After beginning the season 0-2 with losses against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Denver Broncos, premature panic spread. People questioned the team defense and their inability to close out a game. Since then the defense has responded in a big way. Currently the Colts have the 3rd ranked defense providing Andrew Luck with something Peyton never had, a top defense to complement their top offense.
Surprisingly, this defense has taken the next step without key contributors, OLB Robert Mathis (torn Achilles), and SS LaRon Landry (suspended). However, other players have stepped up and been good replacements helping the team more than hurting them. Young players such as OLB Bjoern Werner and DT Zach Kerr have stepped their game up. Leading the charge for the young players on defense is 2nd year player Bjoern Werner out of Florida State. Back in April I wrote an article called, “Bjoern Werner’s Development is Crucial”. Werner’s development was crucial before the injury to Mathis and became even more apparent after the suspension and eventually the injury. Werner has responded well with 19 tackles, 4 sacks, and 1 forced Fumble. With his continued development and growth, the Colts will have the pass rush to keep Brady, Manning, and Rivers off the field. The other young player steeping up is undrafted free agent rookie Zach Kerr out of Delaware. Because of the injury to Arthur Jones, Kerr was thrust into the starting lineup at DT. As a replacement, he has 8 tackles and 2 sacks making people wonder why this player went undrafted this past May.
While the youngsters have stepped up their game, there are key veterans playing at a great level and leading by example on how to perform on the field. The veterans that deserve credit are: ILB D’Qwell Jackson, SS Mike Adams, and DE Cory Redding. D’Qwell Jackson was the first major player the Colts signed right before the beginning of the free agent frenzy. They reached by paying him a 4 year $22 million deal (with $11 million guaranteed) but has been playing up to the great level that he was playing at in Cleveland for the Browns. He is the vocal leader of the defense while also leading by example with 52 tackles, 3 sacks, and a forced & recovered fumble. His presence is the main factor behind the Colts resurgence on defense. Mike Adams was a late addition to the team becoming available in June when teams normally release/sign veterans. His veteran presence had him competing for a starting job in the secondary from day 1. Now with LaRon Landry Suspended, he has settled into the Strong Safety spot playing alongside Sergio Brown. He has 24 tackles and 2 interceptions.
Cory Redding is a classic veteran that is playing with tremendous effort trying to prove that he is not too old to play in the NFL (he is in a contract year). This is his 3rd year with the team and seems to become more comfortable in the scheme every year. With very good players around him, he is able to take advantage of the one on one opportunities and be disruptive and active in the run game. He has 15 tackles and 3 sacks.
Andrew Luck has been performing at an extremely high level this year and could very well end up this year’s MVP. With Weapons at the WR (Wayne, Hilton, Nicks) and TE (Allen, Fleener) positions the offense will continue to put up points in the bunches. This is exactly how Peyton Manning’s teams were; a lot of weapons but not many pieces on the defensive side of the ball.
Under Head Coach Chuck Pagano, this has changed. The Defense is coming to life and is beginning to show signs that they will not only have to worry about Andrew Luck and the offense but will have to contend with a physical defense that can rush the QB outside (with Walden and Werner) and/or inside (with Kerr, Redding, and Arthur Jones when he comes back from injury). While this defense may not have a bunch of pro bowlers, they are playing very well together as a cohesive unit on defense.