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Nose Tackle Josh Chapman a Big Part of the Colts Defensive Hopes

Nose tackle Josh Chapman will be a big part of the Colts defense this week and this season.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

"My main thing is that I want to be that wrecking ball in the middle," Colts starting nose tackle Josh Chapman told ESPN's Mike Wells. "I need to hold up double teams, but also defeating double teams and knocking them back. That's my job description."

This is Josh Chapman, who the Colts hope really can be the wrecking ball in the middle of the defensive line.  Who head coach Chuck Pagano called a "nine-hundred pound safe" in the middle of the defense last year in training camp.  Who fans have nicknamed Chapnado.  Who Mike Tanier wrote is set for a breakout season this year.  This is Josh Chapman, and he's going to play a huge part in what the Colts are trying to do on defense this year.

"I think one of the hardest positions to play in the National Football League is nose," defensive coordinator Greg Manusky noted yesterday.  "You get veteran centers across the league, they're two inches from the ball and then all of a sudden with checks and motions and shifts and things like that, moving our guys, for a nose they've got to understand that. It's a lot for a young guy in the league to comprehend.

"Ted Washington used to be great at knowing the formations and knowing exactly what kind of blocking schemes he was getting and that's similar to Chappy (Josh Chapman). He's starting to learn the offense, not only what he's supposed to do but also what formations are going to dictate what's coming to him. He's strong, he's physical and he's good at the point and that's what we looked at when we saw him at Alabama."

Manusky went on to add that, "It's so much better as a linebacker playing behind those guys because they eat up the blockers when they've got to stay on those guys instead of coming up to you."

Chapman's emergence this training camp and preseason had a profound impact on the Colts run defense and opened up the linebackers to make plays.  The defensive line of Cory Redding and Arthur Jones on the outside and Josh Chapman on the interior is as good of a defensive line combination as the Colts have had in years.  Ultimately, the success of the unit could come down to how Chapman does.  So far, everything we've seen from him has been incredibly encouraging.  While he's not quite 900 pounds (he's actually 340), he's still a guy who commands double teams and frees up other guys to make plays.  That's the role of a defensive lineman (and especially a nose tackle) in the 3-4 defense, and so far Chapman has been doing just that.

This Sunday, Chapman will make his first career NFL start, on the road against the league's best offense.  It'll be a big test for the entire defense, and Chapman will need to continue on his success this preseason.

Josh Chapman played collegiately at Alabama, where he was part of that dominant National Championship defense.  He tore his ACL late in his senior season, however, and though he finished the season it caused him to miss his rookie season (after being drafted in the fifth round).  I loved the value of the pick at the time and in 2013 Chapman saw playing time, appearing in 13 games.  He played like the team's best nose tackle last year, though didn't start a game.  Entering the season, we knew he would have a role but we didn't really know if he was going to start.  That question was quickly answered from day one of training camp: Chapman was working with the starters and that never changed.

The play of Chapman was one of the most encouraging things of the entire preseason for the Colts, and there's a lot of hopes and expectations that he can finally be the nose tackle that Chuck Pagano's 3-4 defense has been missing.  He'll get a great test right from the start, and it's clear that a big part of the hopes this defense has is Josh Chapman, the wrecking ball in the middle of the defensive line.