June 25, 2024

Charlie Partridge, the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach for the Pittsburgh Panthers, was hired by the Indianapolis Colts today to become their new defensive line coach, marking the team’s first major offseason hire of 2024.

Prior to making the move to the NFL, Partridge, 50, played collegiate football for the previous 27 years. Since 2002, he has coached defensive lines almost every season with the exception of 2014–2016, when he was hired as Florida Atlantic’s head coach. He played for Pittsburgh for the previous seven years, when he was extremely successful under renowned defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.

For the last four seasons, Partridge’s defensive line has finished in the top three in sack totals. Over the previous five seasons, Pitt has also excelled in run defense, ranking among the top 10 in the nation in three of those years’ average yards per carry.

During his undergraduate career, Partridge also had a significant role in the development of the defensive line. It is even more remarkable that in his twelve years of coaching, twelve players have been selected by the NFL, given that he has never had a five-star prospect play for him. Among the more well-known athletes he has mentored are Calijah Kancey (2019–2022), Trey Hendrickson (2014–2016), and J.J. Watt (2008–2010).

Now, let’s discuss the new defensive line coach the Colts have and how he might affect the team’s defense in the forthcoming campaign.

What a Defensive Line Coach Does
We need to talk about the precise function of a defensive line coach on a team before delving too far into how Partridge will affect the Colts’ defense. Let’s dispel some myths regarding positional coaches’ responsibilities right away, as there are plenty of them.

In the NFL, positional coaches are rarely utilized as personal trainers. They are in charge of making small adjustments to a player’s game, but they usually don’t oversee the complete development of every single player. It all boils down to the type of work a player puts in over the summer and the lessons the players learn from their exit conferences.

Positional coaching is useful in situations where players need to be positioned to make plays, such as during gameday rotations, practice repetitions, and little adjustments. While a skilled positional coach won’t miraculously transform a raw player into an All-Pro, they will provide the player with the tools necessary to advance in their career.

Partridge can’t just turn every player he touches into gold because he’s not a miracle worker. But he can provide each player with the resources—film work, alignment, and opportunity—necessary to thrive. For those reasons, the Colts should consider this a strong hire.

Partridge’s Defense Approach
Partridge’s defensive line strategy is philosophically in line with Gus Bradley’s. Partridge firmly believes that the best way to acquire the quarterback is to stop the run, a philosophy that Indianapolis has promoted since Bradley’s hiring in 2022.

In the trenches, Partridge teaches a gap-shooting, aggressive style that differs slightly from what we are used to with the Colts. Under previous defensive line coach Nate Ollie, the Colts trusted early penetration to clog up front run lanes. Zone blitzes are a common tactic used by Partridge to break up opposing offensive lines.

An excellent example would be this 2022 run attempt versus Tennessee. Pittsburgh’s pass and run blitzes complement each other extremely well because they rank among the top teams in college football in terms of blitz percentage each season. Pittsburgh is pursuing the quarterback on every play; if they manage to stop the running back on his way to the backfield, they will score extra points.

Pittsburgh is slanting their defensive line and looping their linebackers back around the backside on this specific play. Tennessee’s zone blocking call from the gun is disrupted by this slant action with the defensive line, and an unblocked defender on the backside is able to get a tackle for a loss.

Partridge shouldn’t have completely different fronts or alignments going into Indianapolis, but he should have a major role in creating run blitzes to counter what the NFL teams are doing in the run game. If all goes as planned, the Colts defense should see more run stuffs and tackles for a loss as a result of these run blitzes in 2024.

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