Colts plan to develop secondary depth with rookies

In a recent Colts.com special article, John Oehser was able to get a pretty interesting quote from Colts coach Jim Caldwell on the team's plans for the secondary going into the 2010 season:

"We have a few young guys that we're working with," Caldwell said. "We're working with Lambert, Fisher and Hemby – that particular group, trying to get them developed. But with Lacey, Hayden and Powers, those are guys who give us a pretty good rotation. I think they're going to be quite effective."

It's interesting that Caldwell speaks well of Terrail Lambert, Ray Fisher, and Jordan Hamby, but does not mention rookies Brandon King, Thad Turner, or Pete Ittersagen.* Like the players Caldwell mentioned, King, Turner, and Ittersagen are first year guys mostly signed via collegiate free agency looking to win a roster spot on a Colts team that has spent much of the 2010 off-season quietly overhauling their secondary. 

Gone are Marlin Jackson (1st round, 2005), Tim Jennings (2nd round, 2006), and T.J. Rushing (7th round, 2007). All three were important parts of the Colts secondary the last five years (or so), and all were reasonably high draft picks. Jennings, in particular, has been the top reserve corner for the Colts since 2007. He's started games, played nickel corner, and dime.

According to Caldwell, two undrafted rookies and one late-round pick will replace Jennings, Jackson, and Rushing.

I've written a lot about IU corner Ray Fisher. The Colts see him as a good reserve corner, but primarily as a special teams contributor. Lambert, like Fisher, is from an Indiana school (Notre Dame). He's entering his second year in the league, but he hasn't played in a real game, spending much of 2009 on the 49ers and Colts practice squads. He did not attend the 2009 NFL Combine, but he did turn heads at his Notre Dame Pro Day. He ran a 4.37 40 time, showing off his excellent speed at a position where speed is a premium. But while speed is nice, it is how the d-back can cover and tackle that will determine whether he's worth a damn in the NFL.

Lambert's college career is defined by his game-winning INT for a touchdown against Michigan State with three minutes left.

An interesting side note on Lambert, he reads and writes poetry.

For Jordan Hemby, I haven't been able to find much on him other than he seems to wonder why it rains so much in Indianapolis.  I still maintain that the Colts will sign a veteran corner before the start of the 2010 season. I'm sure these kids will develop into solid reserves, but corner depth is very key to this Colts defense for the simple reason that Colts corners simply cannot stay healthy. If the Colts have to start a pair of undrafted rookies against a team like the Patriots, or a receiving corps like the Chargers, we got problems.

As we saw yesterday from mgrex03's article on the Colts 2009 third down defense, asking three rookies in 2010 to do better than several established veterans in 2009 is not a realistic expectation. And if you use Pro Football Focus as a guide, pass coverage by the Colts defense last year was near the bottom (-29.5). In 2010, that -29.5 might get worse if the Colts are asking totally unproven players to fill in for veterans like Jennings and Jackson.

*The article from Oehser says Caldwell and the Colts view Brandon King as a player they want to develop, but Caldwell is not quoted as saying King is in the group of players the Colts are working to develop.

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