With all the focus on Andrew Luck, the 2012 NFL draft left new Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky understandably upset and asking, “What about the defense?” The Colts addressed their key concern in getting a franchise quarterback and surrounding him with weapons and skill set players. However, one would be remiss not to note that a defense was probably worst in the league needed almost as much rebuilding as the offense. The Colts did draft tackle Josh Chapman from Alabama and defensive end Tim Fugger from Vanderbilt in the fifth and seventh rounds, respectively. Manusky and head coach Chuck Pagano will be transforming the Colts defense to a hybrid 3-4 scheme much like Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips had successfully done with the division rival Texans defense last year.
Emptying the Ravens’ Nest
One of the first moves Pagano made was signing a some Baltimore Ravens defensive linemen in Brandon McKinney and Cory Redding who are familiar with his style in Baltimore and should step in as starters immediately. Gone are the days of small defenders in the Colts’ 4-3 scheme. Redding is 6’4’ and 298 pounds while McKinney at 6’2” and 345 pounds is a perfect fit at nose tackle. Pagano also brought in safety and former-Raven Tom Zbikowski who will bring in toughness at his position. After all, he spent his time during the NFL lockout making his professional boxing debut in Madison Square Garden. He won, by the way, in the first 49.0 seconds of the first round by way of TKO.
Corners, Corners, Corners
This week the rumor mills were a buzz with talk of the Colts trying to trade for Cowboys’ cornerback Mike Jenkins. The Colts desperately need depth at corner to improve their much-maligned secondary. Jenkins has one more year left on his contract but wants out of Dallas. Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones shot down those rumors saying the cornerback was not on the trading block. Friday the Colts claimed cornerback Korey Lindsey off of waivers. Lindsey was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round last year, released by the Bengals, and then claimed off waivers by the Cardinals. Not as earth shaking as a trade for Jenkins, but the Colt coaching staff is obviously aware of needs in the secondary. Last week the Colts added to their roster with the addition of Cassius Vaughn whom they acquired via a trade with Denver in exchange for fullback Chris Gronkowski. Vaughn is a third-year veteran who will contribute on special teams as well as defense. He is one of two undrafted cornerbacks to return a kickoff and an interception for a touchdown.
Moving Mathis and Freeney
The million-dollar question is how will veterans Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney fit into the new Colts’ defense? The pair of veteran defensive ends will make the transition to Outside Linebacker. The transition for Freeney may be more difficult as his skill set is best utilized when he is coming off the line of scrimmage in a three-point stance and not standing upright and blitzing or dropping back into coverage. If that is the case, Mathis may be expected to do more rushing from a two-point stance.
Building the Monster
All in all, Pagano has his work cut out for him. His prowess as a secondary specialist and defensive strategist might give the Colts the defensive turnaround it has needed for some time. In a pass happy league, a switch to 3-4 is probably long overdue. The Ravens defense under Pagano has been a perennial juggernaut while the Colts defense has been its noticeable weak spot (until Peyton Manning was out, of course). Pagano is known for his defensive prowess specifically in developing the secondary and improving the pass defense. Can Pagano translate his success to Indy? Can Manusky make the 3-4 scheme work? Who will be the next defensive player added to the roster? Colts fans have a lot to look forward to. Like the logo written on t-shirts Pagano gave out to players, it appears the Colts are ready to “Build The Monster.”