The Indianapolis Colts entered this offseason with a number of areas to address, but perhaps none was as glaring as the run defense. Head coach Chuck Pagano even called it his team's "Achilles' heel" earlier this offseason, and it became clear that the team wanted to get better against the run defensively.
One such move that was intended to do just that was the signing of inside linebacker Nate Irving. The move came a bit after the team's free agent frenzy at the beginning of the free agency period, but it could significantly help the run defense moving forward if he can come back healthy and play at the level he has before.
Irving spent the first four seasons of his career with the Denver Broncos after being taken in the third round of the 2011 draft. During the past four seasons, he has played in 54 games (starting 12) and has recorded 104 tackles, two sacks, and two passes defensed. Last year, he began the season as the Broncos' starter at inside linebacker, starting the first eight games of the season and recording 46 tackles and a sack (on the Colts' Andrew Luck) before suffering a torn ACL that ended his season. He is still recovering from that injury, but the Colts hope that he will be ready by training camp.
Irving is a good player against the run, which kept with the team's offseason focus that saw them also sign Kendall Langford in free agency, a player who is also strong against the run. Irving won't be a starter - those roles will go to Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson - and likely would only fill a starting role in the case of an injury, but he figures to see significant playing time nonetheless. With his strength in run defense, he fits right in with the Colts' focus and therefore should have a key role to play in the defense next year. It won't be a surprise to see him get significant time with the defense as a key depth player, and he certainly can help the Colts out. If he comes back healthy and plays like he has in his career so far, then he should help the Colts' run defense to improve.