Indianapolis Colts Football

Five Things Learned, Denver-Colts

Posted by craigkelleycolts on October 21, 2013 – 10:34 am

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are 5-2 and have a two-game AFC South lead at their bye week.  The last two home wins – 34-28 over Seattle, 39-33 over Denver – were 60-minute slugfests that showed the spunk of this bunch.

Chuck Pagano lauded resiliency, passion, toughness, fortitude and, most of all, grit in the locker room following the victory over Denver.  The Colts still have not lost consecutive games under Pagano, going 7-0 and with a 7.1-point victory margin following losses.

It was a three-phase effort that is a blueprint of the program in Indianapolis.

Here are FIVE THINGS LEARNED.

MR. TEAM – Andrew Luck may have thrown for three first-half touchdowns and raced in from 10 yards out for another in the second half, but all he would do was cite the full-team effort in beating Denver.  Luck always casts light on teammates and the program, never wishing any personal limelight.  His maturity has been on full display since his opening game, and Luck stayed grounded in the bluster of the return of Peyton Manning.  While some would call this a signature win over a team that had won 17 straight and with the finest Indianapolis Colt ever with Manning, Luck took delight in the team aspect of the win.

POSITIONAL PUNTING/KICKOFF EXCELLENCE – Pat McAfee had a 48.9 average on nine punts, with six landing inside the Denver 20.  The Broncos had one first down on those resulting drives and a team that had averaged only 3.2 non-scoring drives per game came away empty on 11-of-17 possessions.  More importantly, Indianapolis got 19 of its 39 points directly/indirectly as a result of those punts.  The first TD came after a fumble created on a return.  Another set up a strip-sack-safety that caused a nine-point swing to give Indianapolis a lead it would not lose.  The final one led to an interception and a clinching FG.  McAfee’s eight kickoffs all reached the end zone, four accounting for touchbacks.  Denver averaged a drive start at its 25, an 11-yard advantage for Indianapolis in that category over the course of the game.

RUNNING STILL EQUALS WINS – Of the Colts’ 71 offensive snaps, 31 were rushes.  Indianapolis upped its record to 10-0 under Pagano when attempting at least 30 rushes in a game – the league’s best record since 2012.  Luck had 29 yards, including an 11-yard first-down dash on third-and-11 in the second quarter.  That led to a touchdown, then he rolled in from 10 yards out himself in the second half.  Darrius Heyward-Bey gained 30 yards on a reverse.  The ground influence helped the Colts own the ball almost 32 minutes, 10 minutes more than in last week’s loss at San Diego.

LINEBACKER MAYHEM – Robert Mathis is Robert Mathis, a fifth multi-sack game this year to push his seasonal total to a league-best 11.5.  It is his fifth 10-plus sack season (plus ties his seasonal-bests from 2005 and 2008), and his second-quarter sack-strip-safety triggered a nine-point swing for a lead Indianapolis never relinquished.  Erik Walden was a free agent signee added to the corps to fight the run and harrow the quarterback.  Walden hit the right arm of Peyton Manning with 7:07 left, creating an interception for Pat Angerer at the Denver 24.  It led to a field goal and a nine-point lead after Manning cut a 36-17 deficit to six points with two scoring drives.  Walden then forced a fumble at the Colts’ two with 3:03 to go, staving off a sure score that could have swung the final advantage to Denver.  In a 35-possession game, there were plays made all over the field, but linebacker mayhem was a big reason Indianapolis emerged winners.

PAGANO VISION – It has been a season of successful replay challenges for Pagano and another one netted results against Denver when a punt return ruled out of bounds before a fumble was reversed, and it led to an Indianapolis TD.  Pagano’s eagle eyes keep paying dividends.  Also, stressing a plus-two turnover ratio per game, he got it for a fourth time in 2013.  The Colts have defeated Oakland, San Francisco, Jacksonville and Denver with that margin.  NFL home teams with plus margins were 20-2 heading into yesterday’s games.  The Colts are 2-0 in home games with a plus margin.


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“Newcomer of the Week” Seattle Edition: Trent Richardson

Posted by Kevin Bowen on October 8, 2013 – 9:00 am

Throughout the course of the season, Colts.com will run a “Newcomer of the Week” following each regular season game. With the Colts having an influx of the newcomers this season here’s a look at the” Newcomer of the Week” from Jacksonville.

Only a handful of players were left in the Colts locker room after Sunday’s 34-28 win as Trent Richardson continued to answer questions to various media outlets.

After a first half to forget (six carries for two yards), Richardson found some daylight in the third and fourth quarters.

Richardson had 12 carries for 54 yards following halftime and his physical running style finished off the Colts win.

“As a team’s perspective, we played all four quarters and we finished,” Richardson said following the game.

“It doesn’t matter how you start, it depends how you finish. So we played all four quarters, we played together and everybody had that spark. We just played football.”

To start off the second half, Richardson ripped off a 16-yard rush, which was his longest gain in his three games with the Colts.

Arguably his most important rush came with 4:30 remaining with the Colts facing a third-and-five at the Seattle 45-yard line.

Richardson put his head down, broke multiple tackles and grounded out a 10-yard gain which allowed the Colts to burn off another 2:30.

“Big third down carry,” Richardson said recalling the run. “It was a power play, went up the middle and I told myself I know that’s what they brought me here for, not to let one man take me down, not to let one arm tackle take you down.”

“That’s the football I play. That’s a signature move for me.”

Other Newcomers of Note:

Defensive end Lawrence Guy gets an exception for this category as he did not make the Colts final cuts but was re-signed to the 53-man roster two weeks ago. Guy had a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown, a tackle for loss and the first pass deflection against Russell Wilson this season.

Outside linebacker Erik Walden had four tackles, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery. Walden played 68 defensive snaps (99% of total defensive snaps) as the Colts played their first full game without Bjoern Werner.

Cornerback Greg Toler finished second on the team with seven tackles and had two pass deflections, one of which came on Seattle’s final drive.


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Colts Daily Headlines: September 4th Edition

Posted by Kevin Bowen on September 4, 2013 – 8:37 am

The Colts will hit the meat of their practice schedule beginning today. Wednesday’s news looks at the Colts need for a pass rush and the difficulty in getting ready for a dual-threat quarterback.

Take a look below at the top pieces from Wednesday, September 4th.  

One of the biggest questions facing the Colts: Where is the pass rush coming from?

By: Stephen Holder, Indy Star

You can never have enough pass rushers in the NFL and Holder takes a look at the Colts stable as they try and replace Dwight Freeney.

The first test comes Sunday against the Raiders in the regular-season opener.

“I know what they can do,” veteran Robert Mathis said of his largely unproven fellow pass rushers. Mathis has 91.5 career sacks, more than even the wildest dreams of fellow edge rushers Bjoern Werner (0), Cam Johnson (0), Mario Harvey (0) and Erik Walden (9).

Personnel on the defensive front who are better suited to coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defense — Ricky Jean Francois and Aubrayo Franklin specifically — will help. But the Colts are betting rather heavily on players with thin resumes. Which is fine, they say.

“I’ve been working with them since April and I know they can get the job done,” Mathis said. “As for outside (opinions), it doesn’t matter. They didn’t pick these guys, so it doesn’t matter. They’re here for a reason, and we believe they can get the job done.”

Pagano added: “We feel good about all those guys.”

Walden, acquired as a free agent from the Packers in the offseason, didn’t hide from the obvious.

“When you take away what Freeney was able to produce, which is 100-plus sacks, you have to (replace) that from somewhere,” said Walden, who will wear Freeney’s number, 93. “And it has to be in the sack category. I hold myself to a high standard so I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

Colts were already preparing to face Pryor

By: Mike Wells, ESPN.com

The Colts could get their first taste of dual-threat quarterbacks as quickly as Sunday afternoon.

The Raiders plan to start Terrelle Pryor at quarterback this weekend, according to multiple media reports.

Pryor is more difficult to prepare for than Matt Flynn because of his ability to be creative with his feet if things break down in the pocket. Don’t get me wrong; Pryor is definitely still a work in progress. It starts with him being an inconsistent passer.

“He’s a dual threat so you got to keep him boxed in as much as you can,” outside linebacker Robert Mathis said Monday. “But you can’t forget about [Darren] McFadden at all.”


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Colts defense comes up big on third downs and in the red zone against Giants

Posted by Kevin Bowen on August 20, 2013 – 8:45 am

Two statistics that every NFL defensive coordinator looks at when scouring a post game box score are third-down efficiency and red zone efficiency.

Greg Manusky has to be very pleased with what his eyes are seeing after looking over the Colts/Giants box score.

Third Down efficiency: 3-15

Red Zone efficiency: 0-4

“We finished (eighth) last year in the NFL in red zone defense and they’ve kind of picked up right where they left off,” Head Coach Chuck Pagano said of the team’s defense following the Colts 20-12 victory. “

The Colts four red zone stops of the Giants offense in the first half were as followed:

  • 12:17 to go in 1st quarter-With the Giants facing a fourth-and-one, Andre Brown is stuffed on a run to the left by Erik Walden and Antoine Bethea.
  • 6:44 to go in 1st quarter-The Giants settle for a 25-yard field goal after reaching the seven-yard line before an Eli Manning incompletion.
  • 4:09 to go in 2nd quarter-The Giants drive down to the Colts five-yard line but lose four yards on a David Wilson carry before eventually kicking a 27-yard field goal.
  • :03 to go in 2nd quarter-The Colts force a pair of incompletions from the Giants 12-yard line. New York kicks a 45-yard field goal after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The Colts defense holding the Giants to a 20 percent conversion rate on third-down was impressive but the unit also had some timely plays on the “money down.”

Greg Toler’s interception came on a third-and-one late in the first quarter.

Then in the second half with the Colts not allowing the Giants into the red zone, Caesar Rayford and Marshay Green both recorded sacks on third downs.

From a first-half yardage standpoint, there wasn’t much of a differential (15 yards) between the Colts and Giants.

It was all about defending the goal line that made up the eight-point difference.

“Our mindset down there is they aren’t in until they are in,” Pagano said of the red zone. “That’s third and goal from the 10, the seven, or from the one-yard line, we are going to do everything we can to keep them out.”

“Our guys are really comfortable with what we do down there, the schemes, the calls we make down there and the players do a nice job of executing them.”


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Week Two Preview: Four thoughts on the Colts defense

Posted by Kevin Bowen on August 3, 2013 – 10:38 pm

With Week One in the books in Anderson, here are four defensive items to look towards in Week Two.

The Colts will practice the next three days before an off day on Wednesday. Things will pick back up Thursday and Friday, with the preseason opener coming on Aug. 11 against the Buffalo Bills.

Josh Chapman’s development-The “900 pound safe” has been very impressive working with the second unit in Week One.

The nose tackle position will undoubtedly need more than one body in 2013 so expect Chapman to play big minutes along with starter Aubrayo Franklin.

It can’t be stated enough how much Chapman truly embraces the role of a 3-4 nose tackle and his presence will go a long way to stopping the run this year.

Bjoern Werner’s role-Werner’s high motor was evident last week and you can see why the Colts valued the German native during April’s NFL Draft.

If he was at any other position, Werner probably would be starting but with Robert Mathis and Erik Walden ahead of him, it looks like the rookie’s role will be primarily on special teams and passing downs this year.

Fans should get frequent looks at Werner coming off the edge this season with the outside linebacker depth allowing the Colts to bring the first round pick along at his own pace.

Can the secondary continue its hot start?-The ball-hawking nature of the Colts secondary has been prevalent in 2013.

The takeaways number of 15 last year is a point of emphasis this season and if Week One is any indication than the Colts defensive backs will be getting their hands on numerous balls.

Vontae Davis and Darius Butler have been particular strong with Greg Toler hoping to rejoin the secondary this week after suffering a concussion on Wednesday.

Return of Antoine Bethea-The Colts Pro Bowl safety has not been in Anderson since Tuesday as he was back home for the birth of his daughter.

Coach Pagano said he expects Bethea back very soon and fans are eager to see No. 41 pair with LaRon Landry at the backend of the defense.

Bethea has been in the Colts starting lineup every game since the 2007 season and getting him back on the practice field will be a welcoming sight for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.


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When it comes to setting the edge, Erik Walden knows exactly what to do

Posted by Kevin Bowen on August 1, 2013 – 8:00 am

Setting the edge.

When Chuck Pagano talks about the keys to stopping an opponent’s rushing attack those three words are quickly mentioned.

The ability to hold the point of attack and send traffic back inside is the goal of whoever is setting that edge.

Erik Walden considers this a strength of his.

“It’s just about heart,” Walden said on Wednesday.

“Setting up a wall for the defense and allow the inside backers, along with the rest of the pursuit and the other defensive players to be able to make a play on the ball.”

Walden’s ability to set the edge is one of the major reasons the Colts coveted the 250-pound outside linebacker during free agency.

“When we saw (Walden) coming out of Green Bay and when we picked him up as a free agent, he was a great player in the sense of setting the edge,” Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said.

“We always talk about setting the edge on either side. That’s what he did with the Packers and we expect him to do it here.”

In his last two seasons with the Packers, Walden played in 31 games and compiled 106 tackles and six sacks.

He is expected to line up opposite Robert Mathis this season and is a key cog at one of the Colts deepest positions.

When the pads were strapped on for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, Walden reminded Dwayne Allen who he was going up against.

“I played against (Walden) last year and he destroys tight ends,” Allen said. “He understands pad leverage and hand placement and is a very, very talented guy.”

This season Walden will don No. 93, a number that was worn on the back of Dwight Freeney’s shoulders for over a decade.temp2013_0730_TC_2236--nfl_mezz_1280_1024

Walden and Freeney both have a Super Bowl ring on their resume but the Colts new No. 93 was quick to point out that this is a new chapter in his life, one he hopes finishes with a storybook ending.

“Every year is an opportunity, and what you’ve done really don’t mean nothing ‘til this point.”

“I mean anytime you got a great organization with a great quarterback and a winning franchise, that’s half of it right there. I prayed about it and I just felt that this was the best fit for me.”


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Colts Daily Headlines: July 27th Edition

Posted by Kevin Bowen on July 27, 2013 – 8:01 am

It’s move in day at Colts training camp. To get you started here are a couple of pieces that look back on the  Colts history with the team celebrating their 30th season in Indianapolis. Also, an article on the emergence of T.Y. Hilton and the unique approach the Colts took to the 2013 offseason.

Each morning Colts.com will take a look at the top headlines surrounding the Indianapolis Colts from around the globe. What is the local and national media saying about the Colts?

Take a look below at the top pieces from Saturday, July 27th.  

Trio’s tenures with Colts predate infamous move from Baltimore

By: Anthony Schoettle, Indianapolis Business Journal

With the Colts about to embark on their 30th season in Indianapolis, the IBJ takes a wonderful look back on the move from Baltimore.

Schoettle interviewed the three Colts employees still left from that move—Pete Ward, Jon Scott and John Starliper to get some background on the late night mission.

“We just started throwing and shoving stuff in boxes,” Scott said. “There wasn’t even time to label the boxes.”

In the hours before the move, Starliper was sent to the airport to pick up Colts General Counsel Michael Chernoff and Mayflower CEO John B. Smith.

“I felt like I was on ‘Miami Vice,’ with media trucks and everything following us around,” said Starliper, who was a 25-year-old assistant film director.

“All these reporters were buzzing around the airport looking for any kind of information they could find,” Starliper recalled with a wide grin. “But nobody approached me or asked me anything. I guess I looked like the last guy who would know anything.”

Colts’ $140 million free agency spending spree is a new (and risky) team-building approach for the franchise

By: Mike Chappell, Indy Star

Chappell takes a look back at the Colts offseason and how things have changed from an approach standpoint.

Ryan Grigson and the Colts were big spenders this offseason and moving forward the 2013 offseason could have a significant impact on the team’s success.

The Colts were criticized for some of their moves, most notably giving outside linebacker Erik Walden $16 million over four years. The heftiest outlay was a five-year, $35 million deal for right tackle Gosder Cherilus.

Grigson insisted the free agents were good “fits” for the offensive and defensive schemes. Pagano agreed.

“We went out and got a collection of individuals that are really good football players, really good people. They’re ‘horseshoe’ guys,” he said. “Going through the offseason and seeing the participation, specifically out of that group and what they brought to the locker room … it was almost seamless.”

All-time Indianapolis Colts: Some easy choices, some tough ones

By: Mike Chappell, Indy Star

Chappell wrote a blog to explain the difficulty in choosing his all-Indy team that celebrates the Colts 30th season in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Star writer has followed the team nearly every step of the way since the move to the Circle City.

From that first regular-season game in the Hoosier Dome – a 23-14 loss to the Pat Ryan-led New York Jets Sept. 2, 1984 . . . yes, Pat Ryan – to the 24-9 AFC wild-card playoff loss to the Ravens in Baltimore Jan. 6.

From Clarence Verdin and Tony Siragusa to Jeff George and Eric Dickerson, from Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James to Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton.

So many lows and highs. So many personalities. So many memories.

Making the Leap, No. 9: Indianapolis Colts T.Y. Hilton

By: Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com

The offseason praise for T.Y. Hilton continue to pour in.

In this article, Rosenthal explains why Hilton finds himself at No. 9 on the 40-player list of guys “making the leap” in 2013.

2013 expectations

The Colts signed Darrius Heyward-Bey, who will compete with Hilton for snaps. But this is more about Hilton’s own personal development.

Hilton played fewer snaps last year than Donnie Avery, who is very similar to Heyward-Bey as a straight-line speed guy. Hilton has a higher ceiling and a more natural feel of the receiver position. He just has to show improved awareness and consistency as a second-year pro.

If Hilton played in Jacksonville, he wouldn’t be on this list. But Luck’s presence gives guys like Hilton and tight end Dwayne Allen a real shot to be annual Pro Bowl selections. (Chris Wesseling had a great write-up on Allen here.) Luck is our favorite young quarterback in the league and could be a top-five quarterback as early as this season. Guys like Hilton will look even better than they really are, and that should mean a 1,000-yard season for Hilton in Year 2.

 


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Lawrence Sidbury looking to add his name to other Colts outside linebackers

Posted by Kevin Bowen on July 3, 2013 – 7:30 am

The names at the outside linebacker position for the Colts have been picked and prodded.

Robert Mathis?

  • One of the game’s finest pass rushers over the past decade.

Erik Walden?

  • Great edge setter in trying to limit the opponent’s running game.

Bjoern Werner?

  • The 1st round pick who racked up 13 sacks in winning ACC Defensive Player of the Year last year.

How about Lawrence Sidbury?temp2013_0528_OTA_bowen_0188--nfl_mezz_1280_1024

Not much is known about the five-year NFL veteran who has been lost in the shuffle with some of the bigger named Colts free agents this offseason.

Sidbury showed flashes of potential in Atlanta (four sacks as a backup in 2011) and now he is hoping to take advantage of a new environment in Indianapolis.

“This league is about opportunities and when you get those, you’ve got to make the most of it,” Sidbury said on Monday’s “Ride with JMV”.

“Now I’m here in Indianapolis where the coaching staff and everyone in the building, have embraced me. They just want me to go out there and make plays like they know I can do.”

In moving to Indianapolis, Sidbury is also adjusting to life as a standup linebacker in the Colts 3-4 defensive scheme.

He feels the transition has gone pretty smooth as Sidbury’s clearly understands the mantra around his new locker room.

“As you know I’ve been introduced to the whole “Build the Monster” theme and building this defense to be a top-10 defense in the league,” Sidbury said.

“They want outside linebackers to set the edge first, get this running game taken care of and then third down we want guys to pin their head back and get after the quarterback.”

When Sidbury’s position coach Jeff Fitzgerald was asked about the depth on the edge a few weeks back he alluded to a few other names besides Mathis, Walden and Werner.

Sidbury’s name would fall into that category and he’s grateful for an opportunity in such a welcoming atmosphere.

“Indianapolis has been great,” Sidbury said. “The people have embraced the team and being a new guy that’s all you can really ask for so I’m enjoying it.”


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COLTS LINEBACKERS COACH JEFF FITZGERALD TALKS KELVIN SHEPPARD, ERIK WALDEN AND BJOERN WERNER

Posted by Kevin Bowen on June 26, 2013 – 9:30 am

To branch off yesterday’s article on Jeff Fitzgerald and his versatility at the linebacker position, here are some more comments from the Colts linebackers coach.

Fitzgerald just wrapped up an offseason working with a few new faces and here’s a look at three of them below:

On what he has seen from new linebacker Erik Walden:

“He’s football savvy so he has a pretty good idea. Now, it’s learning the terminology, understanding the type of techniques that we use, when and how we use those techniques.

Right now, he’s kind of transitioning into just learning what we are doing. We still see good things on the field. He understands what he’s doing, understands the fine details of his job, I’m excited. He’s going to be alright.”

On what intrigued Fitzgerald when he popped in the film of former Buffalo Bills linebacker Kelvin Sheppard:

“What we saw on tape was a guy who could find the football, was able to get down in the box and do some really good physical, attack type of things, both in the blitz game and playing base, taking on blockers and doing that.

“He seemed to have a very good understanding of what the scheme was and where he fit in the run game and what he was able to do coming out of the box.”

On rookie Bjoern Werner working on both sides of the Colts four-man linebacker corps:

“We are just trying to bring him into the whole picture. He’s going to learn his responsibilities. What I see from him is the ability to play RUSH linebacker, or SAM linebacker somewhere down the road. I think we’ve got him in the right spot right now but we will have flexibility in time, as he develops.”


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OFFSEASON QUESTIONS FOR THE COLTS POSED BY SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

Posted by Kevin Bowen on May 13, 2013 – 9:22 am

There will be a lot of introductions going around NFL locker rooms on Monday morning as teams incorporate their rookie classes with OTAs continuing through the rest of the month.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke posed a couple of question surrounding the Colts with rosters growing to 90 on the practice field this week.

Below are his two questions on the Colts and both Burke and I offer our analysis on the proposed issues.

Will any of the running backs step up?

  • Burke’s Analysis: This sure feels like Vick Ballard’s job to lose after he led the team in rushing last season. Nobody on the depth chart appears on the cusp of stardom, though, from Ballard to Donald Brown to seventh-rounder Kerwynn Williams. Ballard’s 814-yard rookie year at least gives Indianapolis something on which to build.
  • Bowen’s Analysis: I would have to agree with Burke’s notion that the running back job is Vick Ballard’s to lose. Ballard was productive in his rookie season and that was running behind an offensive line that has improved in the offseason and an offense that appears to be utilizing more of a fullback than last year. I could very well see Ballard being a consistent 1,000+-yard rusher for years to come. Donald Brown (speed) and Delone Carter (power) both fit a role at the running back position but it’s hard to imagine either of them supplanting Ballard as the starter. Kerwynn Williams’ first crack at making a contribution should be on special teams but the return threat also showed at rookie minicamp this past weekend that he can catch the ball out of the backfield and has a chance to find a role as a third down back.

Position Battles: Erik Walden vs. Bjoern Werner, OLB, Colts:

  • Burke’s Analysis: This ought to be an interesting one with Walden, arguably overpaid in free agency at four years and $16 million, taking on Werner, whom many thought should play DE in the pros. The winner gets to start opposite Robert Mathis at OLB in the Colts’ 3-4 scheme. Walden was underwhelming as a Packer, which is why Green Bay let him walk without any semblance of a fight this offseason. He could hold down the fort, at least early as Werner learns the ins and outs of playing linebacker.
  • Bowen’s Analysis: First off, let’s make this clear that this is a great problem to have at the outside linebacker position. Pro Bowler Robert Mathis is the obvious starter at one side of the linebacker corps but the other side has two quality candidates. Walden has been raved about for his ability to set the edge and he was one of the bigger splashes the Colts made in free agency. Werner will get his first taste of veterans in the NFL this week during OTAs, after the Colts first round draft pick had a very solid start to his professional career at rookie minicamp. Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky made it clear that there will be times this year where all three will be on the field together and expect this specific battle to last well into August with two dynamic edge players, both of which will play a good portion of defensive snaps come the regular season.

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