For as long as I can remember the Colts have never had a stellar defense nor have they been a team that opposing offenses feared. Yes quarterbacks have feared Freeney and Mathis at one time but I feel that time has passed even with Mathis still on the team. The Colts defense has been at the heart of every angry conversation about our home team. The biggest complaint is obviously stopping the run, which they haven’t done for a few years now.
The Colts defenses of the past have been patch-work at best with only a few standout players to really mention. So the organization it seems has taken a long hard, to long in my opinion, at the way the Colts defense has been put together and performed. They spent some money this offseason to bring in guys they feel can make an immediate impact and the draft is still to come. I wanted to take time to break down the three phases of the defense and really see if any of the moves made are going to help as much as we are all thinking they will.
Let’s first take a look at the backbone of the defense, the defensive backfield:
CB1: Vontae Davis
CB2: Greg Toler
CB3: Darius Butler
SS: Dwight Lowery
FS: Mike Adams
Davis has been a great addition to the Colts. The second round pick given up for him has turned into a steal for the Colts. He is as close to a shutdown corner the Colts have had since Eugene Daniels or “Big Play” Ray Buchanan. Toler has been okay but can’t stay healthy. He is also to grabby for the softened NFL rules that wide receivers can’t be touched. Toler also takes bad angles on tackles and sometimes just flat gives up. Butler has turned out to be one of the best signings by Grigson as he found a true home as the nickel corner who can start outside if needed. Adams came out of nowhere last season and showed that age is a number and doesn’t reflect what a man can do and we are all hoping that we get more of the same from him. Lowery is the wild card but has shown that he can handle his own on the field.
The Colts defensive backfield is the best I have seen ever. They may not get a ton of interceptions but they aren’t afraid of contact and they don’t shy away because there is a superstar player on the field across from them. This is the on position group on defense that I feel needs nothing right now but depth. That is something that will come along after the draft unless someone lands in their laps that you just cannot pass up.
Now onto the defensive line:
DE: Kendall Langford
NT: Josh Chapman
DT: Art Jones
The Colts decided not to bring back Redding which may prove to be a huge mistake.. However they did bring in Langford who has flashed talent at stopping the run and pass rushing but nothing that would lead you to believe he will fill in for Redding in a good way. We didn’t get to see a whole lot of Art Jones because of injuries last year but as the season wore on when he returned you could see what he could bring to the table. He is a great option for stopping the run but cannot do it on his own. Josh Chapman never panned out. I’m sorry to say that as well. He never returned tot he form we all saw him play at when he was at Alabama. Chapman can still fill in but he isn’t a starting caliber nose tackle. The Colts do have Zach Kerr in the back waiting for his chance. He played well when he was on the field last season and hopefully he will be given more of a chance this season to show what he can do.
The front three of a 3-4 defense are meant for one thing, plugging up the holes. They are meant to provide initial pressure and make it easier for the linebackers to flow to the ball. Last year that didn’t happen. The year before that it didn’t happen either. This year it has to happen or Greg Manusky may be finding a new job during the next offseason. The Colts need to look long and hard about adding some talent to this group via the draft for sure.
The linebackers is the biggest area of concern for me this offseason. Here’s what they are working with so far:
OLB: Trent Cole
ILB: D’Qwell Jackson
ILB: Nate Irving
OLB: Robert Mathis
The addition of Cole should help shore up the lack of pass rush that we all saw last season. Also Jonathan Newsome has had an entire year of playing time and will have hopefully found ways to improve on his rookie season. Mathis may have setbacks that won’t allow him to start the season and even if he does he will be on a play count. Werner is a bust and he has really shown no signs of anything. The Colts are going to have to find another solid option at outside linebacker to add depth and to off-set the age factor. Eric Walden flashed some last year but I still don’t much believe in him regardless of what PFF ranks him.
The inside linebacker spot is the biggest area of worry for the Colts. Jackson is a run stopper who didn’t fare well at his job last season. He provides little pass rush and cannot cover a high school tight end let alone anyone the Colts will play. Nate Irving is intriguing but like Jackson he is a run stuffer. He may have more pass rush ability than Jackson but still he cannot cover tight ends either. There are some good options in the first couple of rounds this year and I feel that if they don’t go defensive line then inside linebacker is the best way to go. I get that Jerrell Freeman will more than likely sign his tender soon but he isn’t in the fold so no one can really rely on him to be there at this point in time.
The Colts made those moves but I really don’t know how much the defense has improved so far. Maybe with the right injection of youth and excitement this defense can hold it’s own. Right now just looking at what they have so far I feel we will get much of the same. Some pass rush with no run stopping ability. I sure hope Grigson doesn’t swing and miss badly this offseason. He has hit a couple of doubles so far but the Colts need a home run.