Why the Indianapolis Colts Should Target Datone Jones in the First Round

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2013

October 13, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins defensive end Datone Jones (56) defends against Utah Utes offensive linesman Tevita Stevens (54) during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

When Chuck Pagano took over as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he brought with him the hybrid defense from the Baltimore Ravens

Unfortunately, the Colts lacked the personnel to make a seamless transition to the scheme. 

When the Colts played the Packers in October, Eric Miller from the Colts' blog Stampede Blue tracked their defensive formations. 

In that particular game, the Colts lined up with four down linemen on 86 percent of their defensive snaps—that hardly qualifies as a hybrid scheme. 

In order for Pagano to fully implement the system he ran in Baltimore, he needs the players to make it work. 

Enter UCLA defensive end Datone Jones.

Conveniently, Jones already has experience in the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. He played a mix of both end and tackle in the 4-3 during the Rick Neuheisel era before primarily lining up at end in Jim Mora's 3-4 defense as a senior. 

This experience makes Jones uniquely qualified to step into an immediate impact role with the Colts, whereas other prospects would be learning how to fit into the new, and often complex, defense. 

But aside from position versatility, how would Jones help the Colts defense?

Jones would be most valuable for his ability to impact the Colts' interior pass rush, an area in which they struggled significantly in 2012. 

According to Pro Football Focus, the Colts' defensive ends pressured the quarterback—via a sack, hit or hurry—on just 4.7 percent of their pass-rush snaps a season ago. Among the 12 teams labeled as 3-4 defenses, only the Chiefs (2.2 percent) generated a more anemic pass rush.  

Here's an example of how the Colts attempted to pressure Joe Flacco on a 3rd-and-5 play in the AFC Divisional Round. 

The Colts line up in a "wide nine" 4-3 set with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at defensive end, and Cory Redding and Ricardo Matthews at defensive tackle. 

Freeney and Mathis essentially pin their ears back in an all-out effort to get the quarterback. Redding and Mathews use a stunt technique in an effort to generate pressure up the middle. 

In the image below, you can see Freeney get a step on left tackle Bryant McKinnie and begin to pressure Flacco from his blind side. 

Unfortunately, the pressure from Freeney can only do so much on its own.

Redding and Matthews are stonewalled at the line of scrimmage by the Ravens interior offensive line. 

Due to the fact that Redding and Matthews are unable to bring pressure up the middle, Flacco is able to step up into the pocket and easily avoid the pressure brought by Freeney on his blind side. 

With a solid wall in front of him, Flacco fires a pass into the end zone, which slips through the hands of a leaping Tandon Doss.

In order for a four-man pass rush such as this to be successful, the defense needs to be able to bring pressure from multiple angles. 

Even an elite pass-rusher such as Freeney will get to the quarterback on his own only a handful of times each season. But a play such as this turns into a sack when Freeney's initial pressure is supplemented by pressure up the middle. 

In a scenario where Freeney brings pressure on the outside while the interior linemen collapse the pocket, Flacco becomes trapped. He then either hurries his release, which can lead to turnovers, or he tucks the ball and takes a sack.

This is where the addition of Jones could dramatically improve the Colts' ability to pressure the quarterback. 

In the video below, UCLA runs a similar play against USC. 

The Bruins also bring four pass-rushers, with Jones lining up in the same position as Redding from the previous example. 

In this play, the UCLA defensive end brings pressure from the right side, forcing Matt Barkley to step up in the pocket, just as Flacco did against the Colts. 

But on this play, Jones is able to bull rush his way through USC's interior offensive line, collapsing the pocket around Barkley. 

Ultimately, Barkley does a nice job avoiding the pressure and releasing the football, but he had only a small window in which he could make the throw due to Jones' interior pressure.

Jones' ability to bring pressure up the middle, and his ability to do so when lined up in a variety of positions on the defensive line, is exactly the skill set the Colts need to be looking for in young players for Pagano's front seven. 

There is a strong possibility that Jones will be on the board in the late first round when the Colts are on the clock, and general manager Ryan Grigson should have him high on his draft board. 


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