The Indianapolis Colts are in the process of moving Earl Okine from defensive lineman to outside linebacker, hoping that the switch could give them more help at pass rush.
Okine spent the offseason working on his agility and coverage skills, and he has been learning from Robert Mathis about how to play the position. The Colts' outside linebackers coach, Brad White, spoke to the media on Tuesday and expressed his excitement over Okine's transition.
“He’s a long, athletic body," White said. "He’s got great position versatility. He can play in and he can play outside. We’re excited in terms of what he can offer us. He’s a bigger body than we’ve had in that room before and he’s doing a great job. He’s picking up things fast. Again, he’s a position flex guy for us that the more you can do in this league, the better. Especially defensively, you can get multiple when you got guys like that.”
As expected, Okine's size was a major factor in the decision to see what he can do at linebacker, as at 6-6, 290 pounds he is certainly a big guy to have rushing the quarterback. White's comments also seem to confirm something else that was expected in that the Colts will likely play Okine in a hybrid role between defensive line and outside linebacker. White seemed to indicate that Okine could flex to either spot, which should certainly help his chances of making the roster as a depth guy. But again, it's Okine's size and athleticism that made the switch to outside linebacker possible.
"It’s rare to see a guy that tall and that athletic on a daily basis," White continued. "Again, (it’s) exciting for me to work with him on a daily basis. I think the other guys in the room love him. The best thing about the room right now is it’s a working group. Every day they put their hard hats on, it doesn’t matter if it’s year 13 or it’s year one. They all come in, they want to work and it shows on the field. There’s not a day that they walk off the field and they’re not drenched.”
Okine made the Colts roster last year out of training camp but was waived a month later. He was signed to the Colts practice squad and remained there until late in the season when he was again signed to the active roster. In total, Okine played in five games and recorded five tackles. Entering 2016, the Colts' defensive line looks to be a strength with players like Henry Anderson, Kendall Langford, David Parry, Arthur Jones, Hassan Ridgeway, and Zach Kerr (among others), while the outside linebacker position is very thin. Moving Okine there and seeing what he can do there makes perfect sense, and it sounds like outside linebackers coach Brad White is excited to see what Earl Okine can do.