Last year, Gus Bradley was tasked with rebuilding a defense. In 2022, his job will be more about maintenance.
Bradley, introduced Wednesday as the Indianapolis Colts' new defensive coordinator, inherits a unit that allowed 21.5 points per game in 2021, which ranked ninth in the NFL, and forced 33 turnovers, which ranked second. There is plenty of talent on hand, and Bradley isn't downplaying expectations.
"There's a Pro Bowl player at every level here and it takes hard work and a certain mentality to reach that level," Bradley said, per The Associated Press. "It's unique to walk into a situation like that. (Former DC) Matt (Eberflus) and I have had a relationship for many years. We've met together, talked together and I know what he's instilled in this defense so our hope is to add and build on that."
The three Pro Bowlers Bradley was referencing -- defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, linebacker Darius Leonard, and cornerback Kenny Moore -- are all under contract for at least the next two seasons. That trio will anchor things for Bradley, although there are defensive personnel needs -- particularly in the secondary -- that will need offseason addressing. Still, it's a much better starting point than the one Bradley took on last year in his only season as the Las Vegas Raiders' DC. Bradley replaces Eberflus, who was hired as the Chicago Bears' head coach.
Among his most important challenges will be the development of edge rusher Kwity Paye, who flashed promise as a rookie last year. Paye recorded four sacks in his first year, and a year-two jump in his production would help the Colts defense immensely.
"We want an effort-based defense," Bradley said. "We want great enthusiasm, which I think is important on the field. Great energy, great toughness -- mentally and physically tough -- and the final thing is a defense that plays smart, makes good decisions. It's play fast and ball out. It's not complicated."