Happy Labor Day: Some Praise For New Colts Corner Justin Tryon

Happy Labor Day everyone! We hope you are enjoying your day off and that you take a moment to appreciate the union movement that fought hard to get holidays as important days of rest. We all work hard, but hard work requires rest. Real rest. Take a moment to appreciate this as you are sitting on your bum today, browsing the Internet for more news on who signed where in the NFL.

OK, small speech on the importance of Labor Day completed. Moving on to Colts stuff.

Probably the biggest news for Colts fans on cutdown day this past Saturday was Indy trading an undisclosed draft pick to the Washington Redskins for third year corner Justin Tryon. This move was pretty significant because Bill Polian and his crew hardly ever trade draft picks for veterans. I believe the last time Polian sent a pick for a veteran player was in 2006, when he traded a second rounder for then-Buccaneers defensive tackle Anthony McFarland. That trade turned out pretty good for both clubs. 'Booger' McFarland was a very key player in the Colts winning Super Bowl 41.

Obviously, Justin Tyron is not on the same level as Booger McFarland. However, that Polian would part with one of his precious picks tells me that he either thinks the Colts secondary is so bad it requires immediate help, or that he thinks very highly of Tryon. If Polian's reasoning is the latter, he is not the only one who thinks Tryon is one of the best young corners in the entire NFL.

Yes, the entire NFL.

Bill Barnwell is our good friend from Football Outsiders. Back in July, just prior to the start of training camps, Bill listed the top-25 NFL prospects. These prospects had to meet the following criteria:

  • Be in the second, third or fourth year of their pro career
  • Have been drafted in Rounds 3-7, signed as an undrafted collegiate free agent
  • Have started fewer than five career games
  • Still on their rookie contract

A player like Jacob Lacey fits these criteria, and one would have to say he should be listed in the top 25. But, listed at #5 overall for all prospects meeting the above criteria is newly acquired Colts corner Justin Tryon. This is what Barnwell wrote about Tryon back in July (via DC Landing Strip):

"...While DeAngelo Hall allows countless completions and LaRon Landry overruns play after play, the team unearthed a bona fide starting corner in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. Tryon only started two games during his second year in the league, but he played like he belonged in the Millionaires' Club. According to the Football Outsiders game charting project, Tryon allowed 5.8 adjusted yards per attempt, nearly a half-yard better than any other Redskins corner. Despite spending time in the slot, Tryon didn't allow receivers to get open deep; passes at him were only thrown an average of 7.8 yards away from the line of scrimmage, the lowest figure -- by far -- among Redskins corners. He took Fred Smoot's job away during the year, and while he has to beat out Phillip Buchanon for the nickel job in camp (spoiler: he will), he may have Carlos Rogers' starting job in his back pocket by the end of the season."

Pretty impressive compliments. But, if Tryon is so good, why'd the Redskins trade him? Well, I could make a few comments about the general incompetence of Mike Shanahan as a personnel man. Make no mistake, even though Bruce Allen is the 'general manager' type guy for the Redskins, Mike Shanahan runs the show. This is the same Mike Shanahan who knows about as much about coaching defense as I do about quantum physics.

Redskins Insider's Jason Reid gives us the skinny as to why Tryon was traded:

A fourth-round draft pick out of Arizona State in 2008, Tryon played a big role last season when he stepped in for Fred Smoot as the nickel corner and played well defending receivers in the slot.

New defensive coordinator Jim Haslett plans to use cornerback Carlos Rogers in the slot more this season, however, and Kevin Barnes and Phillip Buchanan surpassed Tryon on the depth chart this preseason. Tryon played in 29 career games with the Redskins, making one start, and registered just one interception and one sack.

Further proof Mike Shanahan is incompetent when it comes to coaching defense: He hired Jim Haslett as his defensive coordinator.

But, whatever. I'm not here to bash the utterly useless and irrelevant Washington Redskins, who haven't won a playoff game in 11 years who have won only one playoff game in 11 years. If they want to trade away promising young players to the Colts just so they can give scrubs like Phillip Buchanan more playing time, I'm not going to complain. Fleecing idiots like Shanahan and Allen is what Polian does best.

Can you tell I don't think highly of Shanny? That I think he is one of the most over-rated coaches in NFL history? That without John Elway he won a grand total of ONE playoff game TWO playoff game from 1999-2008. He and the Redskins are made for each other. Over-rated coach working in an over-rated franchise. Sorry Skins fans, but when your team has only two playoff victories in 17 years, with one being against the friggin Detroit Lions, your franchise is over-rated. If such a fact were applied to small market teams like the Colts, Packers, or Titans, we'd be hearing it from elitist East Coast media about how irrelevant our markets are. Jaguars fans constantly get grief for not showing up to games. Personally, I don't blame them. WTF is there to cheer for? The Jaguars have only one playoff victory in 11 years... similar numbers to the Redskins. However, unlike Skins fans, Jaguars fans don't have disposable income to throw away on a worthless NFL team managed by a greedy, incompetent owner. Hell, Skins fans will pay to watch practice.

WHAT!

Give Jags fans credit. At least they aren't suckers.

Anyway, despite the contempt I have for the friggin Redskins and their fanbase,* I do have tremendous respect for several former Redskins players. One of my favorite players, regardless of uniform, is Darrell Green. The man played for twenty years. Twenty! He has 54 career INTs and 1,159 tackles. From 1983-1999, he missed a total of only 18 games.

Take note Kelvin Hayden and Jerraud Powers. THAT is what we call hanging tough.

Needless to say, after playing twenty friggin years in the NFL at corner, it's safe to say that Darrell Green knows a little something about the position. So, when he called Justin Tryon a starting caliber-type corner back in August of 2009 when Tryon was still a Redskin, people took notice [emphasis mine]:

Tryon spent six weeks this offseason training with Green in Orlando and Virginia, working on everything from technique, to speed work, to the mental aspects of the game. And, he said, soaking in any advice he could get from Green.

Now, as Tryon enters his second year with the Redskins, the cornerback who got off to a subpar start with the organization has earned praise for the progress he has shown during the first few weeks of training camp -- something that comes as no surprise to the man who took the 25-year-old under his wing this offseason.

"I'm gonna say that Justin Tryon, if he's given the chance, he's a starter in 2009, 2010 or whenever the opportunity comes," said Green, who said Tryon was like a son to him. "He is definitely qualified to be a starter in the National Football League. I'm putting my reputation on that after being with him for six weeks, seeing what I've seen from him. Hopefully he'll have his chance and be a Redskin for a long time."

High praise from Bill Barnwell. Even higher praise from a Hall of Fame legend.

Based on what we have here, and based on a few rookie scouting reports I dug up on Tryon, the 5'9 corner is being brought into the Colts fold because they think that he can compete with Jacob Lacey as the nickel corner. Nickel corner is very important to the Colts defense. The team has not had a truly dominant nickel DB since 2006, when Marlin Jackson made his living shutting down slot receivers. Since then, we've seen a revolving door of players at nickel, including Jackson himself. When healthy, Marlin continued to play nickel on third down situations. However, this meant players like Tim Jennings, T.J. Rushing, or Keiwan Ratliff were playing outside. Teams targeted those guys with great effect. 

Remember Drew Brees in the Super Bowl? Remember who he was targeting?

Entering training camp, it was obvious that the Colts had a serious problem in regards to the depth in the secondary. We wrote a lot about this weakness during the off-season. From how the Colts handled the off-season, they seemed content to work with young players and have them fill out the secondary. However, after training camp and the first few preseason games, it seems Bill Polian did not like what he saw. The Colts signed veteran corner Deshea Townsend on the first day of camp, and pretty instantly he was working as the dime back. After cutdown day, gone are rookie Ray Fisher and second year man Terrail Lambert.

With Tryon rounding out the secondary, and with Polian seemingly in love with oft-injured USC rookie Kevin Thomas (who is on IR after getting hurt in his first NFL practice), I'd say Brandon King's future on the active roster is tenuous at best. If King is jettisoned, and I think he will be, then that means every single one of the young players who Polian brought in here to round out the depth in the Colts secondary would be gone.

Now, mind you, I am not upset with guys like Lambert, Fisher, and (hopefully) King gone. Maybe they'll get signed to the practice squad. Who knows. Point is, they had their chances to prove they were worth anything, and they didn't impress. Replacing them are established veterans like Townsend and Tryon. Both have extensive experience starting games at corner and competing at a high level. With the injury legacy of Kelvin Hayden, and with Jerraud Powers injured foot from last season still bothering him, it's a safe bet one or both of these guys will miss games this season. If that is the case, I'd rather take my chances with someone like Townsend or Tryon starting over rookies or inexperienced second year players.

The 2010 Colts secondary is certainly not as strong as the 2006 crew was, but it already is significantly better than the 2009 crew. Kudos to Bill Polian for swing the Tryon trade.

Cue the silly, ill-informed screamers who say all I do is bash Polian.

***

*Kevin and the folks at Hogs Haven get a pass because, unlike other Redskins fans, they are smart and have been nice to me. In general, Redskins fans, and Washington sports fans in general, are insufferable. They often enjoy taking shots at smaller market teams and fanbases because of... I don't know... penis envy I guess. None of the DC area teams are relevant, which seems to piss off DC area fans. But, instead of holding their idiot owners accountable, they decide to lash out at smaller market fans who have better owners who field competitive teams that actually (shock!) wins games. In DC, their football and NBA teams are crap. Their hockey team can't win a championship despite having a gaggle of stars. Their baseball team defines the term 'useless,' and their only true college team (Georgetown) is still living off the glory years of Patrick Ewing in the 1980s. Yet, despite this stew of ineptness and losing, Washington sports get more coverage than anything else. More than New York or even Boston. At least with them, it is somewhat justified. NY and Boston teams actually win!

'East coast bias' is defined by Washington sports. No matter how bad their teams are, they will still get more publicity and coverage.

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