Johnathan Hankins Gives Colts Best Interior D-Line Presence since ‘Booger’ McFarland
When the Indianapolis Colts signed former New York Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins earlier last week, it marked the biggest acquisition for the franchise’s interior defensive line since 2006.
During that eventual Super Bowl winning season, the Colts acquired Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle, Anthony ‘Booger’ McFarland, near the October trade deadline in exchange for a 2007 2nd round pick.
At the time, the Bucs were clearly rebuilding–eventually finishing 4-12 on the season, and had no real need for a 29 year old veteran player with only a few peak seasons remaining.
Of course, the ‘contending’ Colts were already very familiar with McFarland, as he was a staple of then Colts head coach Tony Dungy‘s vaunted ‘Tampa 2’ defenses while previously coaching the Bucs–along with the likes of Hall of Fame caliber defenders such as Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Simeon Rice, and Ronde Barber.
Not only was McFarland a Super Bowl Champion and veteran leader already with the Bucs, but he still had the physical talent and size to be one of the better defensive tackles in all of football.
The rest is history, as McFarland helped anchor the interior of the Colts defensive line on a once much-maligned defense that eventually led the team to an elusive Super Bowl XLI Championship in 2006–by simply shutting down the run.
With McFarland manning the middle, the Colts didn’t allow over 100 rushing yards in any of their 3 playoff games leading up to the Super Bowl despite facing prolific rushing attacks that featured All-Pro running backs such as the Kansas City Chiefs Larry Johnson and Baltimore Ravens Jamal Lewis.
While McFarland played just one year in Indianapolis–as he suffered what would be a career-ending knee injury just an offseason later, his interior presence was no doubt felt because the Colts have the Super Bowl hardware and lasting memories to prove it–see for yourself:
Since that magical season in 2006, the Colts simply haven’t had a difference-maker in the interior of their defensive line though.
Specifically, under current head coach Chuck Pagano‘s 3-4 defensive scheme–which was installed in 2012, the Colts have shuffled through the likes of Antonio Johnson, Aubrayo Franklin, Josh Chapman, and most recently, David Parry at the position among backup caliber players.
At 6’2″, 320 pounds, ‘Big Hank’ has the physical strength and athleticism to be dominant in the center of the Colts defensive line–anchoring the unit in the trenches much like Booger McFarland once so infamously did.
The 25 year old defensive tackle is much younger than McFarland was entering his Colts debut, but just like Booger, is already a proven run stopper.
Before being miscast last season with the New York Giants as a 3-technique defensive tackle (because of Damon Harrison‘s arrival), Hankins was a ‘Top 15’ interior run defender for consecutive seasons (2014-15) along their defensive line previously.
Next: Colts All-Time Greats Marvin Harrison, Robert Mathis Will Play NFL Draft Roles
For a unit that finished 25th against the run in 2016 at 120.4 average rushing yards per game (and has finished no better than 18th in run defense over the last 5 seasons), the Colts could clearly use Hankins’ help in the middle going forward.
Simply put, it’s been a long time coming for the Colts–specifically since ‘Booger’ was at his best.