With the distractions of the last 72 hours and the holiday weekend, many fans have lost their focus on the 2011 season's other issues with our Colts. The injury situation with Peytom Manning and the suspension of erstwhile Colts assistant/consultant Jim Tressell have served to take the conversation away from what I feel is the most interesting aspect of this Colts season, which is our defensive potential.
Our defensive line to me appears to have become a real strength of our team, with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis still in their respective primes, and now the addition of Drake Nevis. Nevis is a huge upgrade if he turns out to be as effective as penetrating the gap as I think he will be, giving opposing quarterbacks no pocket often times to step up into, which will force them into the oncoming speed rushes of our respective ends. Our defensive line both in terms of talent and in depth seems to be a major strength of the team.
So do our linebackers. Gary Brackett is getting older, but is still a respectable player. Pat Angerer is becoming very good. Ernie Sims fits our system perfectly, Phillip Wheeler is finding his niche, and both Conner and Moten appear to be solid and young enthusiastic guys providing depth.
Hanson isn't a pro bowl level player, but he fits our cover 2 defensive system well as a zone corner. Just turning 30 years old, Hanson is in the prime of his career, and he has experience playing in big games.
What makes Hanson an upgrade for us is his ability to close on the football and make tackles in space. In the worst, he is a nice nickel corner to play on 3rd downs, in the best case scenario he earns a spot playing with Powers as a starter.
While I am not a huge "stathead" guy, Hanson has some defensive numbers that standout and impress, and you would think would make him an ideal kind of fit for the eye of Bill Polian.
Last year, Hanson only allowed 4.4 YPA, meaning that he is comfortable not giving a cushion to recievers and making a break on the ball. To put that number in perspective, only allowing 4.4 yards per pass attempt against was second in the league among corners who were targeted 40 plus times.
Secondly (and I think more impressively) Hanson allowed recievers only 1.5 yards AFTER THE CATCH, which led the entire National Football League.
Now obviously, each number has its own meaning. The ideal scenario is to have a CB so good that teams don't target him at all....and Hanson isn't that guy. And at only 5'9, he struggles against bigger recievers sometimes. He isn't a perfect player and I am not tryng to say he is.
But he is a sure tackler who normally doesnt get hurt, who is durable and who comes from a winning culture in Philadelphia. He plays the run well from what I am told, and would seem to be a really good system fit for us in a big area of need. The Eagles like him too, but with their big signings this off season, they couldn't pay Hanson for what would have been a 4th cornerback position with them. Just 2 years ago they thought enough of him to sign him to a 5 year 21 million deal, and generally speaking I trust the Eagles judgement on personnel.
The Colts need a corner who can come up out of the zone and play the run, and they need someone capable of playing closer to the line of scrimmage to keep teams honest against what I think will be one of the best pass rushes this year in the league. I believe Hanson is a low risk, low financial impact type of player that we can obtain who can fill that role and upgrade our secondary with another good player.
Look for someone to sign Hanson soon, either today (Tuesday Sept 6) or after the first week of games to keep his contract from being guaranteed fully in 2011. It will be important for our front office to keep their eyes on the prize and not be distracted from the other catastrophes befalling West 56th Street, as improving our defense is a major way to offset a weaker offense and still give us a chance to win games until Manning returns....if he returns at all in 2011.