When you think about the most important Indianapolis Colts players, you likely won't think of defensive lineman Kendall Langford right away. And that's perfectly understandable, as he's a new addition to the team and hasn't received as much attention. And, granted, number eight might be a bit high for him on a list like this - but the reality remains that, if the Colts want to get to and win the Super Bowl in 2015, Langford will likely have to be a significant part of that.
The Colts signed Langford as a free agent this offseason to not much attention, as much of the focus was understandably on their signing of Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, and Trent Cole. But consider that defensive line was one of their biggest needs entering this offseason - after they had been destroyed on the ground too often last year, particularly against the New England Patriots. The Colts did address the defensive line, signing Langford and also drafting Henry Anderson in the third round and David Parry in the fifth round. But why didn't the Colts go after another big-name free agent, and why didn't they draft a defensive lineman with their first round pick? There are surely many factors that went into the decision, but one of the biggest ones, as ESPN's Mike Wells reported earlier this offseason, is simply because the Colts like the talent they have along the line.
Furthermore, the team's best defensive lineman over the past three years, Cory Redding, was allowed to walk in free agency as the Colts essentially replaced him with Kendall Langford. So here's the situation into which Langford steps with the Colts: they really needed help in run defense and along the defensive line, but they let their best defensive lineman walk in free agency. Instead, they added Langford and two rookies - promising rookies, but still rookies nonetheless (though the addition of a healthy Arthur Jones can't be ignored, either, which *spoiler alert* we'll be looking at within the next few days).
Langford has indeed produced at the NFL level. Drafted by the Dolphins in 2008, Langford played the first four seasons of his career there (playing in 64 games and starting 54). He signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2012 and played the next three seasons with the team (playing in 48 games and starting 36). In seven NFL seasons, Langford has yet to miss a single game, playing in all 112 (and starting 90), also recording 242 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 15 passes defensed, and four forced fumbles. His strength has been in run defense, though Chuck Pagano said this offseason that "you guys are going to be surprised" by his pass rush as well.
So why is Kendall Langford so important to the Colts in 2015? Well, one of the main reasons is because he's the big addition (at least when it comes to run defense) along the front seven, the area that the Colts most needed to address this offseason. We can hope that Jerrell Freeman improves this year; we can hope that the addition of a healthy Arthur Jones makes a big difference; we can hope that Josh Chapman impresses - but Kendall Langford is the new guy up front, and he's at his best against the run. The Colts' philosophy this offseason has been clear: they're determined to stop the run. Their spending might not have illustrated it, but they added an inside linebacker who's strength is in defending against the run (Nate Irving) and they added a defensive lineman who's strength is in the same area in Langford, doing so at the expense of a defensive lineman who's strength is in pass defense (Redding).
The reality is this: in order for the Colts to finally get past the Patriots and get to and win the Super Bowl, their defense will need to be better. Specifically, their run defense will need to be better, and Kendall Langford will need to be a big part of that. If he does, there's plenty of reason for hope for the Colts. If he doesn't, however, it won't just look bad for general manager Ryan Grigson, it will also have a damaging effect on the Colts' chances in 2015.
Past rankings on this list: N/A (first appearance)
Check out our list counting down the 15 most important players to the Colts' success in 2015:
15. Jerrell Freeman, ILB
14. Greg Toler, CB
8. Kendall Langford, DE