Colts: Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis
The Indianapolis Colts may have an exciting offense heading into the 2014 season, but if their defense plays like it did last year, they're going to have some work to do.
Last season, the Colts allowed 357.1 yards and 21 points per game, ranking 20th and ninth, respectively. Those numbers aren't terrible, but they could have been better. Things will be harder considering the fact that Robert Mathis, who was responsible for the majority of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, has been suspended for the first four games.
The secondary is also going to be in question due to the departure of Antoine Bethea and the inability of several players to stay healthy. However, it isn't all bad, as the Colts signed players like Arthur Jones and D'Qwell Jackson to add some much-needed help.
With that being said, here is their current depth chart for the entire defense. The depth chart isn't where players stand now, but instead where they'll likely be by the time the season begins. There are currently more than a few undrafted free agents and other players near the bottom of the depth chart, but only players who have a legitimate shot to make the roster will be included.
1. Cory Redding
2. Arthur Jones
3. Cam Johnson
It was a solid season for Cory Redding in 2013, recording 36 tackles and 4.5 sacks while helping plug up rushing lanes. However, he was asked to play on 635 snaps, more than any other player on the defensive line. Fortunately, he'll have some help this season with Arthur Jones, the former defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens. He's an effective player against the run and pass, so he'll be a welcome addition.
While Colts fans didn't get to see a lot of Cam Johnson after the team aqcuired him from the San Francisco 49ers, he'll likely get to see the field a little more this coming season.
1. Josh Chapman
2. Montori Hughes
3. Zach Kerr
4. Brandon McKinney
After finally making his debut last season with the Colts, Josh Chapman will have the opportunity to start this coming season as long as he's healthy. He didn't get a ton of snaps last year, but Colts fans are hoping he shows the flashes of greatness he displayed while at Alabama.
Montori Hughes will likely back up Chapman, but he'll need to make sure to stay healthy. After that, there may be just one more spot left between Brandon McKinney and Zach Kerr. McKinney is the veteran, but Kerr showed a lot of promise at Delaware with a surprising amount of quickness for a man listed at 6'1'' and 326 pounds.
1. Ricky Jean-Francois
2. Jeris Pendleton
In his first season with the Colts, Ricky Jean-Francois did about as well as could be expected in 10 games played, recording 2.5 sacks and generating a solid amount of pressure for opposing quarterbacks. However, given the current state of the defense, the Colts will be hoping that he can elevate his game a bit more heading into the 2014 campaign.
Thirty-year-old Jeris Pendleton will be behind Jean-Francois, but it's more likely that someone like Jones or Hughes will see time when the starter needs a rest rather than the former seventh-round pick from Ashland.
1. Erik Walden
2. Jonathan Newsome
3. Andy Studebaker
While he didn't have the best season, Erik Walden wasn't as bad as many were afraid he would be after the Colts signed him. However, he's still overpaid and needs to prove he's worth the $4 million a year he's making.
If Walden doesn't step up in the near future, he may have to watch out for the rookie behind him in Jonathan Newsome. He may have only been a fifth-round pick, but he showed a lot of potential coming off of the edge and was able to make some big hits. He'll have to compete with Andy Studebaker for the backup role, but with the team's glaring need for pass-rushers, Newsome should be able to win the job.
1. Jerrell Freeman/D'Qwell Jackson
2. Josh McNary/Kelvin Sheppard
3. Mario Harvey/Andrew Jackson
It seems pretty obvious that Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson will be the starting inside linebackers this coming season now that Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner are gone. Freeman has showed signs of being a long-term option at the position over his first two seasons, and he'll have a veteran presence in Jackson helping him along the way this year.
Despite his struggles last season, the Colts will likely keep trying to find ways to get Kelvin Sheppard on the field considering they traded away Jerry Hughes for him and their former first-round pick played well in Buffalo with 10 sacks. Josh McNary will have a chance to be a second-string guy as well after showing serious promise in limited snaps last season.
Sixth-round pick Andrew Jackson will be competing with Mario Harvey at the bottom of the depth chart for a potential roster spot, but don't expect much from either if one or both make the roster unless a few guys ahead of them get hurt.
1. Robert Mathis
2. Bjoern Werner
3. Daniel Adongo
4. Aaron Morgan
With the four-game suspension for Mathis, the Colts are going to have to find a way to get pressure on the quarterback, and no one has more pressure to step up than Bjoern Werner. The team took Werner with the No. 24 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, but he missed three games and came up with just 2.5 sacks during the year.
However, Werner has now had a full year to adjust to the 3-4 outside linebacker role, so he'll be expected to start turning things around. Aaron Morgan will be trying to secure a roster spot after not being in the NFL since 2012, but he'll have to be fighting against Daniel Adongo, a fan favorite that had never played football until last year after being signed as a professional rugby player.
1. Vontae Davis/Greg Toler
2. Darius Butler/Sheldon Price
3. Josh Gordy/Loucheiz Purifoy
4. Marcus Burley/Qua Cox
Vontae Davis was the most reliable member of the secondary for the Colts last season, having some terrific games, including one against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. However, the Colts will need the guy opposite of him in Greg Toler to be just as reliable, as the 29-year-old has never been able to stay healthy during his career and played in just nine regular-season games last season for the Colts.
If Toler gets hurt again, Darius Butler will likely have to step up, but he's best suited as a nick cornerback. Sheldon Price is an intriguing option on the outside at 6'2'' and 180 pounds, but as an undrafted free agent last season, he's been untested, although he got to spend time on the practice squad in 2013.
Josh Gordy was a solid backup last season, but the reserve player in question is Loucheiz Purifoy. He was a solid cornerback at Florida that saw his draft stock plummet due to struggles on the field and off-field issues that eventually lead to him going undrafted.
Marcus Burley and Qua Cox may not make the roster, but there may be an extra spot for the two to fight for if they're lucky.
1. Mike Adams
2. Delano Howell
3. Sergio Brown
One of the bigger head-scratching moments this offseason for the Colts was the fact that they didn't address the safety situation at the start of free agency or in the draft. The Colts then signed 33-year-old Mike Adams in June to at least have a short-term option at the position. He won't have the starting job heading into camp, but he was solid enough last season with the Denver Broncos that I think he'll win it.
Delano Howell will most likely get the first-team reps heading into camp, but he hasn't proved himself like Adams has. However, Howell and Sergio Brown will be able to back up either safety position and even play corner when asked while likely also making contributions on special teams.
1. LaRon Landry
2. David Sims
3. Colt Anderson
With Bethea gone, LaRon Landry is going to be asked to start at free safety—and that scares a lot of Colts fans. Throughout the season, opposing quarterbacks posted a 115.3 passer rating while completing 75.8 percent of their passes when throwing at Landry. The fact he also played in just 12 games is even more concerning.
If Landry gets hurt, which is a good possibility, Howell or Brown will likely take over, but look for other guys like David Sims and Colt Anderson to try to fight for a roster spot at either safety position as well.
Note: Advanced statistics provided by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).