Coming in 12th on our list on our list of the 14 most important players to the success of the Colts in 2014 is cornerback Greg Toler, an inclusion that many might agree with but one that I think is worthy of being included on the list.
Toler was signed last year by the Colts and played in 9 games, starting 7. He notched 23 tackles, 6 pass deflections, and a pick and played pretty well when he was in. He produced for the Arizona Cardinals before being signed by the Colts as a free agent, though he has always struggled with injuries in his career. That said, the 9 games played in 2013 were the lowest total of his career in a season where he actually played (he missed the entire 2011 season due to a torn ACL). In fact, in the three seasons with the Cardinals that he actually played he missed 10 total games and last year for the Colts he missed 7. Injuries have been a struggle for him, but in 2013 it was especially relevant considering he missed nearly half the season.
The impact of Greg Toler was perhaps most felt when he wasn't in the lineup, however. It just so happened to coincide with the absence of Reggie Wayne which also certainly played a big factor in it, but during the incredibly rough stretch of the season last year where the Colts always started very slow and struggled mightily, Toler was injured. Starting with the game against the Texans following the bye week, the absence of Toler was felt strongly. The defense struggled and so did normally good players like Vontae Davis, as the Colts clearly took a while to adapt to the loss of Toler. Those who stepped up for Toler, such as Cassius Vaughn and Darius Butler, played admirably but there was a noticeable step down - both are good players, but they didn't match the level of production that Toler did and as for Butler, he is better suited in the slot. While there were mixed opinions about Toler during the first seven weeks when Toler was the starting corner, the absence of Toler in the starting lineup showed just how significant of an impact he had on the defense.
I questioned whether to put Toler on this list as well, as I thought he was inconsistent and at times not great when he was the starter, but I think he's the second best corner on the team and that the Colts really don't have a replacement plan for him in case he goes down. Darius Butler is a good player but is best suited for the slot, and then after that are question marks - guys like Josh Gordy and Qua Cox will be battling for playing time. Basically, it comes down to this - the Colts need Greg Toler to step up and play, and he has the talent to do so. The secondary has plenty of question marks anyway without needing another one in Toler, and it's very important that he step up as a contributor in the Colts defense and helps out in that area. I went back and forth on this one and many fans probably will as well, but I think Toler's role is significant enough that he should be included on this list.
Check out our list counting down the 14 most important players to the Colts' success in 2014:
14. Pat McAfee, punter
13. Anthony Castonzo, left tackle
12. Greg Toler, cornerback