AFC South: Kelvin Sheppard

Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Colts 

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay posted his 2014 mock draft Insider earlier on Thursday.

As you’ve been reminded every time you hear the name “Trent Richardson,” the Indianapolis Colts do not have a first-round pick because of their trade with Cleveland to acquire the running back last September.

Colts' performance-based pay

March, 25, 2014
Mar 25
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Nine Indianapolis Colts players received performance-based incentives for more than $100,000 each during the 2013 season. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman and offensive line Hugh Thornton both earned more than $218,000.

The incentives are based off playing time and a player’s base salary. Veteran backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck received only $827.05 out of the $3.46 million which teams are allotted. The money usually benefits minimum-salaried free-agent signings and players on their first NFL contracts who end up playing a lot.

Here’s a breakdown of the top-10 performance bonuses on the Colts.

LB Jerrell Freeman $248,772.35

OL Hugh Thornton $218,167.75

WR T.Y. Hilton $162,808.35

FB Stanley Havili $132,945.28

TE Jack Doyle $128,223.40

DE Ricardo Mathews $118,490.40

LB Cam Johnson $109,230.89

WR Griff Whalen $101,056.36

LB Kelvin Sheppard $100,435.98

LB Mario Harvey $92,307.29

Here’s a breakdown of the bottom-10 performance bonuses on the roster.

WR Reggie Wayne $6,651.65

TE Dwayne Allen $5,711.86

C Khaled Holmes $4,695.54

TE Justice Cunningham $3,913.60

OL Donald Thomas $3,384.86

K Adam Vinatieri $2,738.82

RB Robert Hughes $2,618.30

RB Kerwynn Williams $2,494.16

OL Thomas Austin $1,816.86

QB Matt Hasselbeck $827.05
There’s a strong opinion from many, myself included, that the interior part of the offensive line and receiver are areas the Indianapolis Colts should look to address in the draft, free agency or trade.

Linebacker is another area of concern for the Colts.

Jerrell Freeman has had an incredible past two seasons, Robert Mathis dominated last season, Erik Walden didn’t live up to expectations after the Colts signed him last offseason and Pat Angerer, who lost his starting job before having his season end with a knee injury, is a free agent. Kelvin Sheppard replaced Angerer in the starting lineup and finished with 62 tackles.

The Colts, as you’ve known for the past five months, do not have a first-round pick at the moment. Their first pick will be in the second round at No. 59 overall. Their front office and coaching staff will be at the scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium later this week.

Here’s a breakdown of the top inside and outside linebackers, according to Mel Kiper Jr.

Inside linebackers

1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama
2. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
3. Shayne Skov, Stanford
4. Preston Brown, Louisville
5. Max Bullough, Michigan State
6. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut
7. Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA
8. Glenn Carson, Penn State
9. Avery Williamson, Kentucky
10. Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky

Outside linebackers

1. Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2. Anthony Barr, UCLA
3. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
4. Dee Ford, Auburn
5. Kyle Van Noy, BYU
6. Trent Murphy, Stanford
7. Carl Bradford, Arizona State
8. Telvin Smith, Florida State
9. Lamin Barrow, LSU
10. Adrian Hubbard, Alabama

Kiper has Mosley and Mack projected to go in the first round of his most recent mock draft .

Predicting the Colts' 53-man roster

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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.
Training camp competitions for the Indianapolis Colts are not shaping up the way general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano likely imagined them.

As Phillip B. Wilson points out in his blog at the Indianapolis Star, injuries are already having an impact.

Brandon McKinney is on IR with a continuing knee problem, so nose tackle looks like it’ll belong to Aubrayo Franklin and Josh Chapman, with Ricky Jean Francois able to help. What we thought could be a pretty good battle might be sorted out already.

Rookie right guard Hugh Thornton was expected to challenge incumbent Mike McGlynn, but Thornton has a boot on his right foot and has not practiced yet.

Pat Angerer is on PUP, meaning the second inside linebacker spot isn’t as much of a competition as it might be later, with Kelvin Sheppard apparently outranking Kavell Conner by so much that Wilson doesn't even mention Conner.

Rookie center Khaled Holmes might still give Samson Satele a fight at center, but Holmes had an ankle issue at USC and injured the same ankle on Tuesday.

Running back is still very interesting. Provided Ahmad Bradshaw is back to himself in time for the regular season, I’m not sure his presence on PUP with a still-healing foot hurts the competition at the spot. It might actually help. We know Vick Ballard will be second at worst, and it seems likely Kerwynn Williams will be fourth. The extra snaps could allow the staff maximum opportunity to gauge Donald Brown and Delone Carter.

While having virtually everyone good to go the first week of camp is ideal, camp injuries are inevitable. Maybe Thornton and Holmes don't miss much at all. Perhaps some of these guys will emerge in relative short order and still get into position battles the way we envisioned.

But if guys who are on the field now like McGlynn, Sheppard and Satele perform consistently well, they’ve got a chance to get a tight grip on jobs before their competition even takes the field.
We pick up our series in which’s resident scout, Matt Williamson, ranks the AFC South position-by-position.

Today, we examine linebackers.

Williamson’s AFC South linebacker rankings:
1) Texans (Brian Cushing, Brooks Reed, Whitney Mercilus, Tim Dobbins, Darryl Sharpton, Sam Montgomery, Trevardo Williams)
2) Colts (Robert Mathis, Jerrell Freeman, Bjoern Werner, Erik Walden, Pat Angerer, Kelvin Sheppard, Kavell Conner)
3) Titans (Akeem Ayers, Zach Brown, Colin McCarthy, Moise Fokou, Zaviar Gooden)
4) Jaguars (Paul Posluszny, Russell Allen, Geno Hayes, Julian Stanford, Brandon Marshall)

Everybody’s got uncertainty somewhere in their group.

My questions for Williamson based off of his list:


Matt Williamson's ranking of AFC South linebacking units is:


Discuss (Total votes: 1,250)

Your overall assessment, please:

“Ranking the linebackers in this division was pretty clear to me. Maybe it helped the Texans and Colts that they feature four starting linebackers -- and really, guys like Robert Mathis are equal parts defensive end and linebacker to me, but he is an outside linebacker for this exercise. I would say Cushing is the best linebacker in the division and Houston's outside linebackers should be improved from a year ago. But even though I ranked them first, there are many linebacking corps around the NFL that I take over Houston's. – among them San Francisco, Seattle, Carolina, Dallas and Arizona.”

Based on what you know about what the Texans have and the guys in question, do you put Sharpton or Dobbins beside Cushing inside or move Reed inside to put Montgomery or Williams outside?

“Houston doesn't play a typical 3-4 scheme. They are more like a 5-2. I have serious doubts if Reed can transition inside in either scheme and I think that move is an indictment upon Houston just not being happy with his edge pass rush. Montgomery seems much more like a traditional 4-3 end, but Williams seems like an ideal fit for the Texans at outside linebacker, and he is who I am most excited about opposite Mercilus.”

How much of a believer are you in Walden and Werner? Any signs of a slowdown for Mathis?

“I thought Indy WAY overpaid for Walden and it was amongst the worst UFA signings of the season. I see him as a third outside linebacker in a 3-4 and ultimately, that is what he should be if Werner lives up to the hype. I do like Werner though in this scheme as the heavier OLB (think Jarret Johnson when he was there and Courtney Upshaw now in Baltimore), which frees Mathis to be more of the edge pass-rusher. I don't expect Mathis to slow down, but of course, that day could be coming soon and it might be wise to use Walden more on early downs and keep Mathis fresh for passing situations.”

Could Fokou beat out a healthy McCarthy? If McCarthy gets hurt again, how much of a drop off would there be if Fokou ends up a two-down MLB?

“I am not a huge McCarthy fan, so I would say the drop off would be minimal."

How do Ayers and Brown rank as a pair of young OLBs in a 4-3?

“I do like the overall upside of Ayers/Brown/Gooden. Gooden and Brown are very similar run-and-hit guys with extreme speed, while Ayers is more of a 3-4 outside linebacker type, which is useful when varying their fronts as well as bringing an edge blitz presence.”

How much could Posluszny suffer if the guys outside him, likely Allen and Hayes, aren't particularly good?

“There is quite a bit on Paul's plate at middle linebacker for the Jags. Not only are his outside linebackers average on a good day -- although Allen flashed some playmaking skills -- but the DTs in front of him are not great at keeping him clean. Maybe the new defensive tackles will help in that regard, as Poz is just an average take-on linebacker. His strengths are that he takes few false steps, is quick to read and is decisive”

As for me…

I need to see Hayes and Allen in the new Jaguars scheme, but heading into the season I have questions about their ability to get off of blockers to make plays consistently. That could mean Posluszny has to run around and get in on every tackle, and they can’t ask too much of him.

Before McCarthy in 2011, the Titans traditionally had a two-down middle linebacker, the exception being Randall Godfrey. As soon as the Titans go to nickel, McCarthy or Fokou should leave the field and the two backers should come out of Brown, Gooden and Ayers. Bernard Pollard will drop down from strong safety and function as a linebacker at times. If McCarthy wins the job, this work reduction may help him stay healthy.

Dobbins and Sharpton both have issues staying healthy. That could be a big factor in how the Texans starting linebacker group shakes out. They have a lot of options after adding Montgomery and Williams, and options are the next best thing to a lineup already set as camp starts.

Run defense was priority one for the Colts as they revamped their defense, and Walden may help a lot there. But Werner needs to be able to have an impact early for the Colts to have a chance to rush sufficiently, otherwise offenses will be able to focus on Mathis in a way they rarely could when Dwight Freeney was also on the field with him. (Yes, I know Freeney missed games and Mathis still had success.)
A big package from Insider tries to peer ahead to 2016, offering us NFL Future Power Rankings Insider.

Herm Edwards, Mel Kiper, Mike Sando, Gary Horton, Matt Williamson and Field Yates ranked each team 1-10 in these categories:
  • The roster (minus the QB) as it projects in 2016, emphasizing players 27 and younger
  • The franchise quarterback as he projects in 2016
  • The strength of a team's 2013 draft picks and their available picks in future drafts
  • The reputation and performance of the front office
  • The stability and acumen of a team's coaching staff
  • A weighted formula computes the ultimate ranking.

A few notes from their review of the Colts, who lead the tied for No. 8:
  • The Colts scored a 6.2 in the roster category. Horton says the defense can build around inside linebacker Pat Angerer. But I can see a scenario where Angerer isn’t a starter at the beginning of this season, given the competition from Kelvin Sheppard and Kavell Conner.
  • Indy scored a 7.0 in coaching. Said Edwards: “What more needs to be said about Pagano? He was an inspiring story last year and did so much more than help lead a football team. The key for him this year will be building off that. After such an emotionally draining season, can he keep his team's energy up? Chuck is a great motivator, so it won't surprise me if the young Colts keep improving. It doesn't hurt that Luck is running the offense either.”
  • Andrew Luck got the Colts an 8.8 at quarterback, the second-best score to Green Bay: Says Sando: “The Colts have only six players age 30 or older on their roster, but (Reggie) Wayne is one of them. Quarterbacks make receivers however, and Luck is going to be just fine. His efficiency should climb now that the Colts have reunited him with his college coordinator, Pep Hamilton.”
I thought I'd have an easier time arguing that the Colts should be higher, but the rationale for the seven teams ahead of them is solid.

I do think the panel overrates the St. Louis Rams, the team tied with Indianapolis. The Colts scored a 6.7 in the draft category while the Rams got a 7.5.

Sure, the Rams still have some benefits to come from the deal that sent the pick used on Robert Griffin III to Washington in 2011. But with the risks Jeff Fisher is willing to take with some of those picks, the hit rate is likely to be lower than might be expected.
Reading the coverage:

Houston Texans

Linebacker Daryl Sharpton is treating his body like a Ferrari and making sure he doesn’t fuel if with 87 octane, he told Tania Ganguli of the Houston Chronicle.

Brennan Williams and Sam Montgomery are third-round risks in the eyes of the National Football Post’s Dan Pompeii, who thinks it’s the right round to start taking chances. There is also a mention of Tennessee’s Zaviar Gooden.

A close look at the play of cornerback Johnathan Joseph in 2012 from Cian Fahey of Pre Snap Reads.

To which I say: That he had sport hernias repaired after the season told us he was more injured than we knew last season. If he’s healthy in 2013, I’d expect him to be closer to 2011 form, which was excellent.

Indianapolis Colts

Five things to watch for in Colts minicamp this week, from Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star. His list includes Pep Hamilton’s No Coast offense and how the team uses Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner at outside linebacker.

If the Colts reach a deal with running back Ahmad Bradshaw, training camp will mark the end for either Donald Brown or Delone Carter, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Star. (Also of note: Wilson thinks Kelvin Sheppard is the second starter at inside linebacker if Pat Angerer is not healthy, making no mention of Kavell Connor.)

To which I say: Given the way I’ve heard Chuck Pagano talk of Brown, I think he’s got a significant edge over Carter if they are both healthy.

Thoughts on how Bradshaw would alter the Colts from Brad Wells of Stampede Blue.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Run defense issues helped put the Jaguars’ D in unfavorable third downs, which contributed to a horrible pass rush season in 2012, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

To which I say: As O’Halloran points out, every fault with the defense helped magnify problems in other areas. Moving forward, a quality pass rush can do a lot to help hide deficiencies.

Maurice Jones-Drew is scheduled to talk to the media today. He's among key storylines for he Jaguars as they head into their final offseason time together with minicamp this week, says O'Halloran.

Receiver Cecil Shorts is the headliner in the list of 2013 breakout players from Pete Prisco of CBS Sports.

Gene Frenette of the Times-Union hates the idea of a permanent team in London.

The great plays in franchise history don’t include many pass plays, says Big Cat Country.

Tennessee Titans

New receivers coach Shawn Jefferson has been outspoken and even insulting, but is unapologetic about his style, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

To which I say: New receiver coaches have been attention-grabbing at Titans OTAs in the past, but even with that context Jefferson is noteworthy for observers.

Tight end Delanie Walker hasn’t liked sitting out a lot of recent action because of a knee issue, writes Wyatt.

The Titans hope they’ve found a run-stopping defensive end in Ropati Pitoitua, says Marc Torrence of The Tennessean.
Today, I set out to sketch out a list of the 10 most competitive position groups in the AFC South.

Putting them in order was more difficult than coming up with the list, but after some juggling, I feel pretty good about what’s below. I’m sure you’ll offer me input on what’s out of order, shouldn’t be included or should be.

The more overall uncertainty and the less sure we are of a starter or starters right now, the higher I ranked a spot.

10. Jaguars quarterbacks -- Blaine Gabbert would really have to blow this opportunity and Chad Henne would really have to have a good camp for Gabbert not to be the opening-day starter, I believe. Undrafted rookie Matt Scott could make the team as a third option, and if things go poorly for the veterans and the rookie shows well, he could get a chance at some point.

9. Titans interior offensive line -- Michael Roos is a lock at left tackle, Andy Levitre is a lock at left guard and Chance Warmack is a lock at right guard. David Stewart should be the starter at right tackle, though he’s coming off a broken leg and has a bad ankle. Center could be a good battle between fourth-round draft pick Brian Schwenke and Fernando Velasco. There will be huge battles for the interior backup slot(s), where the Titans loaded up with Rob Turner and Chris Spencer. (If they signed Eric Winston to fight with Stewart, this position would move up some.)

8. Titans defensive tackles -- Sammie Hill and Jurrell Casey are locks, and Mike Martin should rank third. If they keep five, who are the other two out of Karl Klug, Antonio Johnson, DaJohn Harris and Zach Clayton? Ropati Pitoitua is an end, but comes from a 3-4 in Kansas City and will also get a look inside, so he could factor in here, too.

7. Texans right side of offensive line -- I think they would have been fine sticking with Derek Newton, but he’s not healthy. He had major knee surgery and offensive line coach John Benton said during the draft that Newton’s status is up in the air. Enter Brennan Williams, a third-round pick out of UNC that the Texans feel could be fine as the starter. At right guard, Brandon Brooks could displace Ben Jones in a potentially nice battle of second-year players.

6. Titans wide receivers -- Nate Washington got himself in the doghouse with his work late last year, and he’s pricey. But it would be hard for the team to part with him yet as the Titans are an injury away from potential depth issues. If second-round pick Justin Hunter takes off early, he could start ahead of Washington at Z opposite Kenny Britt at X. Kendall Wright is the primary slot guy. Also in the mix for snaps: Damian Williams, Kevin Walter and maybe even Michael Preston.

5. Colts offensive line -- Anthony Castonzo is the left tackle, Gosder Cherilus is the right tackle. The three spots in between them and the depth will see a lot of competition. Donald Thomas should win a guard spot and I’d think third-rounder Hugh Thornton could as well. They will battle with incumbent left guard Joe Reitz and incumbent right guard Mike McGlynn. Fourth-rounder Khalid Holmes could push Samson Satele out of the center spot.

4. Colts inside linebackers -- If Jerrell Freeman is as good as he was last season, he’s certain to start. A healthy Pat Angerer should make a strong bid to retake his old job, but the competition could be really good with Kavell Conner trying to stay in the lineup and newcomer Kelvin Sheppard in the mix as well.

3. Texans linebackers -- Rookies Sam Montgomery and Trevardo Williams have a chance to win the strongside linebacking spot, which would mean Brooks Reed moves inside. Or Reed could stay on the strongside setting up Darryl Sharpton vs. Tim Dobbins to slug it out for the Mike spot inside next to Brian Cushing. This will be a good one to monitor for sure. The injury histories of Sharpton and Dobbins could be at play. Can they both stay on the field for their reps to compete?

2. Colts nose tackle -- What a revamp the Colts have put together here. The guys who can play inside were limited last year. Now there are plenty: His knee healed, Josh Chapman is the favorite at nose tackle right now. Also available are Aubrayo Franklin, rookie Montori Hughes, Brandon McKinney (once healthy) and versatile veteran Ricky Jean Francois, who can play inside or out.

1. Jaguars cornerbacks -- This gets the top slot because there is the most uncertainty. I don’t have much faith in Alan Ball based on what he did with his chances in Houston last year. Mike Harris has one year of experience, playing some as the team’s nickel. Dwayne Gratz should be a starter. There is room for seventh-rounders Jeremy Harris and Demetrius McCray to carve out roles. [UPDATE: Apologies for initially forgetting Marcus Trufant, the recent veteran addition. If he's competing for much more than nickelback, the team's got even bigger secondary issues than feared.]
Reading the coverage…

I’ll miss this site, which has pointed this blogger to many, many radio interviews of note pertaining to the AFC South over the years.

Houston Texans

DeAndre Hopkins is showing support for the Rockets, which immediately helps him with Houston fans, says John Brannen of the Houston Chronicle.

To which I say: An easy move straight out of Winning Over a New Market 101. Did they offer that at Clemson?

Twitter handles for the Texans rookies, courtesy of Patrick Starr of State of the Texans.

A closer look at sixth-round receiver Alan Bonner from Battle Red Blog.

Indianapolis Colts

Reggie Wayne intends to join the list of receivers who’ve had 1,000-yard seasons at 35 or older, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Does Bjoern Werner have acting/commercial chops? Watch this video he was part of in high school, courtesy of the Indianapolis Star.

Colts players say they would accept a gay teammate, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Star. Also, Kelvin Sheppard has been reunited with several teammates from LSU: Defensive tackle Drake Nevis, safety LaRon Landry and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois.

A draft class breakdown from Brad Wells of Stampede Blue.

Jacksonville Jaguars

A position-by-position look at the Jaguars after the first round of free agency and the draft from Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Justin Blackmon’s next misstep must be his last as a Jaguar, says Gene Frenette of the Times-Union.

How safety Josh Evans fits in with what the Jaguars plan to do, says Hank Joness of Big Cat Country.

Tennessee Titans

Receiver Lavelle Hawkins told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean he was unsurprised to be cut: “I was due to make ($1.9) million. And for a guy who caught five balls last year, that’s unheard of. I totally understand.”

The offensive line revamp serves as a wakeup call for everyone on the line, says left tackle Michael Roos. Read more of John Glennon’s story from The Tennessean.

David Stewart still doesn’t have full flexibility back after surgery to repair a broken leg but thinks he’ll be back to regular work in June, says Glennon.
The Colts traded outside linebacker Jerry Hughes to Buffalo for Kelvin Sheppard, who started 15 games last season as the middle linebacker in Buffalo's 4-3 defense.

Indianapolis sees him as an inside guy in their system. So they now look four deep for their two inside spots with Jerrell Freeman, Kavell Conner, Pat Angerer and Sheppard.

Robert Mathis is the starter at the rush outside spot, with Erik Walden on the strong side. First-round pick Bjoern Werner is now the third outside linebacker.

The trade is a swap of two relatively recent high picks.

Hughes was a first-rounder for Indianapolis in 2010. He didn't really fit as the third end in the 4-3 and last season he didn't take off in the new 3-4 the way the team had hoped he would.

Sheppard was a third-rounder in 2011 out of LSU.