Hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend, especially LovinBlue who is now back from her long trek to Alaska. For those of you who sweated through a very hot weekend (95 degrees in several Midwestern and East Coast states), take heart in knowing Colts Training Camp is only 25 days away. Between now and then, we will do a little Countdown to Colts Training Camp 2010 series, highlighting the big stories and positional competitions heading into the gathering of the 2010 Indianapolis Colts in Anderson, IN.
Before the Fourth of July weekend, we talked about players "on the bubble"; fighting for a roster spot on a team loaded with young talent at several key positions. To start this series, we'll break down why certain players need to prove something in order to avoid the first set of roster cuts are scheduled in late-August.
Today, we focus on the defensive ends, starting with "the old guy" of the group.
Keyunta Dawson, DE
Colts.com did a nice article on Dawson recently. In the piece, Dawson talked about being a four year veteran, and that because of this status he's now the "old guy" of the group. The issue for Dawson is that being "the old guy" is not necessarily the situation a player like him should be in, especially when the position Dawson plays (defensive end) has a premium on speed and pass rushing ability.
Dawson possesses neither.
Ideally, the Colts will want to use Dawson the way they used Raheem Brock for years. Brock was the "run end" on running downs, and often played DT on passing downs. He was more effective as a rusher on the interior, and sometimes was used as a "Joker" linebacker. Unfortunately for Dawson, I haven't seen him excel in any of these roles.
I don't consider this "Gospel," but Pro Football Focus' metrics do paint a fairly accurate portrait of Dawson's productivity. They rank him at -19 overall and a piss poor -2.4 in run defense. For the whole season, PFF recorded only two "stops" made by Dawson, who saw 339 snaps in 2009 and started in two games. That's a healthy number for a reserve. If you look at him compared to other defensive ends with a similar number of snaps, his lack of productivity is even more noticeable. I mean, Dawson makes Jaguars draft bust Quentin Groves look good by comparison.
The Colts drafted Ricardo Mathews last April and Bill Polian specifically referred to him as a "run end" during the draft press conference. With first round rookie defensive end Jerry Hughes also in the fold, it's hard to see what role Dawson could play for the Colts in 2010. He simply does not excel at anything. Sure, he can play probably every position on the d-line, which offers some flexibility, but so does Mathews (in theory) and possibly second year d-lineman Mitch King. John Gill and Ervin Baldwin are also fighting for roster spots. Both offer flexibility and special teams experience.
If there's a place Dawson can showcase improvement, it's run defense. If he wants to stay employed as a Colts defensive player, he absolutely must show he can be stout against the run either as an end or a tackle. If he can do it for both, he will stay on this roster. That's a big "if" though because I have yet to see Dawson play consistent enough to warrant a spot in 2010.
I personally don't think Dawson is a "bad" player. I mean, he's not Gilbert Gardner or anything. He's just not "good" at any one thing. He offers flexibility, but being "flexibly mediocre" doesn't justify a roster spot, especially when the team has invested two draft picks on the defensive end position this season.