In January, they hired Pagano, the Ravens defensive coordinator, to replace the fired Jim Caldwell. On Wednesday, the Colts made their first foray into free agency by singing former Baltimore defensive end Cory Redding, and now they have Zbikowski, who could emerge as the Colts' most aggressive hitter since former NFL defensive player of the year Bob Sanders.
At least, that's the hope.
"Tom is a very dedicated and fiery player," Pagano said in a statement. "His competitiveness drives him to perform at a high level and his aggressive style of play parallels the attitude we're looking for from the defensive unit."
Clearly, it's a defense in transition.
The Colts have played a 4-3 scheme for years, though Pagano prefers the 3-4. And until Indianapolis can put all the pieces in place, Pagano sounds content to build the system around his players even if it means using a 3-4 hybrid.
But Indianapolis is trying to speed up the rebuilding process.
After re-signing Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Mathis to a four-year, $36 million contract, the Colts released undersized linebacker Gary Brackett and injury-prone safety Melvin Bullitt, both captains. The moves were intended to help the Colts save money under the salary cap so they could get more players who fit Pagano's system.
Mathis has prototypical size and pass rushing skills for an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
Not surprisingly, Pagano is asking some former players to help him get things off the ground in Indy, too.
On Wednesday, the Colts signed the 298-pound Redding, who is far bigger than the defensive ends who have been playing for Indianapolis in recent years.
Redding played in the Ravens system the last two years and is willing to help teach the system to his new teammates.
"If you're coachable and willing to learn, it's going to be easy to figure out the system and know what to do," Redding said. "The biggest thing toward that is having a positive attitude, an open mind, be willing to learn every single day and staying in the play book and tapes until you get it. I believe, with Chuck's history, I know how he approaches every day and bringing guys in slowly."
Zbikowski could help with the transition, too, after playing the last four seasons in Baltimore, some while Pagano was in charge of the secondary.
And that might not be all Zbikowski will do.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Notre Dame alum could return kicks and help shore up the coverage units, which ranked near the bottom of the NFL last season.
In 53 career games, Zbikowski has 49 career tackles, two interceptions, one sack and 58 special teams tackles. He's also averaged 21.8 yards on kickoff returns and 6.3 yards on punt returns, and he has dabbled in professional boxing.
He was 75-15 as an amateur boxer, then turned pro before his senior year at Notre Dame. He won his professional debut at Madison Square Garden in New York in June 2006.