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Bill Polian: Mookie Johnson And Drake Nevis Are Nose Tackles, Ben Ijalana At Right Tackle

I took yesterday afternoon off because, unlike last year, I'd prefer not to burn out by the start of the regular season. In 2010, the blog was raking in tons of new readers. We'd just started SB Nation Indiana (still going strong, I might add), and we in the the process of not only getting new editors for Indiana, but for Stampede Blue as well.

Today, I have a nice crew working over at SBN IN, and the return of Eric Miller here will add even more variety to the blog. Thus, on days when I want to take a break, I'm taking a break. Trust me. It will make me a much happier person in the long run.

Speaking of happy, you might find this interesting (or humorous), but I actually feel very relieved by the recent statements made by Colts vice chairman Bill Polian. At Colts camp, ESPN's Paul Kuharsky got a few moments time with Pappa Polian and coach Jim Caldwell. The conversation bred ripe fruit:

Nose tackles: Polian said he felt good about Antonio Johnson and Drake Nevis as the team's nose tackle, suggesting he isn't looking for anyone else.

Yes, that's right. I'm actually happy Bill Polian said this.

The NT position is, without question, the Achilles Heel for this defense. They've never been able to get anyone to consistently play the spot, which is why teams always enjoy shoving whatever scrub runningback they have down Indy's throat. The best Indy ever had at NT was Booger McFarland, and he only played for half a season.

In 2009, Antonio 'Mookie' Johnson started fifteen regular season games and all the playoff games (including Super Bowl). He played well, and the Colts run defense, especially in the playoffs, was dominant. But, last year Mookie was benched Week One for Fili Moala. It's a move we still don't understand because, in Polian's own words:

[Fili] isn't necessarily the big guy in the middle. He's a bigger guy than we've had. We still need length, we still need athleticism, we still need change of direction. The under tackle is still a guy that has to be able to get through the gap and disrupt. But it's hard to win consistently with 275 pound guys in there. It helps if they're 290 to 300. And then of course, the nose tackle is a different story. He could even be bigger if you could find one.

With Moala and Daniel Muir tag-teaming at NT last year, the Colts surrendered 2,032 rushing yards. At he end of the year, Pappa Polian called Moala 'the team's best defensive tackle,' a laughable statement when one looks at film of Moala's play in 2010.

As is often the case, words are meaningless. Action (and money) are the biggest indicators as to how much a team does or doesn't value a player. Apparently, Fili Moala was so good for the Colts last year that the team went out and drafted a highly touted DT in the third round this year (Nevis) and signed free agent DT Tommie Harris and free agent DE-DT Jamaal Anderson.

Now, with Nevis, he played his college ball at LSU, the same school that produced Booger McFarland. When Nevis was drafted, Bill Polian said:

You hate to compare these guys. I don’t play that game. I don’t compare these guys to people that have played well in the league, but in style of play and stature, he’s an awful lot like Booger (former Colts defensive tackle Anthony McFarland).

Nevis is listed at 6'1, 294, but he's supposedly at camp weighing over 300 pounds. For most of his playing career, Booger was at 6'1, 300.

Thus, if ole Bill thinks that Nevis can play NT, then I am fine with that.

Obviously, if the Colts still have a shot at Pat Williams, I think signing another free agent NT is wise given the team's track record at the position. But, if Bill Polian thinks Mookie, Nevis, and maybe Ricardo Mathews can play nose, I am a-okay with that. The concern I have had is whether or not players on this team fit the type of NT I think the team needs. The only player that comes close, for my money, is Mookie. But, if Bill Polian thinks differently on this, that's cool.

Of course, if he's wrong, and teams blast through Nevis the way they did Moala last year, I'll be a jerk who reminds everyone of what Pappa Polian said. But, if he's right, I'll also be the jerk who says, 'Hey! Look who finally figured out how to solve the NT problem!'

Other tidbits from Kuharsky's chat that were interesting:

  • Polian and Caldwell see Ben Ijalana as a tackle, and only a tackle
  • Ryan Diem might play guard in 2011. He played guard from 2001-2003. Personally, I like this move. Guard is easier to play than tackle, and anything that keeps Mike Pollak stuck to the bench makes me grin like a fool.
  • Polian thinks Curtis Painter looks 'terrific.' He said the same nonsense last year, and Painter looked awful to anyone with two eyes.

In other news, Jacob Lacey returned to practice today, and reports I'm getting from folks on Twitter say he looks fine.


Yes, I know it's preseason, and you know what... I don't care. You know something else? Neither do you. I'm gonna watch it, and you're gonna watch it. Don't be surprised if it gets higher ratings than Game One of the World Series this year. Football is king, kids!