The Indianapolis Colts‘ defense finished last year allowing almost 100 points in their final two games. The Colts front office quickly realized that things had to change if they were going to take the next step. Addressing the defense in the offseason was a priority and more specifically the run defense.
The defense already received one big blow to the front seven when Robert Mathis was suspended for the first four games of the season. This means that second-year player Bjoern Werner is going to have to step up and replace some of Mathis’ production. Werner struggled last year; he was often stone walled at initial contact, and it was a tough transition from a 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 stand-up linebacker. Colts fans should pay attention to see if he has developed any secondary moves that can help his progression.
Along the defensive line the Colts have a new addition in Arthur Jones. Jones came from the Baltimore Ravens where he played under Chuck Pagano, so there is some familiarity with the defensive scheme which could allow him to make an impact right away. The main competition along the defensive line is going to be at the nose tackle position. Josh Chapman, Brandon McKinney and Montori Hughes are all competing for the starting nose tackle position. Having someone in the middle who can take up two gaps is going to be huge in having a better run defense this season.
The linebackers are full of question marks outside of Jerrell Freeman and D’Qwell Jackson. Kelvin Sheppard was nothing special last year, and rookie Andrew Jackson isn’t expected to make an impact right away because he is also banged up. Injuries are going to happen in the NFL, and the Colts are going to need some depth at the linebacker position if the run defense is going to improve. Look for players outside of the starters to make an impact, because it is likely the Colts are going to depend on them for quality playing time down the road.
The outside linebacker position is also something to be looking out for. As mentioned before, Werner is going to have to step up in his second year, and Erik Walden is another player who is going to have to show improvement this year. Known as a run stuffer he is going to have to play well. Outside of those two starters, the Colts are going to lean on rookie Jonathan Newsome. Newsome is very raw but athletic, and it’s going to be interesting to see if he can apply technique to his athleticism.
The defensive back position is another case where the Colts are thin outside of their starters. Vontae Davis and LaRon Landry shouldn’t be expected to play. They just started practicing this week, so that should mean plenty of playing time for Greg Toler, Darius Butler and Delano Howell. The real battle will come from defensive back positions 4-6.That position features Qua Cox, Loucheiz Purifoy and Josh Gordy, who all have shown flashes of starting ability. Personally, I feel that Purifoy could make an impact if called upon for the Colts. He can play special teams well and is very flexible when it comes to his position which should give him an edge over others.
The Colts are a very thin team this year. Outside of the starters they don’t have a lot of impact players. When the first team comes out against the New York Jets look for players who are making an impact, because they are most likely going to be sticking around during the season.