I know it's still very early, but so far, doesn't it seem like this is one of (if not the) best drafts/offseasons for the colts in recent memory?
Let's recap starting with the draft:
That's a definite starter (1), an imminent starter (2), a guy who *should* be starting (3), a #2 back (4) and a depth contributor (5) in one draft class. Not only that, but Castonzo and Ijalana both seem to be exactly what the FO thought they were, and will be bookends on the colts o-line for the rest of Manning's career. Drake Nevis looks like he could be the anchor of the defensive line for years to come. Delone Carter is a bruising back who has speed and power and will be a considerable upgrade over what we've seen from Donald Brown and other colts backup rushers.
However, that's just the draft. Beyond that, despite how much hate the FO gets from BBS, they've done a relatively solid job in bringing in players this offseason.
The offseason moves can be broken down into two parts - undrafted free agents, and veteran signings.
Undrafted Free agents -
This is probably the highlight of the offseason. There are two players in the undrafted crop this year that standout to me and should stand out to anyone who has been watching the pre-season action.
1. Adrian Moten - LB. If Adrian Moten doesn't make the 53 man roster, than every coach and front office guy has lost their mind. His performance in the linebacking corps should not only guarantee him a roster spot, but should even raise the question of how to best get this player on the field for certain situations. He is undoubtedly the best cover linebacker on the team (coverage skills being an absolute necessity in this Colts defense). He reads plays well, reacts quickly and is in on pass plays very quickly. He's got the athleticism to stick to slot receivers and cover backers. He reads the QB's eyes and is just a smart player. He's also solid on special teams. I would like to see this kid get some reps in Conner's spot to see how he does against better competition. He has been one of the best players on an otherwise ugly colts defense.
2. Joe Lefeged - DB. There is almost no chance that Lefeged is not the primary backup at the Strong Safety position to start the season. He was pretty coveted after the draft and the Colts were lucky enough to bring him into the fold. Another coup for the Polians and the rest of the front office. When Bullitt inevitably misses time due to injury, Lefeged is capable and will be ready to step in. He may not give up the spot afterward. He's got good coverage skills, is excellent on special teams (much like Bullitt was), and has a nose for getting in on tackles on run plays. He's quite frankly outplayed Melvin Bullitt in the preseason so far, albeit against lesser competition. Bullitt has not looked good.
Veteran signings -
This is a section that's harder to evaluate. So far, none of the FA signings have had much of an impact. Anderson has been virtually invisible, while Harris has been a non-factor and has been battling the injury bug again. I just don't know how much Harris has left in the tank, and if he's still got gas, I don't know that his knees will still be able to carry him. If Moala shows better than Harris in what's left of the preseason, and Nevis continues to dominate, there's a fair chance Harris doesn't even make the roster.
Anderson was supposed to be a factor against the run, with the versatility to play DT and DE on running downs. He hasn't shown much of anything, and I think the signing of Tyler Brayton is as much to do with questions about Anderson as with Hughes. In all honesty, outside of Freeney/Mathis, John Chick has looked like the best defensive end on the roster. Chick had a solid game against St. Louis, and showed even more against Washington. Again, this was against weaker competition, but I think he's shown enough so far in the preseason to warrant giving him a look against better competition in the next game.
Ernie Sims is another question mark. I think he'll be fine once he comes back from his appendectomy, and he's certainly a capable player. My issue is that his weakness is pretty much the same as Conner's. Neither are strong coverage linebackers - an area where Moten excels. Sims will undoubtedly make the roster, mostly due to their not being better options on the roster. Linebacking is an area of strength on the Colts defense, and Sims adds to that strength. This was and still remains a good low-cost signing for the Colts.
Tyler Brayton is the latest pickup, and may end up making the team as well as a sort of hybrid much in the mold of Eric Foster. It's unclear to me at this point that he's an upgrade over Foster, but if he is then it's another victory for the Colts front office. If he's cut by the end of the day, nobody should bat an eye.
Yet, overall, these signings can be considered positive moves from the front office. "How's that?" you might ask, considering I believe 2 out of the 3 could likely be cut. Simply because the moves were smart from the Colts perspective. There was virtually no risk in signing these players, and if even just one of them works out and contributes on the roster, the signings as a whole can only be considered a success. Anyone thinking that the colts were signing 3 quality starters to low-cost contracts with relative ease, simply had unrealistically high expectations. There was a reason all 3 were available for 1-yr low-money contracts - there was a significant chance that all of them were simply not (or no longer) that good.
All in all, if the Colts offseason can be summed up as:
3 starters (Castonzo, Ijalana, Nevis)
1 #2 RB (Delone Carter)
3 solid contributors (Sims, Moten, Lefeged)
1 depth roster addition (Chris Rucker)
for a total of 8 out of 10 moves (5 draft picks, 4 "significant signings", 1 batch of undrafted free agents), early indications would seem to point toward the moves since the end of last season being a success. How much of an impact they will make and the net success of these moves is yet to be seen of course. This early evaluation should not be read as a supposition of success, nor as a prediction that the moves will make the Colts a force to be reckoned with. Rather, I think the moves made so far have been good. I would still like to see a few more moves (shoring up the secondary as the primary objective), but I simply think what has been done so far has been mostly good.
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