So much is changing with the Indianapolis Colts as they will have a new offensive scheme under new head coach Frank Reich as well as a new defensive approach, going away from the 3-4, and back into a 4-3 base front.
Most of us believe that general manager Chris Ballard both drafted and added free agents last year during the free agency rush and draft as well as adding during the season largely gearing toward a change in scheme, post Chuck Pagano era. With that said, some of those players will be playing in different positions from a year ago due to the transition.
Ballard recently stated that John Simon will be used as a right defensive end, mentioning his time at Ohio State in a similar role, suggesting the new scheme won’t be anything new at all for Simon and that he’ll fit right in. Additionally, Jabaal Sheard and Tarell Basham will be defensive ends in Matt Eberflus’ system, adding that it’ll be a bit more natural of a role for each of them.
Sheard did play in a 4-point/3-point stance while he was with the Cleveland Browns, and he was electric. He racked up 15.5 sacks and worked his two most productive years overall in his first two seasons as a defensive end.
Ballard not only feels Sheard and Basham will be more at home in his new role with the team, but that they’re both ideal for the new defensive look. Ballard almost seems bullish on Sheard as well offering some real praise about his projection for his role next year.
Sheard had a very productive year in his inaugural season with the Colts. His 5.5 sacks don’t truly relay his effect on opposing quarterbacks last season. He created a great amount of pressure, continued to get his hands in passing lanes with 3 passes defensed and also held up very well against the run, adding 52 total tackles.
Basham did struggle early in the season, which Ballard also touched on, and he did show a bit more refinement as the season progressed while being in more of a stand up outside linebacker role. Ballard touched on why that may have been as well.
Basham totaled 9.0 sacks in his final season at Ohio and showed that he had the strength and agility to become a quality edge rusher in the NFL. But, falling into a 3-4 scheme took some time for him to adjust to and now he’ll have his opportunity to prove that Ballard was right to draft him in the third round last year.
There are a couple of things that all of this forces me to ponder with the draft coming up this week. For example, I wonder how eager Ballard will be to add an edge rusher early on in the draft with what he perceives to have three returning defensive ends. Maybe they wait to add one and grab more of a developmental guy in the second round.
Also, with those personnel position changes, the Colts are pretty bare at the linebacker position which makes one of the top ‘backers in this draft a realistic possibility at No. 6 if they remain there on Thursday. This also appears to be a position that they will address multiple times this weekend, especially if there are more picks to be acquired.
In the end, Sheard and Basham will get every chance to be the guys regardless of who’s drafted at their position, and it sounds as though Ballard is quite a bit more comfortable with those two than he was midway through the season.