NFL Nation: D\'Qwell Jackson
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.
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)
- Khaled Holmes
- Hugh Thornton
- Jack Mewhort
- Anthony Castonzo
- Gosder Cherilus
- Donald Thomas
- Joe Reitz
- Lance Louis
- Xavier Nixon
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.
- Robert Mathis
- Erik Walden
- D'Qwell Jackson
- Jerrell Freeman
- Bjoern Werner
- Andrew Jackson
- Jonathan Newsome
- Daniel Adongo
- Henoc Muamba
- Josh McNary
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)
- Greg Toler
- Vontae Davis
- Darius Butler
- LaRon Landry
- Delano Howell
- Mike Adams
- Sergio Brown
- Josh Gordy
- Colt Anderson
- Loucheiz Purifoy
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.
Gordon allegedly had a blood-alcohol count of .09, which would be over the legal limit of .08. It marked a continuing pattern of behavior that has drawn attention from players, fans and the Browns organization.
Gordon faces a minimum one-year ban for failing an offseason drug test. He has been pulled over twice this offseason, once with marijuana in the car and the second time for the DWI. He was suspended two games a year ago and played two without pay. He also did not last at two different colleges.
The general theme from those players who voiced their opinions about Gordon were strong: Don’t criticize Gordon; instead put the focus on helping him.
One teammate was angry at the public bashing Gordon has received. As of Saturday evening his name had appeared in more than 45,000 tweets, most of them critical and negative.
Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor posted this Sunday morning:
These so called fans talking trash about my teammate are childish. You don't know him or what he's going through. Try helping him instead!— Phil Taylor (@PhilTaylor98) July 5, 2014
This from former teammate D’Qwell Jackson, now with the Colts, drew a lot of attention:
If you're close to Josh Gordon please help this kid, it's not about football anymore it's about picking up the pieces of his life.— D'Qwell Jackson (@DQ52) July 5, 2014
Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts:
Instead of attacking Josh Gordon, pray for him! It's crazy to me how we judge people when we all are battling with our own faults and issues— Cecil Shorts (@CecilShortsIII) July 5, 2014
From former NFL linebacker Keith Bulluck:
Everybody wanna talk about Josh Gordon but no ones trying to help smh...the cycle continues— Keith Bulluck (@KBull53) July 5, 2014
Finally, Ben Watson, former Browns and current Saints tight end, and a member of the NFL Players Association Executive Committee, said this:
I understand the disappointment but publicly calling Josh Gordon, a waste of talent/potential etc serves no positive purpose at this point.— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) July 5, 2014
He's clearly a troubled man who needs help. But his life is worth more than the balls he can catch and how fast he can run.— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) July 5, 2014
I don't believe anyone is unsaveable. The question is will we give them the support and tough love they need before just writing them off.— Benjamin Watson (@BenjaminSWatson) July 5, 2014
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The questions, just three of them I might add, were sent via email to the Indianapolis Colts general manager.
"In the middle of free agency, I felt like I had a homework assignment due," Grigson jokingly wrote after answering the questions.
That mindset was a necessity for Grigson when he took over for the fired Bill Polian in 2012. The Colts were coming off a 2-14 season after which they not only dismissed Polian, but also said their final goodbyes to quarterback Peyton Manning after 14 years, 11 playoff games and two Super Bowl appearances.
So the rebuilding process couldn't take long for Grigson, the first-time general manager. Not with holdovers like Reggie Wayne, Robert Mathis and Antoine Bethea used to winning.
Grigson is headed into Year 3 of not rebuilding the Colts, but building off the success the franchise has had in the past two years.
They're 22-10 and made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, while dealing with the loss of coach Chuck Pagano for 12 games while battling leukemia in 2012 and the loss of five offensive starters last season.
"The element of surprise kind of goes away when you have such high expectations," Grigson said. "This is a winning organization and the bar is set high. I think that kind of environment is a healthy one for everyone involved. I'd hate to be somewhere that your expectation was anything less than being Super Bowl champs every year."
Grigson and Pagano walked into the perfect situation.
Andrew Luck, the best quarterback taken No. 1 overall since, well, Manning in 1998, led an impressive Colts 2012 draft class that also included receiver T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen.
Grigson's obsessive, always-needing-to-be-working mindset is in high gear because the Colts are in position to take another step in the AFC next season. Manning and New England's Tom Brady are a year older and moving another step toward the Hall of the Fame.
Now it's up to Grigson to add the proper pieces around Luck. This is the perfect time for the general manager to redeem himself after his 2013 offseason moves didn't live up to expectations.
"No matter the circumstances, the last two years we expected to be in the Super Bowl and believed in that goal until the last tick came off the clock," Grigson said. "Year 3 will be no different; we just have to find a way to see it all the way through."
Indianapolis went into free agency on Tuesday with the fifth-most salary cap space.
Just like in Green Bay, players want to play in Indianapolis despite the small-market mentality some have about the city.
Linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, who the Colts signed to a four-year deal on March 6, was attracted to the franchise's history of success. That's understandable after he spent his first eight years in Cleveland, where that organization appears to be just spinning in circles.
Pagano is more than a coach to the players. He's the person who will ask a player about his off-the-field life nearly as much as he talks about offensive and defensive schemes.
"Having a sitdown dinner with him, I knew right away he was a good guy," Jackson said. "We barely talked football. Any time you can do that, you know you're dealing with a good guy. He's been through a lot in his life, obviously. The guy is high on life and I want to be around people like that."
Luck's arm, legs, smarts and mental toughness are the main reasons why the transition from the Manning era hasn't been too turbulent. It's also why Indianapolis is an organization that will remain a destination for free agents as long as the kid from Stanford is taking the snaps from center.
Former New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks has already publicly talked about wanting to catch passes from Luck.
"First of all, winning makes you an attractive team," punter Pat McAfee said. "But I think the chance to hitch your wagon to an up-and-coming, hopefully Hall of Fame quarterback, which [Luck] should be, I think that's a big deal for a lot of the older guys that are looking for a ring, or maybe for the younger guys that are trying to jump-start their career. I think Indianapolis is becoming a very, very promising-looking destination for a lot people who want to win and hitch their wagon to a player who's going to be great for a very long time."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Vontae Davis had to his due diligence and listen to other teams.
But deep down inside Davis knew he wanted to return to the Indianapolis Colts. Davis knew the Colts were more than just a football team that practiced together and took the field together on Sundays. There's a brotherhood inside the organization, the kind Davis didn't have in his three seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
That's why brotherhood -- and a whole lot of money -- brought Davis back to the Colts. He agreed to a four-year, $39 million contract that included $20 million guaranteed.
“I hate for it to be the business side,” Davis said. “If there wasn't a business side of football and it wasn't about business, I would still choose to be back with the Colts. So that just says a lot about how strong the organization is. My teammates are like brothers. It's a brotherhood. When you go to the Colts, it's something that you hold with you for the rest of your life.”
Davis was the primary target for the Colts when it came to re-signing their own players. He has the talent to be one of the top cornerbacks in the league. It's simply a matter of putting it all together and avoiding lapses in his play.
“He is a rare talent at 25 years of age who is still ascending as a player,” Colts GM Ryan Grigson said. “We are excited to see him reach new heights in his career and help us attain our ultimate goal.”
The Colts showed their faith in Davis by giving him such a lucrative deal. It's said with money comes pressure.
Not so, Davis said.
"You can't let it impact (your play)," he said. "If I was making a dollar, it wouldn't matter. You just have to go out there and play. The organization has trust in me enough to obviously bring me back. I just have to continue to work hard and I think everything will work out for itself.”
The Colts had a solid tandem at cornerback with Davis and Greg Toler -- when he was healthy -- last season. Davis fed off of Toler's aggressive approach. Davis' best game was against the Denver Broncos when he had five tackles and two passes defended. He was so worked up that he referred to Peyton Manning as New England's Tom Brady in a postgame interview on the field.
Davis joined linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, defensive lineman Arthur Jones and safety/special teams ace Sergio Brown as defensive players the Colts signed on the first day of free agency.
“Every team, coming into the season is a new year,” Davis said. “We have to come in and work hard to get back to where we were at last year. I think just moving forward, coach (Chuck) Pagano, Grigson, they're doing a great job of building this team up.”
“He is an outstanding producer down after down versus the run and pass,” Grigson said. “He's a guy who plays at a championship level week after week and lays it on the line every time he steps out on the field. He is a great fit for our team.”
The Colts had to do something with their defense. While they had their moments last season, they lacked the consistency needed to make a deep run in the AFC playoffs. They were 20th in the league on defense and even worse when it came to stopping the run (26th).
Here's what former Colts GM Bill Polian said about Jones.
“A power player with great size, he proved difficult to move in the run game. He's well-suited to play end in a 3-4 or tackle in the an even front, but Jones should be taken off the field in clear throwing downs.”
Colts coach Chuck Pagano is familiar with Jones. Pagano was the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator during Jones' rookie season in 2011.
Jones can play defensive end and defensive tackle. The Colts need help at defensive tackle after Aubrayo Franklin and Josh Chapman combined for only 44 tackles and no sacks last season. Jones finished with 53 tackles and four sacks last season.
The Colts continue to improve in the front seven, but they're in need of a new starting safety, as Antoine Bethea, who started every game he played in during his eight-year career with Indianapolis, signed with the 49ers Tuesday.
Within minutes of free agency’s start, they reached agreement with an inside linebacker.
And he’s older than the one they cut.
Dansby is considered a more physical version of Jackson. He broke up 19 passes in 2013, had four interceptions and two defensive touchdowns to go with 6.5 sacks. But he is two years older than Jackson, and ESPN’s Bill Polian had Dansby rated lower in his free-agency tracker. Polian says Dansby still can play, but his age is a factor. Polian calls him a “big, tough, instinctive” linebacker.
The Cardinals let him go because of money. They like him as a player but don’t know how much longer he’ll be able to play at the level he’s at. They judged him not worth what he was demanding and eventually getting, much like the Browns judged Jackson not worth the money.
Dansby joins his third team. He spent time with the Cardinals and Dolphins before rejoining the Cardinals last season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he has had more than 100 tackles four of the past five seasons, with 95 in the one season he didn’t get 100. His 6.5 sacks were his highest single-season total since 2006, and his four interceptions were a career high.
He signed a one-year, $2.25 million deal with Arizona last season after leaving Miami, so he made the most of his contract year.
The Browns had to add an inside linebacker because of the decision with Jackson. They did, and the guy they got is a solid, aggressive player, even if he is a little older.
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.
Grigson was asked if center Samson Satele was in the team's plans in the future.
“This is an evaluation process and we have a plan in place,” he said. “We're not going to divulge that to anyone, but we're taking all the time and due diligence and the film work and it's something for the organization to know and you guys will find out at some point.”
Grigson's comments about Satele may not seem like a big deal, but things were put further into perspective about how the organization felt about the center when the general manager talked about safety LaRon Landry, cornerback Greg Toler and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois needing to be more consistent next season in the concourse outside of the media area.
Releasing Satele, who was a disappointment last season, became official Thursday. The move frees up $4 million in salary cap space for the Colts.
The Colts are now on the market for a new starting center to snap the ball to franchise quarterback Andrew Luck and block because Khaled Holmes, who played a total of 12 snaps during his rookies season, is the only center on the roster.
Mike McGlynn was solid while starting in place of the injured Satele last season. McGlynn's a free agent and I've been told that the Colts don't plan on re-signing him at the moment.
New Orleans' Brian De La Punte and Green Bay's Even Dietrich-Smith are possible players the Colts could pursue once free agency begins March 11. The Cleveland Browns used the transition tag on center Alex Mack. The Browns have the right to match any offer made to Mack.
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."
What does this mean for Miami’s linebackers going forward? It means they are under the microscope.
Linebacker is not a primary need. But it’s clear Hickey will look to make an upgrade or add depth when an opportunity arises. There could be another starter cut or released this offseason who could compete, particularly with Misi or Wheeler.
But without Jackson in the fold, Miami will stay with its current trio. This much we know: Wheeler, Misi and Ellerbe must perform better in 2014.
ESPN’S Adam Schefter reported that D'Qwell Jackson received four years and $22 million to sign with the Indianapolis Colts, with $11 million guaranteed. It’s tough to think the Browns could not have paid him that much. Jackson had been slated to have a cap number of $8 million with the Browns, including $4.1 million in bonuses.
The details of the Colts deal aren’t known, but for the Browns and Jackson not to be able to come to an agreement similar to the one with the Colts shows three things: Either the Browns didn’t offer that much, Jackson wanted more to stay in Cleveland, or he really and truly was ready for a new team and home.
Somehow it seems the latter carried the day. The Browns described Jackson’s departure as a mutual decision, and Jackson talked as if he was ready for a new team, tired of the constant upheaval and change with the Browns.
Perhaps it simply was time.
There is risk for the Colts. Jackson is 30, and though he’s a good player he’s not a great player. Age could catch him at any time, but productive linebackers do not typically see a great dropoff from ages 30 to 35.
The Colts are the same team that traded a first-round draft pick for Trent Richardson, and that hired Rob Chudzinski. Jackson will do all he can to make sure that the Colts' investment was wise.
Time will tell if the Colts made a smart move. But Jackson gets to join a team that has Andrew Luck at quarterback, and as Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said at the combine, “You’ve got a chance to win your division ever year if he is playing for you.”
Which means Jackson probably finishes his career with a team that should always compete for the playoffs.
Tough to think he doesn't deserve that after all these long and cold seasons in Cleveland.
You had your options to choose from.
Quarterback Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs offense, without running back Jamaal Charles, scoring 44 points against them in the playoffs. Then there was New England running back LeGarrette Blount running over the Colts for 166 yards the following week.
That’s why it’s not surprising the Colts' first free agent signing was on defense. Indianapolis agreed to a four-year, $22-million deal that includes $11 million guaranteed with former Cleveland Browns linebacker D'Qwell Jackson on Thursday.
Jackson has had at least 100 tackles in five of his seven NFL seasons.
The Colts didn’t get Jackson to come in and compete for the starting inside linebacker spot alongside Jerrell Freeman. They want Jackson to start. That should not be a problem since Pat Angerer, the starter there most of last season, won’t be back.
Jackson was rated as the NFL’s 42nd best inside linebacker by Pro Football Focus last season. He has played in a 4-3 and 3-4 scheme, but he’s viewed as a better 4-3 inside linebacker. Only time will tell if the 30-year-old Jackson can flip that thought process around since Colts coach Chuck Pagano runs a 3-4 scheme. Jackson played in a 3-4 scheme with the Browns last season when he had 141 tackles.
The Colts held their opponents to a combined 20 points, forced eight turnovers, and had 11 sacks during a three-game winning streak at the end of the regular season.
But two of those teams -- Houston and Jacksonville -- have the No. 1 and 3 picks, respectively, in the NFL draft this year. A real indication came against the Chiefs (513 total yards) and Patriots (234 rushing yards) in the playoffs.
The Colts finished 20th in the league overall and 26th against stopping the run last season, which is why Jackson’s signing is just a start.
“We certainly had times during the season where we played very, very good defense. Played smothering defense, especially down the stretch,” Pagano said during the NFL scouting combine last month. “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 [Seattle] on a consistent basis.”
Re-signing cornerback Vontae Davis still sits at the top of the Colts’ priority list for their own players. Safety Antoine Bethea is also a free agent and getting a wide body at nose tackle to help clog up the middle of the line is an option, too.
The process in improving the defense started Thursday for the Colts. Now they have to keep going.
- This is a clear indication that new Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey is not satisfied with the starting linebacker corps of Philip Wheeler, Koa Misi and Dannell Ellerbe. This group all received multi-year extensions in 2013 and underachieved. These were former Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland’s guys. That means Hickey has no attachments to those signings. He most likely watched the film of Miami’s 24th-ranked run defense last season and wasn’t impressed.
- Jackson played inside linebacker in Cleveland, but Ellerbe is the most secure linebacker in Miami. Jackson would have to play outside in place of Misi or Wheeler, who are both in the hot seat for inconsistent play last season. Contractually, Wheeler’s cap value is $6.4 million in 2014, which includes a guaranteed salary of $5 million. Misi has a lower cap number of $2.38 million and appears easier to release in the event the Dolphins landed Jackson.
- But the Dolphins aren’t guaranteed to get Jackson and definitely aren’t the favorites. There are at least two other reported suitors for Jackson’s services in the Tennessee Titans and Denver Broncos. Jackson is a good player, and I believe he would be an upgrade over some of the linebackers the Dolphins currently have. But Miami probably wouldn’t try to win a bidding war over other teams considering all the money it already has tied into the position.
Bringing in Jackson for a visit is a strong sign that Miami wants to see better production from that position and that the team wasn't happy with its multi-million dollar investments. Misi, Wheeler and Ellerbe must step up their games if they remain Miami's starting linebackers in 2014.
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