A year ago, the Colts defensive line was made up of players drafted to play in a 4-3 system playing in a hybrid 3-4 system under Chuck Pagano. Some of them held their own and are still on the roster. Others didn't, and they're gone now. In addition, Ryan Grigson brought in linemen this offseason to join the mix as well.
Cory Redding, who followed Pagano from the Ravens to the Colts and who was the best pass rusher along the defensive line last year, returns and looks to hold on to his starting spot, which is probably the most secure spot of any on the defensive line (but not guaranteed, either). Ricky Jean Francois was brought in from the 49ers, where he was a career backup but had too much talent for a backup and who played well when given the chance, and he figures to get plenty of chances in Indy.
Moala and Nevis in particular could make pushes at the starting lineup in camp if they play well. Moala started the first 8 games last year and showed improvement before his season was cut short due to injury. Nevis also saw his season end early due to injury, after he started 3 games and played in 9. Both players showed improvement last year, and both players were impressive enough to retain this year. Especially Moala, who the team re-signed to a one year deal this offseason. They still expect he can contribute, and the same can be said of Nevis.
There's no doubt that Redding and Jean Francois will enter camp as the starters, but that doesn't mean that they will end camp that way. That's one of the great things about camp, as there are always chances for players to make an impact. The door is open for Moala, Nevis, or whoever else to take a starting spot if they play well enough in preseason. The starters aren't nailed down yet (especially Jean Francois) so they are there for the taking. Yeah, the Colts enter camp with Cory Redding and Ricky Jean Francois as the starters, but don't just assume that will be the week one starting lineup. I think it will be, but again, theres a long camp full of players battling yet to come.
One additional note as well is who will play on the defensive line when the team goes to a 4-3 look, which they do in passing situations. Right now I would say it's still Cory Redding and Ricky Jean Francois playing in the middle of the defensive line, with Robert Mathis and Bjoern Werner at the defensive end spots. It shouldn't be ignored, however, that a player can make a big impact by being a major player when the team goes to a 4-3 look, because in this hybrid 3-4 defense that happens quite a bit.
Thankfully, we won't have to speculate much longer and we'll actually get to see these battles on the field instead of on paper. We're almost there.
For more on the Colts’ defensive ends, check out Josh Wilson’s defensive line preview here.
For more on Ricky Jean Francois, check out Josh Wilson's profile on him here.