Today we're continuing our look at players under pressure to perform for the Colts in 2014, and we're looking at defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois.
RJF played in 10 games for the Colts last year (starting all of them) and made 19 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and 2 pass deflections. While for a defensive lineman stats don't even come close to telling the entire story, RJF wasn't much more impressive than those stats indicate. Basically, he was playing along the defensive line but not having much of an impact whatsoever. He got pushed around too much and wasn't very effective as either a run stopper or a pass rusher, though he did manage 2.5 sacks which is a respectable number. He was also injured for six games, which didn't really hurt the Colts defense a whole lot, but still - he needs to be on the field.
He was signed to a 4-year, $22 million deal last year, however, which only magnifies the lack of impact. You could watch a Colts game last year and not really notice RJF whatsoever, and when specifically looking at him on film it wasn't much better. For the average of $5.5 million a year, Jean Francois needs to have a bigger impact than he did last year.
The pressure is on RJF because of the contract, certainly, and the pressure is on RJF because of his play last year as well, but it's also on RJF because of the signing of Arthur Jones. There's no doubt that Jones is a better player and will have a greater impact than RJF, but it also means that RJF will be the third defensive lineman now. He'll still likely start, but here's the thing - Cory Redding and Arthur Jones will both absolutely start, and while Jones is listed as a defensive end he can play nose tackle as well, which is where he will likely start so that the Colts can get Redding, Jones, and RJF on the field at once. At the same time, however, RJF will likely be the first one out when the Colts rotate and if Josh Chapman lives up to expectations this season then Jean Francois could ultimately find himself on the bench. If Chapman finally steps up (a big if) it would allow Jones to play more end and would leave RJF without a spot, as Redding, Chapman, and Jones might get more playing time.
Furthermore, the Colts could save $3.375 million next offseason by cutting RJF, so not only is the pressure on for playing time this year, the pressure might be on to avoid being cut next offseason. Of course, we're talking about the 2014 season and not beyond, but it's worth mentioning at least. Ricky Jean Francois is talented - at least more so than what he showed last year. He got pushed around too much and didn't have a huge impact on the defense at all. The Colts are paying him enough money that he is expected to be a significant contributor and play well, but instead he might see his playing time continue to decrease as the season goes on, depending on how some of the other defensive linemen do. Clearly, the pressure is on.