AFC South: LaRon Landry

Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This is the safest position on the roster for the Colts. They plan to always keep a veteran backup if Luck ever goes down with an injury.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

The Colts will have a solid running combination if -- and we’re saying if until proven wrong -- Richardson can bounce back from a poor first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw and Ballard can stay injury-free. Havili, a fullback, gets the edge over Mario Harvey, who switched from linebacker to fullback during offseason workouts.

RECEIVERS (5)

The final receiver spot will come down to Rogers and Griff Whalen. If the Colts want to play it safe, Whalen is the guy because he’s familiar with Luck and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but Rogers has the size and speed the team likes. There’s also the possibility of the Colts keeping six receivers.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Allen, who missed all but one game in 2013, and Fleener have the potential to be one of the top tight end duos in the league. Doyle and Saunders are both familiar with the system after backing up Fleener in Allen’s absence last season.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

There are plenty of questions surrounding the offensive line outside of tackles Castonzo and Cherilus. The one thing general manager Ryan Grigson wanted with this group is depth. The Colts have plenty of it.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (6)

Like the offensive line, the Colts want depth on the defensive line so they can constantly rotate in players, so come the fourth quarter they still have fresh legs to get after the opponent. Jones was the key offseason acquisition for the Colts. Chapman showed flashes last season; now he needs to do it every snap that he’s on the field.

LINEBACKERS (10)

All eyes will be on outside linebacker as the Colts look to find a replacement for Mathis, who is suspended for the first four games of the season. Werner gets the first crack at starting in Mathis’ spot. McNary is a player for whom Grigson has high expectations. It’ll be up to defensive coordinator Greg Manusky on how he uses McNary.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (10)

It’s anybody’s guess how the secondary will perform. It’s anybody’s guess who will start alongside Landry at safety. It looked like it would be Howell for most of the offseason, but the Colts signed the veteran Adams in June. Can Toler finally remain healthy? Can Davis live up to his contract? So many questions with no answers at the moment.

SPECIALIST

This only changes if an injury occurs.

Camp preview: Indianapolis Colts

July, 17, 2014
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NFL Nation’s Mike Wells examines the three biggest issues facing the Indianapolis Colts heading into training camp.

Khaled Holmes: Colts general manager Ryan Grigson took a big gamble in the offseason by not heavily pursuing a veteran center. He signed Phil Costa, who was beaten out by a rookie in Dallas, only to have the veteran suddenly retire before ever playing a snap for the Colts. Even with Costa on the roster, the plan all along for the Colts was for Holmes to start. This is the same Khaled Holmes who managed to play a total of 12 snaps as a rookie, despite poor play by Samson Satele at the position last season. Grigson has constantly defended Holmes ever since, pointing out that the second-year player would be his starter. The goal is for Holmes to team with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck for years to come. Holmes needs to have good chemistry with Luck and control the line of the scrimmage, all while making sure the rest of the offensive linemen know the correct calls. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a player who is basically a rookie, especially when you think about the expectations the Colts have this season.

Safety: Similar to his decision at center, Grigson didn’t look far outside the organization to address a position of need. Veteran Antoine Bethea left Indianapolis to sign with San Francisco, and it appeared Delano Howell was the frontrunner to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Things seem to change in the middle of June, when the Colts signed veteran Mike Adams. Adams has started 73 games in his 10-year NFL career, but even though he says he feels like he’s 26 years old, he’s actually 33. Howell has started only four games in his career. And speaking of Landry, he didn’t exactly ease anybody’s mind about whether he’ll be able to rebound from a disappointing first season with the Colts. He didn’t attend any of the voluntary offseason workouts, then showed up at the mandatory minicamp with what was described as a soft-tissue injury. While the offseason workouts are voluntary, it would have helped Landry if he had at least attended a few of the sessions. Grigson and Colts coach Chuck Pagano didn’t criticize Landry for not showing up, but they did point out their preference of wishing he was in attendance. If anything it would have showed that Landry cared about working on chemistry with the rest of his defensive teammates. There are too many questions surrounding the safety position on a defense that was way too inconsistent last season.

Trent Richardson: The excuses are no longer available for Richardson in the Colts organization. The ready-made line of, “Richardson is still learning the offensive system,” is in the trash on the curb. Richardson, who the Colts acquired from Cleveland just days before Week 3 last season, has had an entire offseason to learn the playbook. Now he can use his natural instincts when he’s on the field, instead of constantly trying to remember the plays. The Colts clearly are trailing the Browns in the who-got-the-better-of-the-trade race. Cleveland turned the No. 26 pick into hotshot quarterback Johnny Manziel after using it to trade up to No. 22. The Colts? All Richardson gave them was 2.9 yards a carry and a demotion to the second unit last season. Richardson and the Colts have to hope this season is different. The pressure is on Richardson, because Grigson said earlier this year he would make the trade again if put in the same position. Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in 2012, had offseason shoulder surgery and will head into training camp as the starter, with Ahmad Bradshaw ready to take some snaps from him if he struggles.
Here's Part I of the Colts Mailbag. Part II will run Sunday Mike Wells: Delano Howell appeared to be the frontrunner -- and he still may be -- the entire offseason until the Colts signed Adams to take Corey Lynch's spot on the roster. The Colts could have easily gone out and signed a young player, but they didn't. They signed a proven veteran, one who was on the roster of a team -- Denver -- that played in the Super Bowl last season. Howell lacks starting experience. The Colts aren't handing the starting spot to Mike Adams, but don't be surprised if he ends up starting alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Wells: Second-round pick Jack Mewhort. The offensive lineman is capable of playing all five positions on the line. A positive for Mewhort is that he moved ahead of Lance Louis and was working with the first unit by the end of offseason workouts. The competition for that starting spot will intensify in training camp once Donald Thomas starts practicing. It'll be Louis and Thomas as the two primary players pushing Mewhort for that starting spot. Wells: The Colts have about $13.7 million in salary cap space left. Colts GM Ryan Grigson said a number of times earlier in the offseason that they didn't plan to use all their salary-cap space because they'll have to pay players like Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton at some point down road. Wells: That's strictly up to Daniel Adongo. Practice well and play well in the preseason and he'll have a chance to get on the field in a game. The opportunity will definitely be there early in the season when linebacker Robert Mathis is serving his four-game suspension. Playing time at Mathis' position is far from set. It's up to Adongo to prove he deserves to get snaps. Wells: It's way, way too early to tell if Ahmad Bradshaw can stay healthy. Teams don't wear pads during offseason workouts, and even then, Bradshaw joined the quarterbacks and fellow running back Trent Richardson by wearing a red non-contact jersey. Bradshaw's health was the only thing that stopped him from being the Colts' starting running back last season. Bradshaw and Richardson were the only two running backs of three expected to push for the starting spot to take part in offseason workouts. Vick Ballard, the third, is still working his way back from a torn ACL.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts starting safety LaRon Landry wasn't required to take part in the team's organized team activities because they're voluntary. The three-day mandatory minicamp is the only time players are required to report to the team's facility.

Three days.

But Landry was not on the field for the first day of minicamp Tuesday.

Landry
The reason?

He hadn't undergone the required physical yet. This isn't a new physical that's being required, but it's the same physical veteran players are required to take before minicamp every year.

“(Monday night) we had an administrative meeting,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “(You) can't do any football first day. Every single vet on the football team, except the rookies have to go do physicals.”

Landry, by the way, was the only veteran player who did not take part in minicamp Tuesday because he didn't take his physical. He's also the only player not to be in facility during the offseason. Landry doesn't work out with the team during the offseason because he prefers to work out on his own. He's one of the more fit players in the NFL, but it's more than about being in shape.

Landry's about to have a new starting safety playing alongside of him, the Colts struggled as a defensive unit last season and Landry didn't have a great first season with the team. He missed four games with an ankle injury while finishing with 96 tackles and no interceptions.

“LaRon works as hard as anybody, wished it was here most of the time,” Pagano said. “I know that he's working. He probably does too much.”

As far as other players who missed Tuesday's session, defensive lineman Cory Redding was excused to tend to a family matter. Cornerback Vontae Davis has a groin injury and Pagano said safety Delano Howell is dealing with a soft tissue injury without going into specifics.

As expected, receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), running back Vick Ballard (knee) and offensive lineman Donald Thomas (quad, bicep) also didn't take part.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The final significant days of the offseason for the Indianapolis Colts (outside of when commissioner Roger Goodell disciplines owner Jim Irsay) starts Tuesday at the team's facility when they begin the first of three days of mandatory minicamp before breaking up for the final time prior to reporting for training camp July 23.

Let's take a look at several things to pay attention to during the camp:

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsThe competition at running back, including Trent Richardson, won't be decided in this week's mandatory minicamp.
Offensive line battle: You can go ahead and put Khaled Holmes down as the starting center, but with Donald Thomas (quad, bicep) still working his way back, the starting guard positions could end up taking some time. Hugh Thornton, who took Thomas's spot after he was injured last season, has been working with the first team at right guard during organized team activities. Lance Louis had been working with the first team at left guard, but rookie Jack Mewhort, the Colts' second-round pick, moved ahead of him last week. The competition will intensify during training camp.

Running back competition: Just like the battle for the starting guard position, we won't get full competition for the starting running back position because Vick Ballard (knee) isn't expected to take part, as he's still working his way back from ACL surgery. Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw, the other two primary candidates, both wore red non-contact jerseys during OTAs. So this is another competition that won't pick up until training camp. All three players will get playing time, but keep in mind that coach Chuck Pagano said earlier in the offseason they want a workhorse in the backfield.

Landry sighting: Safety LaRon Landry has been the most significant healthy player missing during OTAs. It's not required for players to attend OTAs and Landry prefers to work out on his own during the offseason. But it still would have been good if he would have popped in for some of the workouts because of the need for improvement for the defense, the transition from a seasoned veteran in Antoine Bethea to possibly Delano Howell, who lacks significant experience, and Landry simply didn't have a great first season with the Colts. The offense, as long as Andrew Luck is the quarterback, will be fine. He's shown he can be effective even without good blocking. The same can't be said about a defense that finished 20th in the league last season.

The Bjoern factor: The fact linebacker Robert Mathis (suspension) won't be with the Colts the first four games of the season has definitely sunk in. Now it's up to second-year player Bjoern Werner, who gets the first shot to start in Mathis's absence, to prove he was worth the Colts selecting him in the first round after an inconsistent rookie season. "This year it's just knowing the defense and to feel comfortable in the defense," Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "Now it's just his ability to get to the passer, which it's kind of you want him to do that in these OTAs, but he's never really going to get there because you don't have the pads on. But he's been doing a great job at least from the calls and signals and getting everything lined up and knowing exactly what he's supposed to do. It's a great situation for him."

Can Adams help: The Colts signed veteran safety Mike Adams over the weekend to take Corey Lynch's spot on the roster after placing him on injured reserve. Howell is leading the race to start, but Adams has started 73 games in his career. The question about Adams is: Does he have enough left in his 33-year-old body to help the Colts and possibly supplant Howell as the starting safety alongside Landry?

Who won't be there: Barring a sudden change of events, here are the players -- not including those on injured reserve -- you won't see taking part in minicamp. Receiver Reggie Wayne (knee), Ballard (knee) and Thomas (quad, bicep).
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thursday was Day 3 of the Indianapolis Colts' organized team activities. It was also the first day that the media had access to the players.

Here's a quick roll call of players who didn't take part: Receiver T.Y. Hilton, running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard, fullback Stanley Havili, linebacker Cam Johnson, guard Donald Thomas, tight end Erik Swoope and offensive lineman Thomas Austin.

Those players are likely dealing with some kind of injury.

Receivers Reggie Wayne and Donte Moncrief and safety LaRon Landry weren't in attendance Thursday.

Wayne isn't scheduled to take part in OTAs because he's still working his way back from the torn ACL. Moncrief is in Los Angeles at the NFLPA's Rookie Premiere event. Landry is absent because he prefers to work out on his own in the offseason. He did the same thing last offseason.

It's not mandatory for players to attend the OTAs, but it's a little surprising Landry decided not attend. You obviously don't have to worry about him being in shape because he lives in the weight room during the offseason and during the season. It's more about developing continuity at safety with Delano Howell, the frontrunner for the starting spot. There's a significant difference going from Antoine Bethea, a proven veteran, to Howell, who has limited starting experience. And it's not like Landry had an impressive first season with the Colts.

But again, OTAs aren't mandatory for the players. It would just be good if Landry attended as the Colts try to improve a defense that finished 2oth overall last season.

A look at Colts' OTA questions

May, 27, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts started their OTA's on Tuesday. Players will wear only helmets and they're allowed just six hours of work per day during the 10 OTA's.

The media will be able to watch practice and have access to the players Thursday.
Here's a quick look at five interesting things to pay attention to during the OTA's:

Race for top running back spot: Vick Ballard reminded everybody that he was the Colts' starting running back before a torn ACL cut his second season short. Ballard is in the running with Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw to be the team's workhorse in the backfield. Richardson is coming off a disappointing first season in Indianapolis and Bradshaw, like Ballard, had his season end early because of an injury (neck). All three will get a chance to carry the ball if things go as envisioned for offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, but only one of them will carry the bulk of the load.

Reps for Holmes and Luck: This is the time for Colts new starting center Khaled Holmes and quarterback Andrew Luck to work on their continuity. Holmes will try to do something former starter Samson Satele couldn't: Lead the offensive line. "The center-quarterback exchange really starts everything, probably the most elementary fundamental part of a play," Luck said. "I know when you fumble one, it stinks and we pride ourselves on making sure we get 100 percent of those, which we will no matter which center-quarterback combination is in the game."

Replacing Mathis: Suspended linebacker Robert Mathis is able to take part in all of the team's offseason activities, but I wouldn't be surprised if other linebackers, especially Bjoern Werner, get first-time reps. Mathis is allowed to be around the team until his suspension starts in Week 1, but this is the time the Colts need to allow players like Werner to get as many of the snaps with the rest of the starting defensive unit to allow him -- or whoever the starter will be -- to get comfortable. There's no replacing Mathis' 19.5 sacks, but the Colts need to do what they can to at least tread water while their defensive leader is away.

Delano time: Speaking of continuity, this would be a good time for Delano Howell, who has the inside shot at the starting spot, and LaRon Landry to work on their chemistry at safety. But Landry has spent most of the offseason working out on his own like he often does. This is a time, though, for Howell to cement the starting spot since the Colts put their faith in him by not drafting a safety or signing a marquee one during free agency.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Delano Howell's starting résumé consists of three games during his two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

Now Howell appears to be in line to be the Colts' starting safety next season, replacing long-time starter Antoine Bethea , who signed with San Francisco in March.

Howell
That became even more evident when the Colts decided against selecting a safety in the draft. Howell will have some competition for the spot, but the job is his to lose. Sergio Brown, Corey Lynch and Colt Anderson are in the mix for the job, too.

A key for Howell will be whether he's able to be interchangeable with Landry and also have good cover skills -- the main two things coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson are looking for.

"All I think back to is Delano Howell," Pagano said. "We went out and beat a pretty good football team (San Francisco), I think he started at safety that game and had, I don't know, six, seven, eight tackles or something, was pretty productive in that ball game. He returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown against Seattle. He's not the only one. We've got guys in-house that will be great competition there."

Howell started three games in place of the injured LaRon Landry last season. The Colts won two of those three games. Howell totaled 21 tackles in his three starts.

Howell is the quiet teammate in the locker room, the one you have to seek out because he's not a jokester or one who's always talking. He's the same soft-spoken teammate quarterback Andrew Luck had while at Stanford.

"Very much the sort of strong, silent type, the Clint Eastwood type," Luck said. "Say a little, do a lot. He's been that way for a long time, which makes it really fun to play with him."

The Colts think the signing of linebacker D'Qwell Jackson and defensive lineman Arthur Jones will help ease some of the burden on the secondary. Bethea ended his time with the Colts by having four straight seasons with at least 100 tackles.

"I feel good about the guys that are here and I think at the end of the day, we bolstered our front seven," Pagano said. "The better the front seven is, the more pressure you can put on the passer, it certainly helps the back end."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The assumption heading into the draft was that the Indianapolis Colts would use one of their five picks on a safety.

Seventeen safeties were picked during the three-day draft. None of them were selected by the Colts.

"There’s a small handful of guys in this draft that we felt like we could go get, it just didn’t happen," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "But it was not a deep safety class and if there was a safety we liked, we would have took one."

So as of now, in-house players Delano Howell, Sergio Brown, Corey Lynch and Colt Anderson, who have combined to start 22 games, are the stop candidates to man the starting safety spot opposite of LaRon Landry next season. Longtime Colts safety Antoine Bethea signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March.

"You don’t just because of need go reach and try to grab and fill a need when the value’s not there," coach Chuck Pagano said. "I feel good about the guys that are here and I think at the end of the day, we bolstered our front seven with acquiring D’Qwell Jackson and Art Jones and the two defensive players we picked up. The better that front seven is, the more pressure you can put on the passer, it certainly helps the back end. We’ll be fine."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Safety Kurt Coleman will visit the Indianapolis Colts on Friday.

Coleman
That usually means one thing: The Colts have serious interest in him.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson isn’t one to bring players in for visits without them leaving with a deal. Just ask receiver Hakeem Nicks.

Coleman, a former seventh-round pick, started 29 games from 2010-12 with the Philadelphia Eagles before not starting a game for them last season. Coleman’s best season was in 2012 when he had 93 tackles and two interceptions.

Grigson was with the Eagles in a number of different capacities from 2004-11, and is well aware of Coleman's capabilities.

Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star pointed out that Coleman was involved in a helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked Colts receiver Austin Collie out of the Nov. 7, 2010, game in Philadelphia.

Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano recently pointed out that Delano Howell, Sergio Brown and Corey Lynch are options to start alongside LaRon Landry at safety. Longtime Colts safety Antoine Bethea signed with San Francisco last month. Pagano also indicated that they’ll look to select a safety in the May 8-10 draft.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The initial thought by the Indianapolis Colts and safety Antoine Bethea was that they would have a chance to work out a new deal during the offseason.

Those thoughts changed as the offseason progressed because the communication between the two sides got less and less.

Then, it happened. Bethea, who started every game he played in during his eight years with the Colts, signed a deal with the San Francisco 49ers on the same day free agency started on March 11.

“It’s tough to have to replace a guy that this organization had for eight years and played the way he played and what he did for the Colts and the city,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “It’s a harsh reality of today’s NFL -- you can’t keep everybody, and that’s what hurt. But you have to move on.”

Like general manager Ryan Grigson, Pagano talked about Delano Howell and Sergio Brown as potential in-house candidates to replace Bethea alongside LaRon Landry at safety.

The Colts' coach turned his attention to the draft and said they would like to select a safety.

“There are some great safeties in the draft,” Pagano said. “We have our board set, we’ll tweak it as we go through the month of April, go to pro days and gather information on the draft. We’ll see how the draft goes and how the board is once we get to our first pick. It’ll be nice to get a young one in the fold, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Here are the top 10 safeties in the May draft according to Scouts Inc. Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor are projected to be first-round picks.

 

Free-agency review: Colts

March, 18, 2014
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Most significant signing: The Colts needed a legitimate cornerback to deal with quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in the AFC. They had one on the roster last season and they just couldn’t let him go once free agency started. Indianapolis re-signed cornerback Vontae Davis to a four-year, $39 million contract that includes $20 million guaranteed. Now Davis has to live up to the contract and avoid the lapses he had at times last season.

Bethea
Most significant loss: Safety Antoine Bethea was the backbone of the secondary. He started every game he played during his eight years with the Colts. But Bethea knew there was a good chance he would be playing with another team next season. He signed a four-year deal with San Francisco hours into free agency on March 11.

Biggest surprise: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw was the Colts’ most effective running back last season. His days with the team appeared to be numbered after a neck injury ended his season after Week 3 -- not because the Colts didn’t think he could be effective, but because they already had Trent Richardson and Vick Ballard on the roster. Bradshaw signed a one-year deal to return and hopefully give the Colts three effective running backs next season.

What’s next? The Colts need to find somebody to replace Bethea and start alongside LaRon Landry in the secondary. They also need to finish addressing the interior part of the offensive line. A possible guard isn’t out of the question, and they need to determine whether Cleveland center Alex Mack is worth throwing a lot of money at since the Browns used the transition tag on him, and considering Indianapolis signed center Phil Costa last week.
The 2014 free agency is just days away. The Indianapolis Colts had no problem spending last year, signing players to contracts that totaled more than $100 million. First-year results weren't overly impressive. Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano talked about needing consistent play during the scouting combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 21.

Some of it was because of injuries. Some of it was simply because of lack of production.

Before the Colts go out and decide how they want to spend their $41 million in salary-cap space this year, let's look back and see how the 2013 free-agent signings performed.

Landry
Safety LaRon Landry (4 years, $24 million)

2013 stats: 87 tackles, 0 interceptions

The Colts signed Landry to be their big hitter and to have the same kind of impact Bob Sanders had when he was dominating in the secondary. Landry was one of the NFL's leading tacklers after the first two weeks of the season, including two impressive chase-down tackles to save a touchdown in each of the first two games. But then an ankle injury sidelined him four games. Landry lacked consistency in his first season with the Colts. He missed on two touchdown-saving tackles late in the season. The first was on Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles' 31-yard touchdown run in Week 16. The second was against New England's LeGarrette Blount on his 73-yard touchdown run in the Colts' AFC divisional playoff loss.

Staying healthy and not always going for the big hit are key for Landry going forward.
INDIANAPOLIS – The eyes of most NFL players, coaches and front office officials were fixated on the Seattle Seahawks' defense as it made Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning look ordinary for one of the few times in his future Hall of Fame career during the Super Bowl earlier this month.

The goal by those teams?

To put together a defense that can at least resemble Seattle’s, which is being called by some one of the best in league history.

[+] EnlargeRyan Grigson
Zumapress/Icon SMICoach Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson will be looking for a steadier Colts defense in 2014.
“No question,” Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We’re not the only ones that are thinking that way since it’s the last game and you saw how they were able to dominate that game and play so well on defense.”

The Seahawks used a fast and physical defense to lead the league in total yards allowed a game (273.6), passing yards a game (172) and points allowed a game (14.4) last season.

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson had no shame in admitting that they may end up taking some of Seattle’s defensive philosophies.

“This is a copycat league and people see someone doing things at a high level and being able to beat a quality opponent like the Broncos the way they did,” Grigson said. “Of course you’re going to look at that. With the Colts we’re always looking to get better. We’re not ashamed to say we might take a piece from here, a piece from there and use it or implement it. … If you’re going to be belligerent, you’re going to be stuck in the mud. And it’s not working? Well, that’s on you at the end of the day.”

Pagano is a defensive-minded coach whose unit hasn't lived up to his standards yet. The Colts showed flashes at times, but they were way too inconsistent for those in the organization last season. The goal is for them to close the gap between them and the offense.

The Kansas City Chiefs put up 44 points on them without do-everything running back Jamaal Charles in the AFC wild-card game and the New England Patriots ran for 234 yards in the divisional playoff game.

“We certainly had times during the season where we played very, very good defense,” Pagano said. “Played smothering defense, much like Seattle played, especially down the stretch. I know the playoffs didn’t turn out, obviously we didn’t play like we are capable of. We’ve just got to be more consistent. As we add pieces to the puzzle and guys get better at their craft, I think we’ll certainly one day say we play defense like that on a consistent basis.”

The Colts finished 20th in the league in total yards allowed (357.1). They weren’t bad in pass defense – 13th in the league – it was stopping the run that Indianapolis had problems with. The Colts were 26th in the league, giving up an average of 125.1 yards a game.

Pagano wasn’t just talking about consistent play on the field -- he was also referring to having players consistently play. Starting safety LaRon Landry, cornerback Greg Toler and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois all missed time because of injuries last season.

“I felt like specifically, Landry before he got hurt, was leading the league in tackles and was all over the place,” Grigson said. “He’s got to be more comfortable in this defense. He has to make that commitment this offseason, and he’s going to. Ricky Jean, the same way. The flashes were there. We need those guys to turn those flashes, same with Toler, into consistency, and that’s all we’re looking for. We need consistency, be out there for 16 games, find a way.”

A look at the needs of AFC South teams

February, 12, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Forget the need to improve the offensive line for the moment for the Indianapolis Colts. The bigger need is on the defense, or “every non-Robert Mathis defender,” as Rivers McCown of Football Outsiders put it.

McCown did an NFL Insider piece on the biggest needs for the AFC SouthInsider teams.

McCown noted -- like many have so far -- the importance of re-signing cornerback Vontae Davis and safety Antoine Bethea. Colts general manager Ryan Grigson mentioned the need to have a shutdown corner and wanting to re-sign Bethea during his season-ending news conference last month.

Davis isn’t on the same level as Seattle’s Richard Sherman, but he has the talent to be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL. Davis flashed that potential at times last season. The key for him is to do it on a regular basis. He went through a stretch last season (St. Louis’ Tavon Austin) where he didn’t play well and you were left wondering if the Colts should offer Davis a lucrative contract.

The Colts will have about $33 million in salary-cap space to work with. That number, according to McCown, would increase if the Colts cut cornerback Greg Toler and center Samson Satele.

Toler missed seven games last season with a groin injury and Satele simply did not have a good season. Mike McGlynn, who will be a free agent, was a better center than Satele.

The line that some fans would agree on about safety LaRon Landry that McCown wrote is that he plays safety like an “11-year-old plays defense on Madden: going for big hits the entire time.”

The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl with one of the best defenses in league history. The Colts' defense was embarrassed in the playoffs by the Jamaal Charles-less Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots.

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