Pagano said afterward. “We have to address it, we have to get it fixed.”
Sure, there were encouraging signs.
Indy forced three turnovers against Dallas after generating one in the preseason opener against Detroit. That’s a significant jump for a team that has emphasized takeaways after getting only 17 last season, including the second-lowest single-season interception total (8) in franchise history.
But the Colts also only have two sacks in two weeks.
Pagano, a former defensive backs coach, and Monachino, a former defensive line and linebackers coach, know the defense must get better — and fast.
“I think what you see is we’re having some effective rushes. We’re not having nearly enough productive rushes,” Monachino said. “We haven’t spent a lot of time on the first two preseason opponents really looking at them as individual protectors. I think once we get into that a little bit deeper, I think we’ll do better there.”
The Steelers pose a different challenge.
Pittsburgh has won four straight regular-season games against the Colts, scoring 124 points in three games during Pagano’s tenure. And while Le’Veon Bell has yet to show up for practice, Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown are expected to get their most significant preseason action.
Most of the Colts starters also are expected to have a heavy workload, though it’s unclear if Hooker (shoulder) will play. They need the work to get their timing down and to become the unit Pagano and Monachino expect.
“I thought we would perform better,” said Monachino, recapping last week’s game. “Like I said, I think that we as coaches have got to do a better job and our players have to do a better job. We’ve got the right men for the job, we’re just not there yet.”
Notes: Hankins (shoulder) and Chester Rogers (hamstring) also could sit out Saturday. Neither practiced Thursday. … Receiver Donte Moncrief (shoulder) has practiced this week in a red jersey.