AFC South: Joe Lefeged

INDIANAPOLIS -- Giving the veteran players the final day of minicamp off wasn't the only thing Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano told his team before parting ways for the final five weeks before training camp.

Pagano
Pagano's other message to his players was: Avoid causing negative headlines for the franchise.

That's an understandable message from Pagano considering the Colts had three players get in trouble in the summer of 2013.

Receiver LaVon Brazill and tight end Weslye Saunders were suspended by the NFL for violating league policies. Saunders was released and later re-signed. Safety Joe Lefeged was arrested in Washington.

The last thing the Colts need is anymore more negative headlines since owner Jim Irsay (arrested) and linebacker Robert Mathis (suspended) have already given the franchise some unwanted attention this offseason.

"If you look at, every year we get the stats at the owners' meeting when guys happen to make bad choices and this is usually the time of year where the volume of that goes up," Pagano said. "We talk to them daily about it, it doesn't matter what time of year. They do have to make great choices and it's all about protecting the shield and protecting the shoe. If we make a decision, any decision, ‘Is this going to harm the shoe and harm the name on the back of my jersey?' I trust our guys. We've got good character guys and they'll make great decisions."

Colts Week 5 Twitter mailbag

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
8:00
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Colts release Joe Lefeged

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
10:55
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts made a roster move late Thursday evening when they released safety Joe Lefeged. The team did not give a reason behind the release.

Lefeged, one of the Colts’ top special teams players, didn’t practice Thursday and the team listed it as “Not Injury Related” on its injury report.

Releasing Lefeged could mean that the Colts are ready to move receiver LaVon Brazill onto the active roster. Brazill was suspended the first four games of the season for failing the league’s substance abuse policy. The Colts have a one-week roster exemption with Brazill.

The timing of Lefeged’s release is intriguing because there’s a chance that safety LaRon Landry could miss his third straight game with an ankle injury. Landry hasn’t practiced in more than two weeks. Delano Howell has started in Landry’s absence, but he left the field momentarily during the Sept. 29 game at Jacksonville. Lefeged stepped in for Howell during that time.

Howell was back at practice Thursday after wearing a walking boot for a toe injury earlier in the week.

Landry, Howell, Antoine Bethea and Sergio Brown are currently the only safeties on the active roster.

Lefeged was arrested in Washington, D.C., in June and charged with carrying a licensed pistol outside the home, which is a felony.

He ends his Colts' career appearing in 36 games, including five starts, and 56 tackles.

Predicting the Colts' 53-man roster

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
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Here’s my projection at what the Colts' 53-man roster will look like:

Quarterback

Andrew Luck, Matt Hasselbeck

Comment: The Colts are in good hands with Luck and Hasselbeck.

Running back

Ahmad Bradshaw, Vick Ballard, Donald Brown, Kerwynn Williams

Comment: Williams locked in his spot as the fourth running back by rushing for 92 yards against Cincinnati. He’ll also likely return kicks.

Fullback

Stanley Havili, Dominique Jones

Comment: Havili proved that he can be another option for Luck to throw to out of the backfield against Cleveland last weekend.

Wide receiver

Reggie Wayne, Darrius Heyward-Bey, TY Hilton, LaVon Brazill, Griff Whalen, David Reed

Comment: Colts are set with Wayne, Heyward-Bey and Hilton, but depth is still a concern at receiver.

Tight end

Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Justice Cunningham

Comment: You have to cross your fingers that Fleener’s preseason problems were just that and they won’t linger into the regular season.

Offensive line

Anthony Castonzo, Donald Thomas, Samson Satele, Mike McGlynn, Gosder Cherilus, Hugh Thornton, Joe Reitz, Khaled Holmes, Jeff Linkenbach

Comment: The Colts’ scoring success depends heavily on how well this unit protects Luck

Defense

Defensive line

Cory Redding, Josh Chapman, Ricky Jean Francois, Aubrayo Franklin, Montori Hughes, Lawrence Guy, Drake Nevis

Comment: The defensive line has to prove it can stop the run.

Linebackers

Robert Mathis, Erik Walden, Bjoern Werner, Caesar Rayford, Pat Angerer, Jerrell Freeman, Kavell Conner, Mario Harvey, Kelvin Sheppard

Comment: Rayford is the surprise name on this list, but the 27-year-old former Canadian and Arena League player earned a roster spot by having a very strong training camp.

Cornerbacks

Greg Toler, Vontae Davis, Darius Butler, Cassius Vaughn, Josh Gordy

Comment: The Colts are in good hands if Davis and Butler play like they did during the preseason.

Safeties

LaRon Landry, Antoine Bethea, Joe Lefeged, Larry Asante

Comment: Asante made a strong case to make the roster with an interception against Cleveland and 13 tackles against Cincinnati. Don’t count out Sergio Brown, though.

Special teams

Adam Vinatieri, Pat McAfee, Matt Overton

Comment: No comment necessary

Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star made his 53-man roster projection earlier this week.

Conrad Brunner of 1070 The Fan did the same.
ANDERSON, Ind. -- Interchangeable.

That's the word the Indianapolis Colts are using when talking about their defense. That has to be a good sign, especially when thinking back to last season's defensive unit.

It was 26th in the league in total defense, 29th and and 21st against the run and pass, respectively.

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
AP Photo/Michael ConroyThe versatility that the Colts' defense provides has players such as Cory Redding excited.
Gone is Dwight Freeney, who spent 11 seasons causing havoc on opposing quarterbacks for the Colts. Freeney is now playing on the West Coast in San Diego.

Experience in the 3-4 defensive scheme combined with some faces has the Colts believing they'll be a better unit this season.

"What I like best is you’re not handicapping guys," defensive end Cory Redding said. "You’re not handcuffing them and telling them you have to do this and you have to do that. In this defense it’s interchangeable positions....all the guys on the defense have the freedom to do whatever they have to do to get the job done. That’s what I like about it. You just fly around. You never know who is coming and who is not. You can’t really key on too many guys because everybody is interchangeable."

Redding -- still talking about being interchangeable -- even joked that he could play free safety.

The Colts added Aubrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean Francois on the defensive line. Safety LaRon Landry -- the great human specimen, according to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky -- and cornerback Greg Toler are new in the secondary, and the team added Erik Walden at linebacker.

“I think we have the body size and the right type of people for the system,” Redding said.

The secondary, which includes Vontae Davis and Antoine Bethea --holdovers from last season -- has been aggressive in its coverage so far in training camp.

“I think they’re playing together as a unit," Manusky said. "Last year was a little bit different because it was all new to everybody. For right now they’re feeling comfortable with the calls, comfortable with one another and they’re feeding off each other, which is great as a defense."

Redding took it a step further.

“In my mind, it’s night and day," he said. "Last year, we did some good things, but still we needed a lot of work against the run, a lot of work against the pass, a lot of work at different things and scheme-wise. It’s night and day, man. We have the body size, the type of men that are built for this system and have played in this type of system around other teams, so all they have to do is learn the terminology."

INJURY UPDATE

• Tight end Dwayne Allen missed the morning walk thru, as he was having his foot checked out.

• Offensive lineman Justin Anderson has a "significant pec" injury and could end up having surgery.

• Offensive lineman Joe Reitz returned to practice after dealing with stinger, while safety Joe Lefeged is bothered by a strained calf and is using a walking boot.
Thought on couple division developments from last week, when I was on vacation...

Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt: Showed off an amazing standing vertical jump. It would rank as crazy athleticism for a much smaller, lighter man. I’m not finding the right words for a defensive lineman.

Colts tight end Weslye Saunders: He was suspended for eight games for a second violation of the league’s policy against performance enhancers. The Colts already had receiver LaVon Brazill suspended four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. And safety Joe Lefeged was arrested on gun-related charges. I’m certain Colts brass would say one of the issues would be too many. But three? At least none of the players was in line to rank higher than third at his position.

Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts: He got Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne, Jordan Shipley and Mike Brown to join him during three days of Larry Fitzgerald’s (sort of) famous offseason workouts at the University of Minnesota. Beyond David Caldwell, Gus Bradley and the new staff, Shorts’ third-year potential may be as big a cause for optimism as anyone with the Jaguars. That he showed this sort of leadership at this stage of the offseason is a good, encouraging sign.
Reading the coverage ...

Houston Texans

Left tackle Duane Brown has been boxing to train for the season, says Matt Musil of KHOU in Houston.

J.J. Watt remembers watching Steve Smith race a soldier during a USO stop in Afghanistan. (Video on the team’s website.)

Drew Dougherty and Marc Vandermeer take questions via Facebook in this video on the team's website.

The top five most underrated Texans, with Patrick Starr of State of the Texans spinning off of a Nick Scurfield list.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts should wait and see what unfolds in Joe Lefeged’s case but part ways with LaVon Brazill, says Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star.

Matt Hasselbeck ranked a chance at a Super Bowl ahead of a chance to start, says Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star.

Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are the all-time Indianapolis Colts receivers, says Mike Chappell of the Star. Rohn Stark is the top punter in the Colts' Indy era.

Dissecting why Wayne came up short of expected touchdowns with Kyle Rodriguez of Colts Authority.

How the Colts use their defensive linemen in their nickel package, from Kyle Winslow at Colts Authority.

Previewing the defensive line with Josh Wilson of Stampede Blue.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Justin Blackmon recently had groin surgery, but he could still be ready for the start of camp, says Ryan O’Halloran. Blackmon joins Jason Babin and Jordan Rodgers as Jaguars who’ve had groin surgery this offseason.

Reviewing the status of the Jaguars' draft picks from the fifth round and later, with John Oehser of Jaguars.com.

The potential for a Jaguars game at Daytona is a long way off, says Oehser.

Did the Jaguars get any better at tight end, asks Alfie Crow of Big Cat Country.

Can Geno Hayes be a starting outside linebacker, asks Crow.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans should definitely hang onto wide receive Nate Washington, says David Climer of The Tennessean.

Tom Gower of Total Titans reviews Greg Cosell’s thoughts on Tennessee’s draft picks.

Conclusions about how the Titans got their sacks in 2012, from Gower.

Zach Brown still carries a chip on his shoulder over a pre-draft assessment that he was "allergic to contact," says Amie Wells of the team’s website. Brown is shooting for five sacks and five picks.
The message from coaches to players is constant and roughly the same: Don’t be that guy.

Don’t be that guy I get a phone call about. Don’t be that guy in the headlines. Don’t be that guy who prompts NFL fans to question your judgment and decision making.

Colts safety Joe Lefeged became that guy over the weekend.

Lefeged faces a charge of carrying a licensed pistol outside the home, a felony.

"This is a case involving a traffic stop, indicia of drug use, flight from police, recovery of an open container," prosecutor Ben Schrader told D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Frederick Sullivan.

Lefeged was in a car pulled over for speeding. Police found a semi-automatic pistol in the vehicle and paperwork that showed Lefeged bought it for $900.

When he was released from a D.C. jail on Tuesday, he spoke to Jennifer Donelan of the local ABC affiliate. (Hat tip to PFT.)

From the station’s story:
… [H]e told ABC7's Jennifer Donelan that he's sorry and that the case is drummed up.

“I would like to just apologize to the Colts community, apologize to my family for this even being brought up,” he said, adding, “I am not going to talk about the case right now until I talk to the Colts organization and have my lawyer with me.”

Considering the recent developments with Aaron Hernandez, one would expect every NFL player with a gun would take extra precautions to ensure he would not get in trouble with it.

Instead, Lefeged is that guy -- the guy facing potential indictment by a grand jury.

Undrafted out of Rutgers in 2011, Lefeged played in all 16 games and started the final four at strong safety in 2012. Since the season, the team signed LaRon Landry to replace Tom Zbikowski and drafted John Boyett in the sixth round.

Lefeged now probably ranks as the team’s fourth safety behind Antoine Bethea, Landry and Boyett heading into training camp.

It's hardly an indispensable spot if the Colts find this case and his behavior are something they don’t care to be associated with.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

T.J. Yates has been largely forgotten since he filled in for the Texans at the end of the 2011 season, says Patrick Starr of State of the Texans.

Indianapolis Colts

Safety Joe Lefeged, facing gun charges in Washington, D.C., was released on personal recognizance without bond, reports the Indianapolis Star.

Jacksonville Jaguars

“Former Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith has been released to house arrest shortly after being sent to a Mississippi prison on a six-year weapons and drug sentence,” says Dana Treen of the Florida Times-Union.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans feel good about Chance Warmack’s progress already, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.

Colts' Joe Lefeged arrested on gun charges

June, 29, 2013
6/29/13
4:35
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WASHINGTON -- Police say Indianapolis Colts safety Joe Lefeged has been arrested on gun-related charges after a traffic stop in Washington.

D.C. police spokesman Araz Alali says Lefeged, who is entering his third NFL season, was a passenger in a car that fled from police after a traffic stop for speeding early Saturday morning.

Police say they found a handgun in the car that authorities believe belonged to Lefeged.

Lefeged and another passenger face charges including carrying a pistol without a license and possession of an unregistered firearm and ammunition. Alali says the car's driver fled.

The Colts issued this statement:

We are aware of the reports regarding Joe Lefeged in Washington, D.C. At this time, we will have no further comment on the pending matter until we gain more information.

How does each AFC South team look in the secondary, and what still needs to be done?

Houston Texans

News that No. 1 cornerback Johnathan Joseph had sports hernias repaired early in the offseason was actually a good development. He was even more hurt than we knew last year, which serves to explain why he was hardly the player in 2012 he had been in 2011. A healthy Joseph will be much better. Kareem Jackson blossomed as the second corner, and Brice McCain returns as a fairly steady nickel. Danieal Manning is the strong safety with Ed Reed roaming and ball hawking as the deeper guy. Rookie D.J. Swearinger should work as the third safety and be an upgrade over the two guys who played in that role a year ago. He’s also insurance for the aging Reed. Corner depth is a concern, but isn’t that the case for almost every team? I expect big things from this group.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts are counting on free-agent addition Greg Toler as a starting corner opposite Vontae Davis. If he pans out as they project, they will improve. If he doesn’t, the depth is poor with Cassius Vaughn still in the mix. Darius Butler is a quality nickel cornerback. Antoine Bethea should be back to form when given a better partner at safety in free-agent acquisition LaRon Landry, provided Landry stays healthy. Safety depth has Joe Lefeged at the head of the line. He can be productive in spot duty, but if they need him for a long stretch, it’ll be an issue. Toler’s production in an expanded role and Landry’s health are the two big keys.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars have an incredibly young group. Safety Dwight Lowery and likely starting cornerback Alan Ball are entering their sixth seasons. The other starting safety will be John Cyprien, a second-round pick, and the other starting cornerback will be Dwayne Gratz, a third-rounder. Depth is a major question. The nickelback could be the wise old man of the group -- Marcus Trufant -- or second-year man Mike Harris or a player to be determined. Primary depth will come from three more rookies: corner Demetrius McCray and Jeremy Harris and safety Josh Evans. Cyprien already looks excellent, and Gratz was very good in minicamp. Still, inexperience will be a big factor in this defensive backfield.

Tennessee Titans

Free safety Michael Griffin's game has dropped off significantly in recent years. At least part of it has been the team’s inability to allow him to be the center fielder, which is what he should be best at. With veterans Bernard Pollard and George Wilson added to man the strong safety spot, Griffin has a chance to be a lot better. Jason McCourty is a topflight corner. The other job can be wrestled away from Alterraun Verner as the Titans look to play more man coverage with Tommie Campbell or rookie Blidi Wreh-Wilson in contention. Coty Sensabaugh is a developing nickel, and Verner has a knack for the job as well. They need a better push up front to help them all out.

Reassessing the Colts' needs

April, 3, 2013
4/03/13
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The Colts have restocked their roster in a big way since free agency opened, adding 10 veterans from the outside.

Some are sure to be upgrades, like right tackle Gosder Cherilus and safety LaRon Landry. Others require a wait-and-see approach as we find out how strongside linebacker Erik Walden and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois fare with expanded roles.

Despite an 11-win season, Indianapolis headed toward the second season of Ryan Grigson as the general manager, Chuck Pagano as the head coach and Andrew Luck as the quarterback with some significant holes.

With all the additions, the pressure to find answers at certain spots in the draft is significantly lightened. That makes for a far better atmosphere in which to draft.

Here’s my assessment of what they’ve done to fill roster gaps and what now rank as the team’s primary needs with the draft drawing near.

[+] EnlargeGosder Cherilus
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsGosder Cherilus, left, provides an infusion of talent to a Colts O-line that was lacking it last season.
Offensive line -- Cherilus is a physical player who can help change and set a better tone for a position that simply didn’t have enough talent last season. Donald Thomas will upgrade a guard slot as well. Is it enough? I think they should add at least one more lineman in the draft who can contend for a guard spot or at center.

Cornerback -- Greg Toler could be a fine second starter, but they qualify as three deep at best with Vontae Davis, Toler and Darius Butler. They have to have another solid guy in the mix, and the draft should provide someone who will automatically qualify as better than Cassius Vaughn.

Wide receiver -- Can they get more out of Darrius Heyward-Bey than they got out of Donnie Avery? I would think so. Is DHB going to be the ultimate successor to Reggie Wayne? I highly doubt it. They need to be looking for that guy to go with T.Y. Hilton, their lone long-term sure thing at the position.

Safety -- LaRon Landry is a significant upgrade over Tom Zbikowski. He and Antoine Bethea should be a nice tandem. Joe Lefeged is fine as depth. But in a good safety year and with Bethea heading into his eighth season, I think it would be a good move to add a young player at the spot.

Outside linebacker -- Walden was a controversial addition, but they’ve emphasized his ability to set the edge. That does not make for much of a pass rush opposite Robert Mathis. I hope they aren’t counting on big production from Jerry Hughes or Lawrence Sidbury. They still need a pass-rushing outside 'backer.

Defensive end -- They resigned Fili Moala and hope Cory Redding will be more durable. Newcomer Ricky Jean Francois could start outside and move inside in nickel. Another guy in that mix wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Running back -- Vick Ballard, Donald Brown and Delone Carter are the three-pack that will return. Ballard showed a lot of promise, but the other two are not sure things. Bruce Arians’ offense didn’t throw to backs much. Pep Hamilton’s offense will do so more. If Grigson sees a versatile back as a value, I expect he’ll add one.

Defensive tackle -- Went from being a need to not being a need. Jean Francois will play some tackle and some end. Aubrayo Franklin can be an early-down run-stopper. And they expect Brandon McKinney and Josh Chapman to be healthy and equipped to contribute. They could have a lot of options at this spot who fit the 3-4 front.

Quarterback -- They did well replacing Drew Stanton with Matt Hasselbeck as Luck’s backup. The No. 2 was never going to come from the draft.

Priority one: Indianapolis Colts

January, 23, 2013
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Today we look at the biggest issues facing each team in the AFC South and give you an opportunity to assess priority one:

Pending free agents of note: Outside linebacker Dwight Freeney, cornerback Jerraud Powers, punter Pat McAfee, right tackle Winston Justice, defensive lineman Fili Moala, defensive tackle Antonio Johnson.

Weaknesses: The offensive line wasn’t great and played better than the sum of its parts. The team needs a major overhaul on the line. The secondary needs a lot of work -- at least two new corners and one new safety. The defensive line suffered a lot of injuries and needs depth or more depending on what happens with Moala and Johnson in free agency.

Unsettled starting jobs: Left cornerback Cassius Vaughn was a constant target once he “settled in" as the starter when Powers was lost for the season, Tom Zbikowski and Joe Lefeged aren’t good enough at strong safety. Pick a spot on the offensive line besides left tackle Anthony Castonzo.

SportsNation

What should be priority one for the Colts?

  •  
    9%
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    77%
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    4%
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    7%
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    3%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,008)

Depth issues: The secondary needs options for nickel and dime packages and needs to be able to survive some injuries. Outside linebacker -- minus Freeney, who’s not expected back -- needs to be restocked, even if Jerry Hughes is deemed worthy of Freeney’s starting spot.

Health concerns: Powers hasn’t been able to stay healthy, and that could mean the Colts don’t re-sign him. He’s recovering from a toe injury. Moala is coming off a torn ACL and defensive tackle Josh Chapman, who didn’t make it back during his season from a college knee injury, is a wild card going forward.

Unseen issue: Reggie Wayne was fantastic in his first season with Andrew Luck as his quarterback. T.Y. Hilton had a great rookie season. But Donnie Avery is going to be a free agent and is hardly a long-term answer and we’re not sure what LaVon Brazill is yet. The Colts need to continue to add at receiver, knowing Wayne won’t last forever.
Injuries of note for AFC South teams this weekend…

Colts

Safety Tom Zbikowski will miss another game with an injured knee. Joe Lefeged and Sergio Brown will get chances in that safety spot. Left guard Joe Reitz (concussion) is also out, and Seth Olsen will fill in. Running back Donald Brown (ankle) won’t play, either.

Jaguars

Cecil Shorts has caught a touchdown in four games in a row for the Jaguars, but lingering concussion symptoms will keep him out. Justin Blackmon is the lead receiver, with Kevin Elliott and Jordan Shipley as the second and third.

Eben Britton will start at left guard for Mike Brewster (hand). Britton was squeezed out of the lineup by the undrafted rookie, and this might be his last chance with this staff.

Texans

They won't declare statuses for Monday night until Saturday. But all indications have been the key injured guys are going to be game-time decisions. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph said he's 100 percent ready to go.

Titans

Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy (concussion) is out, as is wide receiver Damian Williams (hamstring). Tim Shaw will play for McCarthy.
Colts strong safety Tom Zbikowski is not a real strength in pass coverage for the team.

Zbikowski
Now he’s out of Sunday’s game in Detroit because of a knee injury. Bruce Arians said both Joe Lefeged and Sergio Brown will see time in place of Zbikowski.

Brown's most notable moment this season came as he put his hands to his helmet in a what-did-I-just-do reaction after he got beat by Cecil Shorts on an 80-yard catch and run on Sept. 23 that won a 22-17 game for Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Pro Football Focus rates Zbikowski 58th among safeties who’ve seen enough work to qualify, with a 1.7 rating in pass coverage and a minus-4.1 in run defense.

By their count, Zbikowski has played 693 snaps (with 393 in pass coverage), Brown 25 and Lefeged 11

The Colts rank 19th in the NFL in pass defense, which is based on yardage. Detroit fields the league’s top passing offense.

It’s a bad matchup with Indianapolis even at full strength.

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