Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus talks massive improvements in Week 2, Julian Blackmon’s debut, sudden change at CB & more

» The major improvements defensively from Game 1 to Game 2 simply came down to attention to detail and execution: The Colts’ defense in their 2020 opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars allowed quarterback Gardner Minshew II to dink and dunk his way down the field all afternoon, as evidenced by his 19-of-20 passing completions; Indy also had plenty of miscommunications and other mental mistakes, as evidenced by Minshew II’s three passing touchdowns.

But Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins would have no such luck last Sunday against the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium; he completed just 11-of-26 passes for 113 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions, while the Colts also shut down Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook, who had just 14 rushing attempts for 63 yards.

In all, the Indy defense not only had the three picks against the Vikings, but it limited Minnesota to just 175 yards of total offense, a 2-of-9 clip (22 percent) on third down, it logged three sacks, one of which forced a safety, it hit Cousins seven times and was credited with nine passes defensed.

Now all of a sudden, through two weeks, the Colts rank No. 1 in the league in total defense. So what was the difference between Week 1 and Week 2? It’s more simple than you might think.

“The defense is always predicated on the principles of hustle, the intensity and taking the football away, and then being smart situationally, and that’s been the foundation since we’ve been here,” Eberflus said. “And I thought the players did a good job of executing the game plan, paying attention to detail and executing those foundational traits that we have in our defense.

“You know, this is the first time these guys played together, and Week 1, with live bullets and they’re getting used to each other in terms of communicating and playing alongside of each other,” Eberflus said. “So I thought they did a nice job, and it’s really a tribute to the players and the coaches.”

» Julian Blackmon’s best traits were on full display in his NFL debut last Sunday: The Colts were ecstatic to be able to select Utah safety Julian Blackmon in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft, because they knew they were getting a player with first-round talent who just required a little bit of patience due to the recovery and rehab work still ahead after he tore his ACL in December, requiring surgery.

General manager Chris Ballard first estimated back in April that Blackmon might be fully ready to go by October; over the next few months, however, the rate at which Blackmon was recovering and responding to his rehab work made it apparent that he might just be able to get back even sooner than that.

Blackmon was placed on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list at the start of training camp, meaning he couldn’t participate in practice or even walkthroughs until his was activated. He was removed from NFI Aug. 31 and immediately given a limited role in practice, and after sitting out the opener against the Jaguars, Blackmon was finally able to make his NFL debut last Sunday against the Vikings.

Blackmon was all over the field for the Colts’ defense, showing off both his cover skills and his physicality, as he finished with two jarring tackles and two passes defensed, the second of which came in coverage against Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen as Blackmon tipped the Cousins pass into the air right into the waiting hands of safety Khari Willis for the interception.

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