Aug 30, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Peerman (30) runs with the ball and tackled by Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea (41) in the first quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Real quick, click this link and sort the position column.
OK, notice the names under the S, CB, and DB categories? What's different about them?
OK, I'll tell you, and I promise not to charge you a fee to view my online wisdom.
Of the nine players who are safeties or corners, six of them were not on this team last year. In fact, of those six, three weren't on the roster when training camp started, including Vontae Davis and Josh Gordy. Both of them are likely to play major roles in the secondary this year.
Purged from the roster between the start of camp and now were Kevin Thomas, David Caldwell, and Chris Rucker. They started a combined 22 games for Indianapolis last year. During the offseason, Melvin Bullitt (26 games started since 2007) was released as well.
That is a massive turnover of talent, and most of it was done in the span of just the last six weeks!
It's impressive work on the part of Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson, and it deserves a bit of praise. Rather than be content with bad corner play, or use the excuse that the Colts 2012 cap restrictions have hamstrung the front office, Grigson has been aggressive. He's refused to settle.
More importantly, he knew this once putrid Colts secondary was not NFL caliber; not for what Chuck Pagano and Greg Manusky want to do, defensively.
We blogged about it all offseason (mainly because, during the offseason, there isn't a whole helluva lot to blog about): The Colts secondary was awful. The criticism seemed to irk one of the few good players in the secondary for the Colts, Jerraud Powers. However, regardless of how Powers felt about his former teammates, the reality is they weren't that good. Bill Polian himself admitted that corners Thomas and Rucker, two men drafted by Polian, could not cover wide receivers man-to-man. In the Colts new hybrid 3-4 defense, designed to throw multiple fronts and coverages at an offense, man coverage corners are as essential as a daily, warm cup of human blood is to Bill Belichick.
Thus, Rucker and Thomas were expendable. Thomas was traded just as training camp began, and Rucker almost always worked exclusively with the No. 3 unit in preseason before being cut.
Replacing them are Cassius Vaughn (acquired via a trade with Denver), Justin King (signed as a free agent), and the before mentioned Josh Gordy. While each has incomplete skill sets, all have the speed and technique necessary to cover man-to-man.
However, all three of these players pale in comparison to the talent Vontae Davis brings to the table. He has shutdown corner ability. The problem is his head gets in the way. If it gets screwed on tighter, the Colts have a difference maker in the secondary.
Also added into the mix is free agent waiver claim Sergio Brown, taken off waivers after the Patriots purged him from their roster last week. Brown is a solid coverage safety with game experience. Other teams wanted him, such as the NY Giants, but the Colts had top priority in the waiver claim due to their 2-14 record last season. Adding him with Antoine Bethea and Tom Zbikowski gives Indy some much needed depth at safety. Brown can play both strong and free, as can Joe Lefeged.
Despite the huge turnover, this secondary has the potential to be a very good group. Last year, the Colts surrendered 3,632 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, and only snagged 8 INTs. Teams also averaged 7 yards a completion.
If you want to know why Thomas, Rucker, Caldwell, and the others are out of work, that's why. Hopefully, this new crew in the secondary can actually showcase some coverage skills and maybe, just maybe, create more than 8 turnovers for Andrew Luck and the Colts offense to work with in 2012.