INDIANAPOLIS – The statistics don’t lie. The Indianapolis Colts know it, too, that’s why there hasn’t been excuse making about their inability to stop the run last season.
They were 26th in the league in that category, including giving up 384 yards on the ground in their two playoff games.
The Colts had no choice but to add different pieces in an attempt to improve their run defense.
Enter defensive lineman Arthur Jones and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, a tackling machine during his time with the Cleveland Browns, from the outside to go with finally healthy defensive tackle Josh Chapman anchoring the defensive line.
“We’re going to be a lot better,” defensive lineman Cory Redding said. “We’ve made leaps and bounds in training camp with the new pieces that we’ve added.”
Jackson, who spent the first seven years of his career with the Browns, did his homework before signing with the Colts. He wanted to play with players who pursued the ball, did the small things and had the intangibles that can’t be coached. Jackson had also heard that Jones was interested in signing with the Colts. That ended up happening eight days after Jackson agreed to a deal with Indianapolis in March.
“I’ve been very impressed in my short time here,” Jackson said. “I did my homework and knew they had some nice pieces in front of me and a good group of linebackers.”
The Colts will have two new starters up front on the defensive line. Jones will play tackle and nose. He constantly showed that he’ll be causing chaos on teams during training camp. Chapman and his 340-pound frame will take up space in the middle, commanding double teams so that Jerrell Freeman and Jackson can pursue the ball carrier.
“Any linebacker would be thrilled to have an opportunity to play behind this guy,” Jackson said. “He’s a space-eater. The guys on the edge, I honestly think if we can stay healthy, we should see some substantial amount of improvement from a run defense standpoint.”
Jackson and Freeman are both 100-tackle-a-year players who have no problem finding the ball. Colts coach Chuck Pagano referred to the two of them as the quarterbacks of the defense.
“D’Qwell, just his instincts knowing where the ball is and the trust, knowing we’re going to be in our gaps is going to pay off,” Redding said. “He and Free will be able to perform how they know how to perform.”
Depth -- and health -- will be key for the Colts because they have the bodies to constantly keep fresh players on the field so that they can avoid wearing down during the course of the game.
“We’ve got the front seven that we want now,” Pagano said. “We’re bigger, stronger and we have more depth than we’ve ever had up front. As a linebacker, you have big guys like that in front of you and they can command double teams. If they’re getting singled and guys are getting off and getting to the second level we’re not going to be very good. We’ve got guys now I think can command those double teams. Those guys are going to be free to hit and make plays for us.”