Colts signaling change in linebacker philosophy by waiving Buster Davis?

We've talked about Buster Davis at Stampede Blue going on two years. We hoped Indy would draft him in 2006, and when the scoped him up via waivers last pre-season, folks like me were ecstatic. Unfortunately, Buster didn't play well when he was handed the starting MLBer spot when Gary Brackett went down in the last few weeks of the 2008 season. He played even worse in the playoffs against San Diego. With Indy signing Adam Seward, keeping Buster didn't make much sense. Thus, he was waived (tip to GoHorse88).

With Buster Davis and Freddie Keiaho gone, the Colts no longer have the kind of depth they once had at LBer. Indeed, instead of smaller, quicker LBers with punch, the Colts have shifted to bigger, taller backers. They drafted Philip Wheeler (6'2, 245 pounds) last season and signed Adam Seward (6'2, 248 pounds) as a free agent. Add to this current Colts LBer Rufus Alexander (6'1, 232 pounds) and it seems the team is transitions from the "smaller, faster" guys Dungy liked to taller, heavier players.

Why are they doing this?

One possibility is the change in defensive coordinator. Former DC Ron Meeks rarely blitzed, and the result was a very strong pass rush and a dominant pass defense. Last year, they set an NFL record with fewest passing TDs allowed. But, with the league changing and adapting to various defenses, generating pass rush from the LBers is not a bad idea, even for a Tampa-2 team. Chicago does it, and their defense is very good. New Colts DC Larry Coyer used several blitz schemes in Denver (mainly because his d-line was crap), and while he will not blitz as much in Indy, having big backers like Wheeler will make it tempting.

The other possibility is a change in focus to stopping the run. If the Colts are focusing more on acquiring bigger LBers, the drawback to "bigger" is usually sacrificing pass coverage. Smaller, quicker LBers usually excel at pass coverage. The sacrifice in speed and "pop" would be counter-balanced by size and strength.

Regardless of the reasons, the fact is Indy is much "bigger" at LB in 2009 than they were in 2008. This doesn't mean they are shifting their entire focus away from smaller backers. Gary Brackett (5'11, 235 pounds) and Clint Session (6', 235 pounds) are still considered "small" as far as LBers go. And both are starters.

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