One of the big keys to the 2010 NFL Draft was finding good depth at corner back. Tim Jennings, Marlin Jackson, and T.J. Rushing (players who have provided excellent depth at corner in the past) are gone. Bill Polian and the brain trust at West 56th Street decided not to tender or re-sign them. Instead, they looked to the draft and collegiate free agency to find replacements. Polian even used the word "need" to describe just how important it was to find good depth at CB in the draft.
Here's Polian from a press conference after the Thomas selection, emphasis mine:
[Thomas] is a really good cover corner. Plays a lot like [Jacob Lacey]. Similar in style, only [Thomas is] taller and has good, long arms. A really good pass defender. He's a good man-to-man cover guy. Obviously, in that conference, he has to cover a lot of good receivers. And, he's done a good job. He was the nickel back as a junior and then a starter this year at left corner. So, again, another need we felt we had to fill in terms of depth on the defensive side of the ball, and felt good about doing it.
Well, despite Polian feeling "good" about the pick, just about everyone else shook their head at it because of Thomas' injury history. Now, with Thomas damaging his knee in his first practice with the Colts, his season is likely over and a key "need" is now very much a question mark.
Thomas was drafted not just to play special teams, but to play significant snaps at corner. Knowing how often Colts corners have gotten hurt in previous seasons, it's likely that the fourth and fifth corners on this team will not only play in the nickel in several games, but may start. Right now, Kelvin Hayden, Jerraud Powers, and Jacob Lacey are the primary corners. That's a good group.
However, after them, we have Ray Fisher (7th Round pick from Indiana), Brandon King (collegiate free agent from Purdue), Thad Turner (collegiate free agent from Ohio U.), Jordan Hemby (collegiate free agent from North Carolina), and Terrail Lambert (practice squad guy from last year).
Um, yeah. Our corner depth stinks right about now.
Now, despite things looking pretty crappy in terms of the corner depth, I think we can all agree that the Colts will not start the 2010 season at Houston with the reserve corners currently on the roster. This is a good thing. Between Fisher, King, Lambert, Hembly, and Turner, the odds are that Fisher will make the final roster. If he doesn't, the 2010 Draft is a disappointment before the season even starts. If depth at corner was as big a "need" as Polian said it was, and if the Colts get ZERO players from the draft for the 2010 campaign to fill that need, that is a pretty big screw-up.
So, odds are Fisher makes the team.
This leaves one open roster spot for, really, the fourth corner (Fisher is fifth). Likely, this player will come from the waiver wire after teams start cutting down in late-August, early-September. We've seen the Colts get guys like Keiwan Ratliff in the past and develop them into pretty decent corners. Still, the lack of corner depth is a BIG concern for this team, and worth keeping an eye on as we inch closer to training camp.
Some possible options:
- Drayton Florence or Terrence McGee in Buffalo. The Bills are transitioning from a Tampa-2 defense to a 3-4 look. These two corners might not fit the new scheme.
Ronde Barber of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Will the Bucs stick with him, or jettison him and go younger at corner with 3rd rounder Myron Lewis? They have him listed on their roster as a corner. He played some FS in college.
Dwight Lowery of the NY Jets. Remember him? The guy Peyton Manning torched in the AFC Championship Game. Lowery was the victim of a rather stupid coaching move on Rex Ryan's part. Lowery, who hadn't started all year, was given the job over regular starter Lito Shepard prior to the game. Shepard had started most of the season. After Peyton Manning shredded the Jets defense in the AFCCG to the tune of 3 TD passes, he specifically cited the benching of Shepard for Lowery as a weak spot the Jets defense where Colts offense would attack. Here's Manning after that game:
They started (Dwight) Lowery today. I am curious to find out why (Lito) Sheppard didn't start. I thought he played good for them all season. When a guy is making his first start in the AFC championship game, you kind of have to take a look at him.The Jets this off-season have totally re-vamped their secondary, and some feel that the AFCCG is the reason why they are doing so. They traded for Antonio Cromartie and drafted Kyle Wilson in the first round. This means Lowery is likely out of a job in NY. Despite him getting burned by the best QB in football, he's still a decent corner and provides good depth.
- Tim Jennings. Yeah, I went there. Hate him all you want, but he offers more right now than someone like