NFL Nation: Kavell Conner

SAN DIEGO -- With the signing of running back Donald Brown and middle linebacker Kavell Conner in free agency, San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco used his familiarity with the Indianapolis Colts' roster in the recruitment of his former players.

Conner
Brown
Brown, signed to a three-year, $10.5 million deal, was a first-round draft choice by Indianapolis in the 2009 draft during Telesco's tenure in the Colts' personnel department. Conner was a seventh-round selection by Indianapolis in the 2010 draft.

Both players said that familiarity with Telesco, along with an opportunity for increased playing time, helped sell them on signing with the Chargers.

"He was Bill Polian's right-hand man," Brown said about Telesco. "He's a big reason why I came to Indianapolis, and also a big reason for why I'm here now. So I'm very thankful for that, along with the Spanos family and Coach [Mike] McCoy for having faith in me, and bringing me in."

Brown said he met Ryan Mathews at the team's facility Thursday. Asked about carving out a role among a productive running back group that includes Mathews and Danny Woodhead, Brown said he'll do his best to fit in.

"That's my job, to complement those two," he said. "It's going to be a three-headed monster. And I'm very excited to work with those guys. I respect the heck out of them. And I think they're two great ballplayers. The more weapons we have on offense, the better we're going to be as a team. And that's the ultimate goal. That's why we're all here."

Although Brown believes he can be a starter in the NFL, he is more concerned about winning games.

"That's not my goal," Brown said. "My goal is to help the team, help the offense any way I can win games. I don't care if I start a game. It's about finishing strong and helping the team anyway you can."

Along with Telesco, Brown has familiarity with players on San Diego's roster from his days in Indianapolis, including edge rusher Dwight Freeney and defensive end Lawrence Guy. Brown also played college ball at Connecticut with defensive end Kendall Reyes and developed a relationship with running backs coach Ollie Wilson during the draft process in 2009.

"We hit it off real well during the draft process back in 2009 when I came out here for a visit," Brown said about Wilson. "So we're just picking up where we left off. So I'm excited to work with Coach Ollie, and obviously work with Ryan and Danny."

Along with Freeney and Guy from his days in Indianapolis, Conner also played with current Chargers Crezdon Butler and Marcus Gilchrist at Clemson.

"After I signed, both of them shot me a text message welcoming me to their city," Conner said, smiling. "It's definitely going to be good to reunite with those guys."

Conner said playing physical in the run game is a strength, along with making contributions on special teams. He expects the learning curve to be quick because the Colts run a similar defensive system under head coach Chuck Pagano, the older brother of Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano.

"There's a lot of carryover from Indy, which is very convenient," Conner said. "I'm just looking forward to getting into it, getting into the playbook and getting adjusted."
A legitimate argument could be made that the AFC South was the weakest division in the NFL this season after the Houston Texans fell flat on their face by going 2-14 despite having some of league’s most talented players. I personally thought it was the worst division in the league this season.

The Indianapolis Colts took advantage of the opportunity to go a perfect 6-0 in the division during their 11-5 season.

Luck
Per Pro Football Focus’ All-AFC South Team, the Colts had seven of the best 26 players in the division on offense and defense.

Quarterback Andrew Luck, receiver T.Y. Hilton, and linebackers Robert Mathis and Jerrell Freeman, were easy picks to make the team. Cornerback Vontae Davis, guard Gosdar Cherilus, and special teams standout Kavell Conner also made the team.

Here are some tidbits on what writer Khaled Elsayed said about each Colt named to the team:

On Luck: “2013 was a step forward for Luck in a year where the rest of the AFC South was left with some serious questions at the quarterback spot. He’s still far too streaky and the team would like for him to take less time to get going (part of making a comeback is falling behind after all), but he’s a real playmaker at the QB spot who overcame an, at times, non-existent ground game and the loss of his favorite weapon.”

On Hilton: “On the outside the speedy Hilton had the eighth-most deep catches as he showed himself to be a field-stretcher.”

On Mathis: “Colts’ outside linebacker Robert Mathis no longer lives in the shadow of Dwight Freeney. He’s not the most consistent getter of pressure, but no pass-rusher creates turnovers like he does.”

On Freeman: “A trio that doesn’t exactly excite. Freeman made his share of plays.”

On Davis: “One of the more stacked positions in the division with Alan Ball and Jason McCourty both having cases to make this team. As is, Davis was the first choice with some big games leading the way.”

On Cherilus: “Cherilus was definitely an upgrade for the Colts, if not completely worth the money.”

On Conner: “Only Darrell Stuckey could match his grade for work on kickoffs. Tackle numbers aren’t everything with how he operates.”

ESPN.com ran its All-AFC South team this month.

The Colts had six players on that team, which didn’t have a special teamer. Colts tight end Coby Fleener made the ESPN.com team, and Tennessee’s Alterraun Verner and McCourty were the two cornerbacks selected.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The status of Indianapolis Colts starting cornerback Greg Toler against the Cincinnati Bengals may not be determined until Sunday.

Toler
Toler, who has missed the past five games with a groin injury, is listed as questionable. He's been limited in practice all week. Toler likely won’t play if his groin is not completely healthy because cold weather is expected in Cincinnati. The forecast projects temperatures in the 30s with possible snow.

“I think with all those guys, especially guys coming off of injury, you have a period of time where you’re out there playing and you come off and you’re sitting around,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “Offense goes out and plays 10, 12 plays, whatever. If he happens to make it up at all, it certainly plays a little bit of a factor. If he’s 100 percent, he should be fine.”

Pagano said he’s yet to decide who will start at right guard in place of the injured Jeff Linkenbach (quad). Joe Reitz is the likely candidate.

Linebacker Kavell Conner (ankle) and left guard Hugh Thornton (neck) are also questionable Sunday.

Colts could be without TE Allen on Sunday

September, 13, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS – Lost in Friday's news of running back Vick Ballard's season-ending injury is word that the Indianapolis Colts could also be without starting tight end Dwayne Allen for Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

Allen didn’t practice this week because of a hip injury, which happened in the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders.

“The injury that he suffered to the hip is coming around, but it hasn’t come around as quickly as we thought it would,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “It didn’t make any sense to push the envelope and put him out there to practice.”

Allen is expected to test his hip Saturday to see if he’ll be able to play against a Dolphins team that had six sacks against Cleveland last weekend.

Allen’s second season hasn’t started the way he envisioned. He missed the entire preseason with a foot sprain, and now he’s dealing with the hip problem.

Dominique Jones will be the second tight end behind Coby Fleener if Allen doesn't play.

Besides Allen, starting linebackers Jerrell Freeman (quadriceps) and Erik Walden (hamstring) and backup linebacker Kavell Conner (ankle) are listed as questionable on the team's injury report.

Kick returner/receiver David Reed is out Sunday due to a quadriceps injury.

Quick Indianapolis Colts injury update

September, 11, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Maybe Indianapolis Colts tight end Dwayne Allen's hip injury isn’t so minor after all.

Allen did not practice Wednesday and the team is calling him day-to-day. The Colts host the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Linebacker Kavell Conner (ankle) and receiver/kick returner David Reed (concussion) also didn’t practice Wednesday.

Linebacker Pat Angerer returned to practice after missing Sunday’s game with a concussion.

Allen said earlier this week that his hip injury, which he suffered in the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders, wasn’t serious. An MRI on it came back negative Monday. You can start to worry about Allen’s status for Sunday if he’s held out of practice again Thursday.

Pieces are coming into place for Colts

September, 5, 2013
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INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts are a step closer to having their starting offensive line together for Sunday’s season opener against the Oakland Raiders.

Left tackle Anthony Castonzo, out since injuring his knee in the Aug. 24 game against Cleveland, returned to the practice field Thursday. Colts coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week that the plan all along was for Castonzo, who is responsible for protecting quarterback Andrew Luck’s blind side, to practice Thursday and then play against the Raiders as long as there weren’t any setbacks.

Guard Mike McGlynn is also practicing after missing time with a knee injury.

Barring any injuries between now and Sunday, the Colts will have the starting lineup they envisioned on offense and defense heading into training camp in late July together against the Raiders now that Castonzo is practicing.

Other injury updates from practice Thursday:
INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Colts linebacker Kavell Conner has more than trade rumors to worry about. The fourth-year linebacker could be out a “couple weeks” with an ankle injury, which happened in the preseason finale against the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday.

Conner
Conner, who has started 27 of the last 30 games, is listed behind Pat Angerer on the depth chart.

There was a report Friday that the Colts were shopping Conner. Coach Chuck Pagano said that was the first he had heard about that rumor. The phones will continue to ring, as teams are in the process of trimming their roster to get down to the league-maximum 53 players by 6 p.m. ET on Saturday. Pagano said he doubts the Colts will release any players on Friday.

It’s not surprising Conner’s name is mentioned in trade rumors because he’s experienced and likely won’t be a starter with the Colts this season.

The offensive line is a concern, and the Colts can only help themselves by adding more depth to that unit.
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.

Key injuries in the AFC South

December, 14, 2012
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A look at the key injuries and what they mean in the AFC South…

Colts

Safety Tom Zbikowski, right tackle Winston Justice, inside linebacker Kavell Conner, center Samson Satele and running back Delone Carter are out.

Of the new missing guys, replacements will be right tackle Jeff Linkenbach, inside linebacker Pat Angerer, center A.Q. Shipley and running back Mewelde Moore.

Jaguars

Running backs Rashad Jennings, Maurice Jones-Drew and Jordan Todman, cornerback Aaron Ross and defensive end George Selvie are out. Montell Owens will start at running back again.

Austin Pasztor is expected to start at let guard, where Mike Brewster is done for the season and Eben Britton is seemingly out of chances. Receiver Cecil Shorts is expected to play.

Texans

Outside linebacker Brooks Reed and cornerback Alan Ball are out. Whitney Mercilus will continue to work as the outside linebacker replacing Reed.

Inside linebacker Darryl Sharpton, safety Glover Quin (hip) and right tackle Derek Newton are questionable. Quintin Demps would replace Quin.

Titans

Designations come tomorrow since they play Monday night. Middle linebacker Colin McCarthy is not expected to play and Tim Shaw would start for him again. Receiver Damian Williams and end Scott Solomon also missed Friday practice.

Rapid Reaction: Colts 27, Titans 23

December, 9, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Thoughts on the Colts’ 27-23 win over the Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium:

What it means: The Colts ensured a winning season, moving to 9-4 and staying in ideal position for an AFC wild-card berth. They are still in play for the division title and would benefit if the Texans lose Monday night in New England. The Titans assured themselves of a losing season, falling to 4-9. They have yet to win a game in the AFC South and have only one more chance -- on the last day of the regular season against Jacksonville.

What I liked: The Colts’ ability to come from behind, as has so often been the case. They were down 20-7 at the half and rallied to take leads of 21-20 and 24-23. Andrew Luck was under all kinds of pressure and made some mistakes, including a big pick-six to Will Witherspoon (that looked to have been aided by a missed call). But once again, he engineered the drives the Colts needed. And the defense produced as well, with a crucial interception and 3-yard return for a score by Cassius Vaughn and another pick from Darius Butler, which just about sealed the result.

What I didn’t like: Referee Pete Morelli and his crew didn’t have a great day. I felt like they let defensive backs get away with being handsy on receivers often -- particularly on early third-quarter Colts throws to Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery and a Titans pass for Nate Washington a bit later. Bigger than that was Witherspoon’s second-quarter 40-yard interception return. Luck should have swallowed it, but as he was being taken down by Derrick Morgan he tried to throw it and put it right in Witherspoon’s gut. When a very good freeze frame finally was shown -- and showed Luck with a knee down and the ball still in his hand -- Morelli had already ruled that the play stood.

What I didn’t like, Titans: Following a disastrous outing against Houston last week, Jake Locker played a really nice first half for Tennessee, hitting on 15 of 20 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. But he threw a terrible pass for Washington coming out of his own end zone that Vaughn jumped for a score, then threw behind Washington to Butler for a pick that set up Adam Vinatieri’s 40-yard field goal that made it 27-23 with 3:48 to play.

Injury issues: The Colts lost center Samson Satele (ankle) and right tackle Winston Justice (biceps) during the game, and neither returned. That put reserves A.Q. Shipley and Jeff Linkenbach on the field. Running backs Delone Carter and Robert Hughes couldn’t finish, which left Vick Ballard as the lone healthy back for much of the second half. Inside linebacker Kavell Conner suffered a hamstring injury on a late special-teams play. For the Titans, tight end Jared Cook didn’t finish.

What’s next: The Colts finally face the Texans with a trip to Reliant Stadium to face the division leaders for the first of two meetings in three weeks. Tennessee hosts the New York Jets on "Monday Night Football."
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Colts and linebacker Pat Angerer spoke this week about how he wasn’t ever going to get back to himself this season.

He broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in the preseason and missed the first five games. We speculated about the difficulty his return would present the team as Jerrell Freeman and Kavell Conner played well in his absence. But Angerer's been playing only off the bench since then.

Today, however, he is starting in place of Conner. We’ll have to see how much it means when we see how the linebackers are deployed throughout the game.

There are no big surprises on the inactive lists.

Colts
Titans

Blogger Blitz: Angerer deepens Colts

October, 23, 2012
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The return of Colts linebacker Pat Angerer gives the team two solid interior tacklers.

Assessing the injury reports

October, 19, 2012
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What we know about the most important injuries that will affect the AFC South games Sunday:

Titans at Bills

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey (shoulder) and middle linebacker Colin McCarthy (ankle) are both crucial components to the effort the Titans will need to stop the C.J. Spiller-Fred Jackson duo of Bills running backs. Both Titans defenders are questionable. Expect them to play, though they could be limited.

Ravens at Texans

Cornerback Johnathan Joseph (groin) was limited Friday. He will play, the question is how much and how effectively. The Ravens will likely test him early with Torrey Smith. Right guard Antoine Caldwell needs to take a concussion test to return, but they are listing him as probable, which suggests they are expecting him to pass.

Haloti Ngata (knee) is questionable for the Ravens but expected to play. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs (Achilles) would need to be activated from PUP to play, and it appears unlikely to happen.

Browns at Colts

Inside linebacker Pat Angerer (foot) will play for the first time this season, seeing time in the base package in a rotation with Kavell Connor and Jerrell Freeman. Out are defensive end Cory Redding, outside linebacker Robert Mathis, nose tackles Fili Moala and Martin Tevaseu, cornerback Darius Butler, running back Donald Brown. The collective hit to the run defense on a day when it needs to slow Trent Richardson is quite large. Left guard Joe Reitz (knee), yet to play this season, is questionable. If he’s out, Jeff Linkenbach’s been the replacement.

Jaguars at Raiders

Outside linebacker Daryl Smith (groin) remains out, and receiver Laurent Robinson (concussion) and safety Dwight Lowery (ankle) won’t play either. Chris Prosinski will start for Lowery, despite his tackling troubles in his work as the third safety. The other starting safety, Dawan Landry, is probable with a knee injury.
The Colts are making a lot of big changes all at once.

  • To a new general manager and coach.
  • From Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck at quarterback.
  • From a 4-3 that played Tampa 2 to a hybrid 3-4 that will play far more man coverage behind it.
  • And from small to big.

It’s not easy to, literally, reshape a roster.

[+] EnlargeBrandon McKinney
AP Photo/David DrapkinThe regime change in Indianapolis has brought a change in philosophy which favors larger players such as Brandon McKinney (96).
The team brought in bigger people where it could, with an emphasis on the lines. Nose tackle Brandon McKinney is listed at 345 pounds, rookie nose tackle Josh Chapman is 316 and end Cory Redding is 315. Right tackle Winston Justice is 317 and right guard Mike McGlynn is 327.

“You have to actually have the bodies available to start making that transition,” GM Ryan Grigson said. “When they come available, you watch the film and you see if they are an upgrade or not. Because sometimes a smaller body is still the better choice because they are the better football player, have better technique or can hold down the position better.

“In our situation, you have to be patient. You only can build through waiver claims, free agency and ultimately in the draft.”

Though all teams are physical, the Colts under Bill Polian were a team that relied on finesse and speed.

The new Colts seek size and power.

All 10 defensive linemen on the current roster weigh 305 or more. Last year the team had just two of 11 defensive linemen who finished the season on the roster or on IR who topped 300.

Of the 16 offensive linemen with the team currently, only starting center Samson Satele isn’t 300 pounds. He’s listed at 299. Last year’s team had three offensive linemen who were under 300 pounds.

“They brought in some guys, the first time I saw them I was like, ‘Sheesh, how much do you weigh?’” cornerback Jerraud Powers said. “Guys were saying 330, 340. If you ask Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner about their first couple years here, they probably haven’t had a D-tackle that’s that big. That’s going to take a lot of pressure off the linebackers.

“I’m excited for it. I’m glad that once we get in warm-ups, we’re going to look just as big as the team we’re playing. I remember one year we played the Cowboys and I looked across and thought, ‘God, these guys are like giants out here.’ That’s the whole style of the 3-4 hybrid system. You’re going to need some big guys, especially up front, some guys who can push the pocket.”
The Colts big preseason win against the Rams came with a significant loss.

Inside linebacker Pat Angerer will miss about six weeks with a fractured foot that needs surgery, Chuck Pagano told Indianapolis reporters Monday.

Angerer emerged last season as a play-making force, shifting to the starting middle linebacker job in the Colts' 4-3 after Gary Brackett was lost in the first game of 2011.

In Pagano’s 3-4 hybrid, Angerer was to be a key cog in the middle, working with Kavell Conner.

“(Angerer) is the signal caller, he’s the guy that stands in front of the huddle,” Pagano said. “He has the respect of all those guys in the huddle. So when you lose your signal caller, you lose your middle backer, for an extended period of time, it means a lot. The guy’s productive, he’s a playmaker, he’s a warrior, he’s a Colt. He’s got all the Colt traits that you’re looking for, you know. So now it’ll be up to somebody else to step up and fill that void until we get him back.”

I thought Conner was effective against the Rams even after Angerer was hurt.

Jerrell Freeman was first in line as Angerer’s replacement.

Undrafted in 2008, he signed with the Titans out of Mary Hardin-Baylor, but didn't stick. Ultimately he landed with Saskatchewan of the CFL. In three years with the Roughriders, he totaled 144 tackles, 13 sacks, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions.

Pagano also mentioned Greg Lloyd and Moise Fokou, recently acquired from Philadelphia in a trade for cornerback Kevin Thomas, and Mario Harvey when asked about Angerer replacements.

The Colts will keep looking for possibilities, too.

Pagano was politically polite when asked about Brackett. But the former Colts linebacker doesn’t bring the team the sort of size it wants in the new scheme, and the team is in the midst of a youth movement.

Don’t expect them to call on the old guard. I think Fokou might be the guy to challenge Freeman, and they'll be happy with the backer who emerges until Angerer is back.

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