clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Taking a pre-draft look at the Colts’ inside linebackers

New, comments
NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

These three things can all be true about the Colts’ inside linebacker position: 1) the Colts have addressed it; 2) it’s still a big need; 3) it’s not their biggest need.

There’s been a lot of turnover at the position in the past year. In 2014 and 2015, Jerrell Freeman and D’Qwell Jackson started 63 of a possible 70 games, including playoffs. Then last offseason Ryan Grigson made the strange decision to let Freeman walk, and this offseason Chris Ballard released Jackson.

In the meantime, the Colts went through plenty of questions at the position. Sio Moore and Nate Irving were competing to replace Freeman in the preseason, but after Moore was hurt it seemed like the job would go to Irving... until he was cut during final roster cutdowns. Moore returned from injury to start the first four games, but his struggles led to him not just being benched but cut. Josh McNary got a shot after that, but it soon became clear that Edwin Jackson was the best option the Colts had alongside D’Qwell Jackson. But when D’Qwell was suspended for the final four games of the season, then it was Antonio Morrison starting alongside Edwin Jackson.

Those two showed some positive signs but were far from the answer, at least last year. The hope is that they can continue to improve, but the Colts desperately needed to add more competition. That’s exactly what they did through free agency, as they signed Sean Spence and more recently Jon Bostic to compete with Jackson and Morrison. Between the four of them, the Colts probably will be able to field a competent inside linebacker position, especially if the defensive line is improved.

With all of that said, however, it can still be considered a big draft need because what the Colts don’t have at inside linebacker is a difference-maker. They’ve got a number of guys who could be solid players, but they could still stand to add a playmaker. That’s why you’ve seen Reuben Foster and Haason Reddick as popular picks for the Colts in mock drafts, because those guys would be huge additions on the inside.

So overall, this is a need, and I’d expect the Colts to look at the position in the draft. But there are bigger needs (pass rusher, cornerback) and the Colts have added some pieces in free agency to help ensure the position is solid.