Trying to guess who the Colts will have available in the front seven of the defense on Sunday is like solving a 1,000-piece puzzle.
Inside linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Kavell Conner, defensive end Cory Redding and nose tackle Antonio Johnson are the four players in the front seven who have been in the starting lineup for each of the Colts five games this season.
After those four, it has been a wait and see approach week-to-week for defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
For the second straight week, the Colts will be without defensive tackle Fili Moala.
Outside linebacker Robert Mathis is hoping to return to the lineup after missing the Jets game with a knee injury.
Redding’s status is up in the air after leaving the Jets game in the first half.
Inside linebacker Pat Angerer is looking to see his first action of the season as a foot injury during the preseason has sidelined the Colts leading tackler from last season.
The Colts are already without nose tackles Brandon McKinney and Martin Tevaseu.
Defensive linemen Ricardo Matthews and Drake Nevis have seen action in every game this season and their health has been critical among a defensive front that has seen its fair share of fronts.
Currently three Colts defensive linemen on the active roster have been in Indianapolis for less than two weeks (defensive end Clifton Geathers was signed on Oct. 3, nose tackle Antonio Dixon was signed on Oct. 9 and defensive end Lawrence Guy was signed on Tuesday).
Offensive coordinator/interim head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t know who will be out there on Sunday, but can’t thank his staff enough for dealing with so many new faces.
“It’s a credit to the coaching staff to do what they’re doing. Our backup defensive line right now has a cumulative after today 10 practices. So, that’s a lot of new.”
“(Defensive line) Coach (Gary) Emanuel is earning his paycheck and he’s doing a heck of a job and we’ll see how it goes. We might get fortunate enough to get a couple guys back and they won’t have to play. But we’ll get ready for them to play and we’ll see how it goes.”
Freeman, the Colts leading tackler, hasn’t been in the NFL for more than a year but even he admitted that it seems like he’s introducing himself on a daily basis.
“New guys coming every day. That’s just the nature of this business,” Freeman said. “People come and go all the time. I just have to do what I can to keep my spot, keep my position.”
The middle of the front seven has remained intact (Johnson, Freeman and Conner) through the first five games but it’s the outside that has needed to be reshuffled.
Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney missed two of the first three games of the season and the Colts are still waiting to get their Pro Bowl duo on the outside together for longer than one game.
Mathis considers himself a fast healer and while he is hoping to play this weekend, he knows whoever is on that active roster must accomplish the task they were brought in to do.
“Whoever’s out there has to do their job. Everybody is here because they are special in some way. If you are on the field, you have to do your job, whether it’s pass rushing, defending passes, or throwing passes. You just have to get the job done.”
Tags: Antonio Dixon, brandon mckinney, bruce arians, Clfiton Geathers, cory redding, Dwight Freeney, Fili Moala, gary emmanuel, Greg Manusky, Jerrell Freeman, kavell conner, Lawrence Guy, Martin Tevaseu, pat angerer, robert mathis
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By Kevin Bowen, Colts.com
Perhaps no unit on the Colts roster will take on a new look more in 2012 than the defensive line.
Thanks to a new scheme, a trio of new faces and some positional changes along the front, the line has a multitude of options as the Colts make their way through OTAs this offseason.
One of the first moves the Colts made was signing a pair of former Baltimore Ravens defensive linemen in Brandon McKinney and Cory Redding.
“Anytime you’re dealing with guys who have been in the system, they’re comfortable,” defensive line coach Gary Emmanuel said. “They are like an extra coach in the room. They really help as far as their leadership and that’s the biggest thing.”
Meshing with some new faces are a pair of returning defensive linemen who have shown some flexibility in moving along the new three-man front.
Last season Fili Moala and Drake Nevis both played primarily inside on the defensive line but they will be expected to play the end position in 2012.
“Drake and Fili both are progressing,” Emmanuel said. “They are getting better each time out. They are really improving their technique. They do a great job of picking up the scheme and working hard at the scheme to understand it. I’m extremely pleased with what they’re giving us.”
The Colts turned to the draft to add some more depth on the line when they chose their first defensive player during April’s draft in the fifth round by selecting Alabama defensive tackle Josh Chapman.
It remains to be seen when Chapman will hit the playing field as he finished last season playing with a torn ACL while helping the Crimson Tide to the 2012 National Championship, but his ability to play through pain won’t be questioned.
“He’s tough. He’s physical,” Emmanuel said of Chapman. “He’s been coached hard because coach (Nick) Saban does a great job down there with the personnel. We are really excited about Josh and looking for some great things from him.”
With Chapman and the 350-pound McKinney manning the middle the Colts are starting to add the pieces to a system that has found success throughout the league in the past few years.
McKinney had been apart of the Ravens defense since 2008 and says he is hoping to bring some ‘nastiness’ to the new unit along with helping his teammates learn a fresh system.
“It’s one thing to just go out there and pick it up but it’s another thing to actually want to learn and learn the whole system,” McKinney said.
Tags: brandon mckinney, cory redding, defensive line, gary emmanuel, josh chapman
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