If you live under a rock or have been taking a break from social media for a couple of weeks, I did, you wouldn’t know about the Peter King article that came out last Monday. Let me catch you up to speed. Basically Mr. King put out a preseason power ranking and had the Colts sitting in the 11th spot. Not even in the top ten. Why you ask? Because he doesn’t feel the Colts defense can stop anyone. That got me thinking; how bad is the Colts defense?
This is a topic that has been up for debate since before the NFL draft. The Colts added some decent talent to a defense that has one gapping weakness; stopping the run. So the questions fly in, did they do enough to stop teams from running all over them? Did the Colts add the right talent via free agency and the draft to help raise the defense a few bars? Let’s break it down shall we.
So obviously there really is only areas of concern, in my opinion, that would have needed addressed during the offseason; the defensive line and linebackers. The defensive backfield is the most solid unit on the defense and I feel will continue to be just that this season. Mike Adams was brought back and they added Dwight Lowery to compliment him. The cornerback position is amazing for this team and that isn’t something any Colts fan can say of the past Colts rosters. Vontae Davis is top 5 in my opinion and Greg Toler compliments him well. Darius Butler is a great nickel corner who can slide to one of the outside spots if needed. They added a good veteran in Deveron Carr who blew everyone away at the veteran players combine this offseason. They also added D’Joun Smith via the draft who could be the eventual replacement for Greg Toler when he is contract is up.
The Colts also added safety depth with drafting Clayton Geathers and signing Robert Smith after the draft. All reports on Geathers is he has impressed so far and could possibly push for playing time this season.
So now that we are settled there, what about the defensive line? Okay so they still have Art Jones who will be in his second season in Manusky’s scheme and will hopefully start to show why he deserved all the money they gave him to come from Baltimore. Josh Chapman has publically stated he hasn’t lived up to what everyone was expecting and he knows this is the only season he has left to prove that he belongs in the NFL as a starter. Redding leaving left a bad tastes in all of our mouths but I feel they did good at bringing in Kendall Langford from St. Louis. He did okay in St. Louis but shined in Miami but why you may ask. Because in Miami they ran a 3-4 defense and that is the scheme he belongs in and if he can revert back to his Miami days I think every Colts fan will fall in love with him by mid-season. As far as depth they added two Stanford products, surprise, but both can play right away. They won’t start obviously but they have the talent and the skill to primary back-ups. David Parry is the one that I’m keeping my eye on. He is a true nose tackle in the NFL and should push Chapman to play better or relinquish the starting role sooner rather than later. Anderson will more than likely back-up Langford and that isn’t a bad thing because he can learn from a good veteran and prepare to take over or make the switch when Langford needs a breather seamless.
The biggest x-factor on the defensive line is Zach Kerr. Kerr flashed a ton of talent last season but was a healthy scratch a lot of time. Now we don’t know the inside story because he would have been very useful in many of the games that made the Colts notorious for not stopping the run. Last week on TBF Live: The Offseason, Stampede Blue’s Stephen Reed and myself agreed that Kerr is one of our dark horse players to watch. He can play all three spots on the defensive line and I feel that he will come out this season with something to prove that Pagano and Manusky can’t scratch him from the game day roster any longer. So with all this said did the Colts improve the defensive line? No they didn’t. Langford is good but I don’t think he will be as effective as Redding. Anderson isn’t ready to make that step either and with Jones injury history Kerr will be his primary back-up I believe. The only way the Colts improved this defensive front is if Jones returns to his Baltimore form and either Chapman starts playing like the mad man we saw at Alabama or Parry pushes him aside and shows us what he has. Otherwise I see much of the same as we had last season.
Onto the linebackers. The Colts brought Freeman back and Jackson is still here. They brought in Nate Irving from Denver and drafted Herrera from Georgia. They also have Henoc Muamba who was brought over from the CFL last season. So looking at this group they added a veteran in Irving and drafted D’Qwell Jackson’s possible replacement when his contract is up. Herrera, like Geathers, has been surprising and impressing the media and coaches. Haven’t heard much about Irving or Muamba thus far. Yes I know it’s early in the offseason but by now there should be some news so I’m taking this as a “no new is good news” situation with Muamba and Irving.
So did the Colts do anything to make the inside linebackers better? Nope they sure didn’t. Jackson is a good run stuffer and he did that well last year but he has to have help and Freeman fell off last year. Muamba showed something towards the end of the season but not enough to put a ton of stock in him. Irving can cover but is a liability in the run defense. The x-factor here is Herrera. If he can play well and step up his game he may be able to push Freeman out on 1st and 2nd down and allow Freeman and Irving to play on the passing downs where they have the edge on the other two. Otherwise I think up the middle of the defense as a whole there wasn’t much improvement made on paper.
Now to the outside linebackers where I feel the most improvement was made. They brought in Trent Cole who will push more than likely push Walden back on the depth chart. If Mathis is ready for the season opener it will be amazing to see Cole and Mathis line up
opposite of each other. If Mathis isn’t ready I’m still very excited to see Newsome get the starts there. Newsome had a good rookie season and as long as he put in the work and knows that he is only holding the spot for Mathis then I feel he can play wild and out until the time the sack master comes back on the scene. As for Walden and Werner I see them as the backups on either side unless Cole just can’t acclimate himself quick enough and then Walden will step back in. I’m the most excited to see Adongo hopefully get his chance this season. He has had two season to learn this game and work at his craft. He has put on the weight in a healthy way and still didn’t lose his size or his tremendous athletic ability. This will be the first time we will see if a star rugby player can transition to the NFL or not. Can he take what he knew and combine it with what he has learned? If he can, just let me tell you this guy will scare the hell out of opposing offenses.
So all in all when it comes to the defense I feel they improved the pass rush a little bit and solidified the secondary but didn’t do much up the middle of the defense. I think that they are putting their chips on red and praying for improvement by the players they already had in place. This could either be a stroke of genius or cost someone their job at the end of season as the owner of the Colts has already publically stated the defense must get better. Now just because I’m saying the defense didn’t really get any better means I agree with Peter King. I feel the Colts offense improved tremendously and that is the reason the team will be successful this season. If the defense steps up it’s game then that’s an added bonus. I believe the approach the Colts are taking is one that was attempted before but they didn’t have the pieces in place to do it right. Let the offense score so much that the opposing team has to pass more to play catch up and where is the Colts defensive strength? In the secondary of course. Oh yeah and if they have to pass more the running defense won’t be needed as much and the pass rush will be needed…where did the most improvement go to?? Yeah you get it.
This is going to be exciting but if the Colts offense doesn’t work like I feel they are designing it to work then this could be another season where we sit on pins and needles during many games hoping the Luck can pull another win out of his butt and carry this team to victory. I guess all in all that isn’t a bad thing. Is it?