Candidates to Solve the Colts Run Stopping Woes
Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) runs the ball against Indianapolis Colts defensive end Cory Redding (90) during the first quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
With a number of high-profile free agent signings, the Indianapolis Colts have already addressed a number of their glaring holes this offseason. However, one significant deficiency for the team still remains, the defense’s inability to stop the run.
Sep 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts nose tackle Josh Chapman (96) against the Tennessee Titans at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Fresh off an embarrassing 45-7 AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots in which LeGarrette Blount pummeled the Colts yet again, en route to 148 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns, the Colts still have some serious work to do.
Don’t get me wrong, recently signed defensive lineman Kendall Langford should help in this area, but he can’t be the sole addition to help upgrade the team’s run defense. The Colts have essentially swapped Cory Redding for Langford at this juncture, and while Langford may be a bit more of a natural run stuffer by trade than Redding, he’s not a one-man run stopping crew by himself.
Like every true historically great 3-4 defense from Vince Wilfork to Casey Hampton, it generally starts at nose tackle. While the incumbent starter at nose tackle in Josh Chapman has been respectable, he’s ideally a rotational defensive lineman on a championship caliber defense. He hasn’t been a true difference maker in the middle, certainly not someone that opposing offenses fear in the inside and that consistently commands a double team.
As testament, according to ProFootballFocus (subscription), Chapman registered a -3.4 overall grade among all starting nose tackles, which was the 53rd best among all defensive tackles. However, to be fair, his +4.2 grade in run defense was the 16th best in the league, while still indicating that the Colts could still withstand for some real improvement.
Oct 26, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (26) rushes the ball as Indianapolis Colts nose tackle Josh Chapman (96) pursues during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Steelers won 51-34. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (98) against the Indianapolis Colts in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
While the team never had a real shot to bid on former Baltimore Ravens All-Pro defensive lineman Haloti Ngata in free agency, as he was ultimately traded to the Detroit Lions by the Baltimore Ravens instead of released. The Colts did have their chance to sign either highly regarded Denver Broncos nose tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton or the Detroit Lions equally super-sized and talented Nick Fairley to team friendly 1-year deals, which each player eventually signed with other teams.
Instead, for better or worse, the Colts have stood pat. However, if they are actually looking to make significant improvement in their run defense, the team should seriously look at upgrading at starting nose tackle. Yes, the inside linebackers could be improved, but even linebackers that are stout against the run are of no good use, if they are consistently allowed to get blocked by offensive lineman freed up to the second level of the Colts defense.
Fortunately for the Colts, there are still a handful of options available this offseason that could help to upgrade the starting nose tackle position: