We begin our series of the 13 most important players to the Colts' success this season by looking at defensive end Cory Redding. Here's what I wrote of Redding in my positional preview of the defensive line:
I'll go out on a limb and say that Cory Redding retains his starting spot this year. He is clearly the best player at defensive end for the Colts, the best pass rusher, a team-leader and veteran presence, and someone very familiar with Chuck Pagano.
Yeah, that was sarcasm there, if you didn't catch that. Redding is absolutely going to be starting this season, and he's really the only one that I see definitely starting the whole season if healthy. Last year, the Colts' defense was noticeably better with Redding in the game than they were with him out of the game, and I would absolutely expect that to continue this year. Redding, speaking to the media last week, explained the role of the defensive linemen in the 3-4 defense, and it was perhaps the best I've heard someone explain it:
"We, up front, the main emphasis is to absorb people. You don’t really want to have a 260 or 270 guy down on the front line that’s going to get ate up. You want big 300-pound guys demanding two so you keep the linebackers free. You want them to make the plays. If you come off, and beat your guy and you make tackle, yes that’s a plus. Great for you, but that really wasn’t your play to make. That’s the linebacker’s play. We have to eat up two guys if we can every single play to keep our linebackers free. If you so happen to get off and make a play, that’s excellent. That’s pretty much what it’s all about."
Undoubtedly, the defensive line is a huge part of the 3-4 defense. And the most important player on that defensive line this year will be Cory Redding. I know a lot of people probably would like me to say that Josh Chapman is the most important player on the defensive line, but it's not even a sure bet that he'll be starting at the beginning of the season. I have to imagine he will be by the end of the year, but either way Redding should be there each and every game and will play a big role.
Not only does he bring a lot to the field, he also brings a lot of leadership to this defensive squad. Redding said that the mindset of a defender is that "you don't want to give the offense a blade of grass." That's the mentality that he is helping to instill in this defense, and not only does Redding say that but he sets an example of it as well. He fights in the trenches and helps to anchor that defensive line. When the team is in a 3-4 look, he's in there. When the team is in a 4-3 look, he's in there. And each and every play he is in the game, he's fighting to prevent the offense from getting a blade of grass.
Last year he finished with 36 tackles and 2 sacks in 14 games played (starting every one of them), and while his stats may not be overwhelming, for a defensive lineman in this system they're good and his impact goes way beyond that. Their goal, after all, is to take the offensive line on the play so that the linebackers can take the other guys. That's Redding's job every play - doing the work in the trenches. And added to that, he makes quite a few plays himself too.
If the Colts are going to succeed in 2013 on defense and really achieve the results that they want - stopping the run on their way to building a monster - Cory Redding will be right in the midst of it and will be playing a big role in accomplishing those goals. And for that reason, Cory Redding appears on our list at number 13 of the players most important to the Colts' success in 2013.