Indianapolis Colts Football

FLORIDA STATE’S RHODES FITS THE MOLD OF LONG, RANGY CORNERBACK

Posted by Kevin Bowen on February 28, 2013 – 11:44 am

For nearly every NFL coach that took to the podium at the NFL combine last week in Indianapolis, the question of how to defend the spread or pistol offense was waiting for them.

There wasn’t one dominant theme on the other side of the ball for coaches to answer but there was an intrigue on how the Seattle Seahawks constructed their secondary.

Long, rangy, physical defensive backs, in particular cornerbacks, make up the Seahawks secondary and now teams are turning their attention to prospects that potentially fit that mold.

At six-feet and 210 pounds Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes carries one of the biggest frames of any cornerback in this year’s draft.

His six-foot-seven-inch wingspan has NFL teams intrigued and Rhodes knows exactly what he posses.

“My strength is my size and my physicality, speed, height.” Rhodes said.

Seahawks cornerbacks Richard Sherman (six-feet-three-inches and 195 pounds) and Brandon Browner (six-feet-four-inches and 221 pounds) comprise the biggest cornerback duo in the NFL.

They helped Seattle to the league’s best scoring defense at 15.3 points per game.

Coming from one of the nation’s finest defenses, Rhodes thinks the system at Florida State has prepared him well for the next level.

“At Florida State all we played was press on defense. Going to the NFL and seeing teams do a lot of press, I feel good doing it,” Rhodes said.

During his time in Tallahassee, Rhodes was a freshman All-American in 2010 and was a three-year starter for the Seminoles.

NFL analyst Mike Mayock considers Rhodes a second round pick with the flexibility to potentially move to safety.

Rhodes was impressive at the combine, leading all defensive backs with a 40.5” vertical jump.

Cornerbacks in the NFL could be changing to a different physical stature but one thing that remains the same is the confidence needed to survive on an island.

“Of course I’m going to say I’m the best,” Rhodes said of where he ranks among the 2013 cornerback class.

“If I don’t have confidence in myself no one else will. I feel like I’m the best here right now. I meet all the measureables: big, strong, fast, physical. I feel like I’m the best here.”


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SLAYING THE FAVORITES

Posted by craigkelleycolts on February 26, 2013 – 1:49 pm

Darius Slay was not one of the most trumpeted cornerbacks at the combine.

He was not even the most trumpeted cornerbacks at the combine from his own school, Mississippi State.

That honor went to Johnthan Banks, who started 45-of-51 games and had 16 interceptions.

A least one analyst who watched film of Banks noticed Slay.

“I tell you what’s interesting, I like that other corner too, Darius Slay,” said the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock on a pre-combine conference call.  “I put the tape on to watch Banks, who plays in the boundary for the most part, and my eye kept going to the other kid (Slay), and I liked him a lot.

“I think (Slay is) a guy that’s a third‑ our fourth‑round player.  And I think he’s opened some eyes.”

Cornerbacks got their day Tuesday in the 40-yard dash, and Slay topped his cornerback counterparts with 4.36 timing.  Alabama’s Dee Milliner, a talent who should be taken near the start of the draft, clocked in a 4.37.  Washington’s Desmond Trufant timed third at 4.39.  Banks was timed at 4.61.

Slay took a career path to Starkville similar to the Colts’ Vick Ballard.  Ballard played two years of junior college ball before starring at Mississippi State for his final two seasons.

Ballard was a fifth-round pick by the Colts last year, the 170th selection overall.

Slay played 26 games for the Bulldogs after two seasons at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College.  At 6-0, 191, Slay was a full-season starter in 2012, swiping five passes and recovering one fumble.

His interceptions led the nation’s premier conference and tied for ninth nationally.  In two seasons at State, Slay had six interceptions and broke up 10 passes.

This past year, he came in for all-conference notice by Pro Football Weekly, the SEC coaches and Phil Steele.

Slay chose Mississippi State over offers from Kentucky, Georgia and Oklahoma State.

Indianapolis has been a proving ground for Ballard.  Now, Slay leaves Indy as the top ‘Dog.


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COULD LANDRY JONES EMERGE FROM 2013 QUARTERBACK CLASS?

Posted by Kevin Bowen on – 11:47 am

At times during his Oklahoma career, Landry Jones could be considered the third best quarterback in the Sooner’s signal caller’s meeting room.

This wasn’t because of the gaudy numbers Jones put up over his 50 games as the Sooners staring quarterback.

It was because his position coach was Josh Heupel, the 2000 Heisman runner-up, and Sam Bradford, who captured the 2008 Heisman Trophy during Jones’ redshirt season, surrounded the now 2013 draft prospect.

Jones playing time began in 2009 when Bradford suffered a shoulder injury during the Red River Shootout against Texas.

From there, Jones shattered school records and leaves Norman as the Big 12’s all-time leading passer in yards (16,646) and attempts (2,135).

With pre-draft workouts underway, Jones has moved on to another place that is rich in developing quarterbacks.

George Whitfield, known as a quarterback guru, is working Jones out in southern California and has a recent history with college quarterbacks preparing for the draft.

“George is a great quarterback coach, has had a lot of success in the past about training guys and getting them ready for the draft, including the last two No. 1 picks” Jones said.

“He’s helped me with a lot of different things. I think the thing for me is about my setup, holding the ball a little bit higher and taking (out) some of the extra things in my motion and just kind of scratching it out of my game.”

In late January, Jones attended the 2013 Senior Bowl where he was exposed to some other intricacies of the quarterback position that he will have to adapt to at the next level.

“(I) had a good week of practice, didn’t have any issues with taking the snap under center or calling plays in the huddle,” Jones said of the week in Mobile. “That was a big thing for me going into (the Senior Bowl), playing mostly in the gun and no huddle (at Oklahoma).”

NFL Network Analyst Mike Mayock said Jones is a hard prospect to qualify, when some games he looks like a potential first round pick and others where he grades out as a fifth round projection.

“When I look at Landry Jones, I’ve got him as my number five quarterback, and I’m holding my breath on that one a little bit,” Mayock said.

“I think most of the league is looking at him as a third round guy. I think he’s a little better than that because I’ve seen him play at a higher level.”

Mayock said he is still searching throughout the entire 2013 quarterback class for that guy who belongs in the same sentence as the rookie signal callers who took the NFL by storm last season.

Where the 2013 quarterback will rank is to be determined and Jones offered his assessment of a group he hopes to find himself at the top of.

“The further we get into this process I think there’s going be a guy that’s going to be coming up and there’s going to be somebody that puts himself ahead,” Jones said. “I think it’s the guy who’s going to work the hardest and the guy who wants it more.”


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NEW LOOK FOR PURDUE’S SHORT HAS HIM REMEMBERING DAYS ON THE HARDWOOD

Posted by Kevin Bowen on February 25, 2013 – 12:31 pm

Kawann Short’s introduction to many sports fans around the state of Indiana did not come on the gridiron.

As a junior forward on East Chicago Central’s 2007 State Championship basketball squad, the nimble, 300-pound Short poured in 20 points and 10 rebounds helping the Cardinals to an 87-83 Class 4A Title over the Eric Gordon-led North Central Panthers.

Short’s future in sports would transfer back over to the football field and the former Purdue defensive tackle was back in Indianapolis this past week for the NFL Combine.

On Saturday, Short weight in at 299 pounds which is a number that he said he hasn’t seen since junior high.

“I feel more versatile now,” Short said of the weight loss. “My conditioning is way better than it used to be. I can play a lot more, I can run a lot more, and I can hustle. So that was the main thing I was trying to do, just find a weight I was comfortable at, and keep going at that.

As a four-year starter on the interior of the Boilermakers defensive line, Short was a force with 49 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks.

Following the 2012 season, Short participated in the 2013 Senior Bowl and left with one focus in trying to establish himself as a first-round pick come April.

“My whole goal going into the Senior Bowl was just being consistent,” Short said.

“That was one of the main things that I was focused on, and getting feedback from the NFL, and from the different coaches that – my motor tends to die out. So my whole goal was to drop a little bit of weight, go into the Senior Bowl and try to be a guy that stands out.”

A hamstring injury held Short out of the drills at this week’s combine but he is expected to be a full participant at Purdue’s Pro Day on March 25.

Purdue has had a recent history of producing dominant defensive linemen that have gone on to be productive in the NFL.

Short is looking to continue that trend and took another step in that direction with a productive week in the city where his name gained recognition a little less than six years ago.

“First impressions are everything,” Short said. “I had a couple of months off to get my body right, and get back in shape and come out there and do what I needed to do.”


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CAPTAIN COMEBACK COMES BACK

Posted by craigkelleycolts on February 24, 2013 – 7:40 am

49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh speaks at NFL Combine

49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh speaks at NFL Combine

One of the last images of Jim Harbaugh for NFL fans this past season was his pleading for a late holding call in Super Bowl XLVII.

Harbaugh didn’t get his way, and his 49ers fell to Baltimore, 34-31.

A week after that, the surroundings at the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am likely were no balm for the wound inflicted by the loss.

The year-round nature of the NFL offers very little time ever to decompress.  Bill Polian once estimated he only had about five free weekends annually.  The rest were devoted to his job.

The schedule for coaches is about the same.

“(I’ve) got the paw in the ground, scratching, ready to go,” said Harbaugh yesterday at the combine.  The annual event is held in the stadium where his name is splashed on the eastside façade with others in the Colts’ Ring of Honor.

One of the last images of Jim Harbaugh for NFL fans this past season was his pleading for a late holding call in Super Bowl XLVII.

Harbaugh didn’t get his way, and his 49ers fell to Baltimore, 34-31.

A week after that, the surroundings at the AT&T National Pebble Beach Pro-Am likely were no balm for the wound inflicted by the loss.

The year-round nature of the NFL offers very little time ever to decompress.  Bill Polian once estimated he only had about five free weekends annually.  The rest were devoted to his job.

The schedule for coaches is about the same.

“(I’ve) got the paw in the ground, scratching, ready to go,” said Harbaugh yesterday at the combine.  The annual event is held in the stadium where his name is splashed on the eastside façade with others in the Colts’ Ring of Honor.

A one-man verbal pep rally with Indianapolis from 1994-97, Harbaugh is a touch more measured with a whistle in his mouth but anytime he speaks, it is appointment listening.

Harbaugh was paired against his brother, John, in the Super Bowl and said the two have spoken since the game.

“I’ve talked to him,” said Harbaugh.  “(We) talked a little about the game and some other things.  We have a strong relationship, and it always seems to get stronger.  We’re very close.”

Losing is tough for all players, and Harbaugh’s competitive streak runs deeply.  He said losing to his brother did not make the setback easier and that the two share less information as their careers have progressed.

Harbaugh was a first-round pick from Michigan.  Now, he is here to help re-stock the San Francisco roster if combine hopefuls measure up.

He said he does not possess the keenest ability to sit in a short visit with a player and truly get to know the person.  He says the body of work a prospect leaves behind at his school is a better indicator, along with those who worked around him.

Teams can grill players in the interview process.  The best advice from league players to those hopeful of joining the NFL is to be yourself.

Harbaugh is direct and has no tolerance for someone being a tad less than honest.

“Somebody that’s not truthful, that’s big, to me,” said Harbaugh.  “I’m a big fan of the Judge Judy show and when you lie in Judge Judy’s courtroom, it’s over.  Your credibility is completely lost.  You have no chance of winning that case.  I learned that from her.

“It’s very powerful, and true.  If somebody does lie to you, how can you ever trust anything they ever say after that?  Ronald Reagan, another person of great wisdom and advice (said), ‘Trust, but we will verify.’ ”

Harbaugh’s 49ers will host the Colts in 2013, pitting him against quarterback Andrew Luck.  Harbaugh landed Luck at Stanford and tutored him early in the quarterback’s career.

Harbaugh said he now will have to look at Luck in a bit different way now that they will be on opposing sides of the field for the first time.


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2013 OPPONENT LOOK: ST. LOUIS RAMS

Posted by Kevin Bowen on February 23, 2013 – 2:00 pm

During his nine seasons in the AFC South with the Tennessee Titans, Jeff Fishers got well acquainted with the Indianapolis Colts.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher meets with the media on Friday afternoon at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Fisher and his staff will return to Indianapolis later in 2013 for a regular season matchup with the Colts.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher meets with the media on Friday afternoon at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Fisher and his staff will return to Indianapolis later in 2013 for a regular season matchup with the Colts.

He led the Titans to four playoff appearances while becoming the most consistent threat to the Colts reign on the division.

Fisher will return to Indianapolis this 2013, this time as the headman in charge of the St. Louis Rams.

There is continuity in St. Louis and that has Fisher intrigued heading into the spring.

“I’m probably equally excited about the offseason at the facility _ the offseason program,” Fisher said. “The fact that both sides of the ball are staying in the same system. We’re gonna improve our young players. So I’d like to think by the end of the offseason that we’re a better team than we were when we finished (2012).

The Rams are coming off a 7-8-1 record in 2012 but did win four of their final six games, falling 2.5 games out of a playoff berth.

One bright spot St. Louis can point to last year was compiling a 1-0-1 record against the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.

“We made some plays in both the overtime games,” Fisher said of the 49ers contests. “Both teams had opportunities, mind you, they missed a field goal in each one of those in overtime. But we stayed in them and guys played hard.”

Quarterback Sam Bradford will be entering his fourth season as the Rams starting signal caller.

Last year, Bradford threw for a career-best 3,702 yards and 21 touchdowns.

“I think you’ll see more production out of (Bradford) week-to-week,” Fisher said. “Probably a little bit more consistency out of him, not that he was inconsistent.”

“When you stay in the same system over time, you feel much more comfortable. One can only imagine what it’s been like for him the last few years going through three different offensive philosophies and systems.”

The NFC West placed two teams into the playoffs last season with the Rams striving to get themselves into a picture with a leader that has coaching experience in January.

“If we’re doing our job _ we identify strengths and weaknesses in not only the younger players but all of our players _ and you have to address those things during the offseason,” Fisher said.

“That process is well underway. As frustrated as we are that we can’t really put our hands on them (until start of Rams offseason program April 15), we’re going to take advantage of the time that we have starting in April to work with the young guys.”


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BARKLEY AIMS FOR PRO DAY

Posted by craigkelleycolts on – 12:00 pm

USC quarterback Matt Barkley at NFL Combine

USC quarterback Matt Barkley at NFL Combine

USC quarterback Matt Barkley soared to many heights in four years, but a late-season injury in 2012 cost him the Notre Dame and Georgia Tech games with what he confirmed this week at the combine was a separated shoulder.

Barkley is a non-participant in drills this week, pointing to his pro day on March 27 as when, “I should be perfect to throw.”

Barkley, 6-2, 230, is one of 19 quarterbacks attending the combine.  He is the latest of a long line of Trojan quarterbacks trying to make a mark in the NFL.

Barkley leads the list of combine QBs and believes he is the best performer in a draft class that includes Geno Smith and Mike Glennon, among others.

“I believe I am.  I don’t think you can go into the draft not thinking you are,” said Barkley on Friday.

Barkley returned for a senior season after drawing some NFL attention a year ago.  That draft class included Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, and Barkley said he did not regret his decision.

“(I) wouldn’t change my USC career for anything,” he said.

In 47 games, Barkley earned a 34-13 starting record.  In passing for more than 12,000 yards and 116 touchdowns, he set 20 school record career, season and game records, 10 of which established Pac-12 records.

Barkley was queried on past successes and non-successes of USC quarterbacks in the NFL.  He cautioned that his story is his own and comparisons aren’t necessarily a fair thing to make.

That said, he admitted there is work to do.

“I think there’s always something to prove,” said Barkley.  “I think you’re always looking for ways to better yourself.  There’s definitely things I can improve on.”

Seattle coach Pete Carroll has a USC lineage.  He also had the talents of Wilson in 2012.  Carroll feels Barkley is set for the next step.

“I don’t think there’s anything that’s stopping him from being a starter right away,” said Carroll.  “Now that quarterbacks can come in and make their way into the league and do it in such quick order, Matt will be able to do it, too.”

This year’s QB crop does not have the sizzle of last year’s bunch when Luck and Griffin III went 1-2, while Ryan Tannehill (8th) and Brandon Weeden (22nd) went in the opening round.


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2013 OPPONENT LOOK: OAKLAND RAIDERS

Posted by Kevin Bowen on – 10:31 am

Oakland Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen speaks to the media at the 2013 NFL Combine. Allen and the Raiders will travel to Indianapolis this fall for a regular season matchup.

Oakland Raiders Head Coach Dennis Allen speaks to the media at the 2013 NFL Combine. Allen and the Raiders will travel to Indianapolis this fall for a regular season matchup.

For the first time since 2004, the Oakland Raiders will head east for a regular season matchup with the Indianapolis Colts.

The Raiders coaching staff has had a very busy offseason taking part in the Senior Bowl by coaching the North team.

“It was an outstanding experience for us, for our staff to be able to be there and see those players up close and personal and evaluate, not how they play the game of football, but really what types of people they really are,” Allen said.

“The ability to get to know those guys a little bit gives us some inside information and helps us make a better decision on draft day.”

Allen and his staff feel that they have a bit of a leg up on some of the other team’s around the league after spending a week in Mobile working hands-on with numerous players that will hear their name called come late April.

After a 4-12 regular season, the Raiders carry the No. 3 pick into this year’s draft and will evaluate all options in helping to improve their roster.

“What we got to do is we’ve got to begin to identify what’s out there and what’s available in the draft as well as through free agency, both with our own players we had last year and also with what’s out there on the market and try to categorize where you think you might be able to fill needs, whether you’re going to do it through free agency or whether this is a draft that’s deep enough that you can do it through that,” Allen said.

In Allen’s first-year as Raiders head coach, Oakland was 3-4 heading into the month of November and in the middle of a crowded AFC West.

The Raiders sputtered down the stretch, losing eight of their last nine and never scored over 21 points.

Allen is optimistic though that with an established staff, there will be success in Year 2.

“Last year it was the Senior Bowl when I got hired,” Allen said. “We’d just completed the staff and really gotten our feet on the ground.

“This offseason we’ve had some time to hit the ground running a little bit and I think we have a clear plan of what we’re trying to get done and what we want to get accomplished this year.”


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CENTER STAGE AGAIN

Posted by craigkelleycolts on – 9:39 am

In playing 51 games at Notre Dame, predominantly in the middle of the Irish defense, Manti Te’o rarely found himself far from center stage.

Today will be no different at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Te’o will be the focus of attention by a healthy percentage of the 800-plus credentialed media at the combine.

It will be anything but off-Broadway, or off-Capitol Street in the case of Indianapolis.

There have been interview attractions through the years.  Before players were put into a podium structure, they were backed into corners of hotel areas while media pounced.

In 1998, Peyton Manning was up against wall in the restaurant of the Holiday Inn Crowne Center as NFL scribes worked him over.  Manning handled it with his typical aplomb for 20 minutes.  Last year, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III held structured availabilities that drew masses.

Today, Te’o may set a record.

Te’o will cut through the crowd to address questions likely not too related to his measurables.  It will be necessary for the personal matter he has endured over the past few weeks.

Players from Notre Dame are famous for their poise.  Te’o should play his own game.  He has done well to this point in a difficult situation, and observers should expect nothing different today.

Personnel evaluators will have their chances with him in private interviews.  Many, such as John Elway, were prominent collegians, too.  They remember the challenges of youth, and they now are charged with bringing young adults into a very professional, competitive business.

“I just want to talk to him,” said Elway.  “Personally, I don’t get caught up in everything that is swirling around him.  I’m looking forward to sitting down and talking to him.

“I know him as a football player.  He’s a very good football player.  He’s going to have a successful career in the NFL.”

Today will not be the first time Te’o has been in this public position, and it won’t be his last.

Former teammate Tyler Eifert drew less notice on Friday when he met with combine media, and he feels Te’o is holding up well.

“Manti is one of my good friends and he’s a good person with a good heart.  He’s just got stuck in a bad situation,” said Eifert.  “He’s doing great.  I’m sure he’ll be a little bit nervous, but there is nothing for him to be nervous about.  I’m sure he’ll get a lot of questions about it.  He’s a smart, smart guy.  He didn’t do anything wrong.  But he’ll be able to answer those questions.”


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2013 OPPONENT LOOK: CINCINNATI BENGALS

Posted by Kevin Bowen on – 8:00 am

The 2013 campaign marks Marvin Lewis’ 11th as the head football coach of the Cincinnati Bengals.

After back-to-back playoff appearance, Lewis has the Bengals on the cusp of a deep playoff run.

The last two seasons the Bengals have dropped road Wild Card contests to the Houston Texans.

Heading into the offseason, Lewis is looking to get over the hump of four Wild Card defeats during his 10 seasons with Cincinnati.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis addresses the media on Friday morning. Lewis and the Bengals will welcome the Colts for a regular season meeting next year.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis addresses the media on Friday morning. Lewis and the Bengals will welcome the Colts for a regular season meeting next year.

“We’ve had opportunities and haven’t played as well in those games. I didn’t think that would be an issue for us,” Lewis said of past playoff disappointments.

“We played the last half of the season like those were playoff games. We knew that if we lose the games we were going to be out of it. We put wins together but didn’t go down in Houston and play well. We were relaxed but didn’t have that resolve or attack.”

Third-year starting quarterback Andy Dalton showed steady improvement this past year, improving in virtually every statistical category.

Dalton has transformed from a second-round draft pick into a starting NFL quarterback from day one and has led his team to playoff berths each year..

“(Dalton) continued to grow and become the leader of the team. That’s what I challenged him throughout the year to do and he did a great job of responding to that,” Dalton said.

“As we go into Year 3 there are some things and some plays that we continue to leave out there. We want to get better at that”

Young talent for the Bengals extends to both sides of the ball and at virtually every position.

Lewis said that in order to get over that playoff hump, the focus this offseason has to be on ‘everyone.’

“I have a lot of disappointing losses. I remember them more than the wins,” Lewis said.

“I feel confident with our guys. We’ll be a better team this season. Guys realize you don’t get to start off where you left off. We’re going to have change but whatever that is we’re all going to have to get better.”


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