Indianapolis Colts: Jerrell Freeman

Examining the Indianapolis Colts' roster:

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


This only changes if an injury occurs.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Consistency.

That’s what the Indianapolis Colts need out of their defense this season. They need more performances like they had against the Kansas City Chiefs in the regular season and less of the performances they had against St. Louis, Arizona and New England.

The Colts defense, which finished 20th in the league last season, continues to lag behind the offense. That has to change this season. The unit must close the gap between them and the offense.

We looked at the offensive starters Monday. Here’s a look at the projected defensive starters.

Defensive line:

Cory Redding, Art Jones, Ricky Jean Francois

Comment: Jones and his likely backup at tackle, Josh Chapman, should help improve a defense up the middle that finished 26th in the league in stopping the run last season.


Bjoern Werner, Jerrell Freeman, D'Qwell Jackson, Erik Walden

Comment: Robert Mathis, the NFL’s sack leader last season, will eventually end up starting once he returns from his four-game suspension. Werner will have to hold down the position while Mathis is out.


Vontae Davis, Greg Toler

Comment: Davis and Toler have the potential to be a successful tandem at cornerback. But that’s only if Davis doesn’t have lapses like he had last season and Toler can remain healthy.


LaRon Landry, Mike Adams

Comment: Landry was a disappointment last season. He has to commit himself to being an all-around safety, not one more worried about making the big hit.
Here’s Tuesday’s Colts’ Reading the Coverage. ...
  • Kevin Bowen of has a light-hearted piece on pregame rituals. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman definitely has one that leaves you cringing. He drinks 20 ounces of pickle juice before every game.
  • Phil Richards of the Indy Star had analysts give their take on Colts rookie receiver Donte Moncrief which I linked to in Monday’s RTC. Now Richards has a nice takeout on the third-round pick out of Ole Miss. "In my opinion, the Colts got a steal," said Grant Heard, Moncrief's position coach at Ole Miss. "I think they got a first-round talent for a third-round draft pick."
  • The Star has a video where the paper talked to Colts second-year linebacker Bjoern Werner. Werner has the inside track to start at outside linebacker while Robert Mathis serves his four-game suspension.

RTC: Colts to go 13-3 in 2014

June, 3, 2014
Here's Tuesday's Colts' Reading the Coverage ...
  • USA Today's Nate Davis gives his prediction for every team next season. Davis will be a favorite of Colts fans because he has them finishing with a 13-3 record and the top seed in the AFC. That means the road to the Super Bowl goes through Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, according to Davis.
  • In light of Dallas's Sean Lee suffering a torn ACL during organized team activities, Stephen Holder of the Indianapolis Star writes there really is no such thing as non-contact during those workouts. "Look, we're playing football," linebacker Jerrell Freeman conceded. "It gets competitive. I mean, you were out there. You've seen it. I'm out there running with tight ends and we're jawing. It's competitive, period. But at the same time, you have to be smart. You have to know that these are the guys who are trying to help us win the Super Bowl, so you can't be dumb. Use your technique. You can compete, but you can't finish off guys, no holding, no tugging. It's simple stuff. We're trying to take care of each other, man."
  • Kevin Bowen of has a story on Delano Howell, the frontrunner to be the team's starting safety next season. "I always look forward to competition," Howell says. "It's just a great environment, a great opportunity for you to reveal who you are. It reveals part of your character -- how do you act under pressure? How do you act when there's competition? How do you treat people that you are competing with? Clearly, this is the biggest opportunity that I personally have had in my life."
INDIANAPOLIS -- As someone pointed out to me, there were only 98 days until the start of the NFL season as of Sunday.

Ninety-eight is also the number of Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis. Mathis, as you know, is suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season for failing the league's drug policy.

There's still plenty of time between now and Sept. 7 to determine who will join D'Qwell Jackson, Erik Walden and Jerrell Freeman in the starting lineup at Mathis' linebacker spot.

Second-year linebacker Bjoern Werner is getting the first crack at starting in those four games.

"All the young pass-rushers have to step up," he said. "We don't know who the guy is, everybody is seeing opportunity and everybody is just trying to replace him for the first four games."

Werner, who missed three games last season with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot, had 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks during his rookie season. Like Mathis did in his first year under coach Chuck Pagano's 3-4 defensive scheme, Werner had to make the adjustment from being a defensive end in college to being an outside linebacker. He has spent the offseason getting stronger.

Werner will be pushed by Daniel Adongo, Cam Johnson, Andy Studebaker and Jonathan Newsome for playing time at outside linebacker with Mathis out.

"I prepare the same way before the whole situation with Robert came out, and I'll keep preparing the same way," Werner said. "I feel great, I've had a great offseason and just seize the moment. Hopefully I'm the guy, but that's coach's situation."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson will likely spend Thursday night with one eye on the draft board, watching to see which players fall. His other eye will likely be on the clock counting the seconds down for Day 2 of the draft to start.

Grigson and the Colts will be spectators on the first day of the draft since teams with first-round picks will be the only ones selecting.

The Colts and the Washington Redskins do not have first-round picks.

Grigson is in agreement with the draft experts that this is a deep enough of draft that they’ll be in a good position when they select at No. 59 in the second round. Safety and offensive line are the top two needs for the Colts.

The draft is so deep that Grigson is open to acquiring more picks later in the draft, and he’s looking forward to signing undrafted players after.

"There’s a good handful of really good players that are going to be available for the taking," he said. "With a very deep draft and with all the juniors, the exciting thing is after the draft."

Making roster moves is a staple of Grigson’s. He enjoys finding players who teams often pass over. Linebacker Jerrell Freeman has gone from a Canadian Football League to leading the Colts in tackles. Linebacker Josh McNary spent time in the Army and now looks like he has a bright future with the Colts.

"It’s what drives us," Grigson said. "I really hope I never lose any of that zeal for finding those diamonds because that's what drove me on the road as a scout. Every once in a while you get a guy from a school that I guarantee you 95 percent of the people in Indianapolis have never heard of that blew out a pro day when he was at a D-1 school."

Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Colts 

April, 10, 2014
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.

Analyzing Kiper Grade A draft: Colts 

April, 3, 2014
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.'s fourth 2014 NFL mock draftInsider is out and instead of wondering who the Colts would have taken if they kept the No. 26 pick, which is now Cleveland's property courtesy of the trade for running back Trent Richardson, Kiper has a mock through the first three rounds based on team need.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Who would start for the Colts today?

March, 31, 2014
I was asked over the weekend (via @TSN_JRodriguez) what I thought the Indianapolis Colts' starting lineup would look like if they didn’t make any more roster moves outside of the draft.

More roster moves will be made outside of the draft before training camp opens in late July, but here is who I think would start if the Colts had to play a game today (with a healthy roster).

QB: Andrew Luck
RB: Trent Richardson
FB: Stanley Havili
WR: T.Y. Hilton
WR: Reggie Wayne
TE: Dwayne Allen

LT: Anthony Castonzo
LG: Donald Thomas
C: Khaled Holmes
RG: Hugh Thornton
RT: Gosder Cherilus

DE: Cory Redding
NT: Arthur Jones
RE: Ricky Jean Francois

OLB: Erik Walden
ILB: D’Qwell Jackson
ILB: Jerrell Freeman
OLB: Robert Mathis

CB: Vontae Davis
CB: Greg Toler
S: LaRon Landry
S: Delano Howell

I went with Holmes at center because I left the NFL owners' meetings last week with the impression the Colts want Holmes to be the starter, with Phil Costa available if Holmes gets injured or struggles.

Colts' performance-based pay

March, 25, 2014
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

Free-agency primer: Colts

March, 7, 2014
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: CB Vontae Davis, S Antoine Bethea, K Adam Vinatieri, RB Donald Brown

Where they stand: The Colts have the fourth-most salary-cap space ($41 million) in the league. They solved one of their issues when they signed inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson on Thursday to start alongside Jerrell Freeman, Erik Walden and Robert Mathis. Davis is the most important player to re-sign with having to acquire a new starting center next in line after Samson Satele was released on March 6. The Colts re-signed punter Pat McAfee to a five-year deal Friday. The 41-year-old Vinatieri believes he can kick for several more seasons. Expect the Colts to look to add depth at receiver to give quarterback Andrew Luck another target to go with receivers T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.

What to expect: The Colts should be able to work out a deal with Davis, who was inconsistent last season but has the talent to be one of the top cornerbacks in the league. Don't expect the Colts to go with a rookie or second-year player as their starting center. The position is too valuable for them to go that direction with their franchise player, Luck, taking the snaps. New Orleans' Brian De La Puente and Green Bay's Evan Dietrich-Smith are both free agents. Denver receiver Eric Decker is an ideal receiver to go with Hilton and Wayne. The Colts and Decker have mutual interest, but he may be out of their price range if he wants to be paid like a No. 1 receiver. Hakeem Nicks and James Jones are also free agents the Colts could pursue. Acquiring a veteran guard is a better option than drafting one, because Indianapolis has the talent to take another step in the AFC next season. Decker's teammate in Denver, guard Zane Beadles, is a free agent.

INDIANAPOLIS -- New Indianapolis Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson had options.

Tennessee. Denver. Miami.

But when it was all said and done, the familiarity with his former coach in Cleveland and the family-type atmosphere, the one that so many players talk about, won out over playing with Peyton Manning and the Broncos and the sandy beaches in South Florida.

"One thing that attracted me here was the fact that I feel like it's a family environment," Jackson said during a conference call Thursday afternoon. "Everyone is on the same page and everyone has the same goals in mind and that's whatever needs to be done to win the Super Bowl."

Jackson didn't have to call any of Indianapolis' players to do research on possible joining the team after the Cleveland Browns released him Feb. 26 following eight seasons. He called former Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski. The Colts hired Chudzinski to be coach Chuck Pagano's special assistant last month. Jackson, who was upset when the Browns fired his coach at the end of last season, has respect for Chudzinski.

"He's a big part of me being here today," Jackson said. "I thought highly of him last year when he was my head coach in Cleveland. He hadn't been here for a long time, but I trusted his judgment. We had a great run in Cleveland. It's unfortunate it didn't work out, but all things happen for a reason and here we are today. I'm very excited about it and I'm excited to get going."

Jackson also came away with a strong feeling about the organization after a dinner with Pagano where they "barely talked football." That right there told Jackson that he wants to be "around people like that."

Jackson will join fellow linebackers Jerrell Freeman, Robert Mathis and Erik Walden on the starting line. The Browns ran a 3-4 defense in six of Jackson's eight seasons.

Jackson has 815 tackles in his career, and his best season was 2011 when he had 158.

"That was something that definitely weighed heavily on my mind, how I would fit into any team that was running any particular defense," Jackson said. "My time in Cleveland was a special time. I was fortunate enough to play in a 4-3 and 3-4, and last year was a 3-4. At the end of the day, to me, it's football. It comes down to guys willing to prepare as well as they do, and willing to go out and win a ton of games, and have one common goal in mind, and that's winning a championship."
Give the Indianapolis Colts credit, they’re not waiting around to talk to players who could potentially help their team.

The Colts are scheduled to meet with former Cleveland Browns inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. The Browns released Jackson last week, which means he’s able to talk to teams now.

Inside linebacker is a position of need for the Colts to go with Robert Mathis, Jerrell Freeman and Erik Walden in their 3-4 defense. Pat Angerer joined them in the starting lineup most of the season before eventually losing his job to Kelvin Sheppard. Angerer, who is recovering from knee surgery, will become a free agent next week and likely won’t return.

The Colts finished 20th in the league in total defense last season.

Jackson, 30, has already met with the Tennessee Titans, Denver Broncos and Miami Dolphins.

The opportunity to start is there for Jackson if he decides to sign with the Colts. Jackson, a 2006 second-round draft pick, had at least 100 tackles in five seasons.

It also helps that the Colts added former Browns coach Rob Chudzinski to the staff to be head coach Chuck Pagano’s special assistant last month. Jackson was upset when the Browns fired Chudzinski.

I caught up with NFL scout Matt Williamson to talk about Jackson.

“He is better than anyone (the Colts) have now at inside linebacker for sure,” Williamson said. “I like Jackson, but also think he is a bit overrated. A good quality player that racks up numbers, but needs to be protected and doesn't excel in one particular area. He has played in both a 3-4 and 4-3, never has to come off the field and is considered a strong leader.”
As you know, the Indianapolis Colts wisely did not use their franchise tag on any of their players by Monday's 4 p.m. deadline.

Cornerback Vontae Davis is still a priority for the Colts to re-sign.

Looking ahead to 2015, linebacker Jerrell Freeman and offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo will be the Colts’ two primary free agents. They're the only two players currently on the roster who I could see Indianapolis using the franchise tag on next year if it can’t agree on a new deal with them.

Re-signing both players isn’t even a question. It’s a necessity.

Castonzo teamed with fellow tackle Gosder Cherilus to have an impressive season blocking on the edges and helping cut down on the number of times quarterback Andrew Luck was sacked (41 in 2012, 32 in 2013). Right and left tackle isn't an issue for the Colts, it's the interior part of the offensive line that's the problem.

Freeman has made an easy transition to the NFL from the Canadian Football League. He has led the Colts in tackles each of the past two seasons with 145 and 126, respectively.

Castonzo is scheduled to make $2.5 million next season and Freeman will make $576,000. The franchise tag for an offensive lineman this year was $11.6 million. It was $11.4 million for linebackers.
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 .