Defensive Line: "What To Expect"

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Defensive Line:
The most recent article in my "What To Expect" series

Defensive End: Dwight Freeney, Raheem Brock, Robert Mathis, Marcus Howard, Curtis Johnson

Defensive Tackle: Keyunta Dawson, Eric Foster, Ed Johnson, Fili Moala, Terrance Taylor, Antonio Johnson, Daniel Muir, Adrian Grady, Pat Kuntz

Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis returned to form last season, and both made the pro bowl. Mathis and Freeney did very well in the pro bowl, and were probably the best defensive players in the AFC. Freeney averages a little over ten sacks a season in his seven year career, and he has forced 35 fumbles. In 2002 he started eight games and forced nine fumbles.

Mathis is probably faster than Freeney, but he does not defend the run as well as Freeney. That is why Mathis is used as a pass rush specialist. Mathis did not start a lot of games last season because Raheem Brock was used at defensive end. Brock has played defensive tackle the last couple of seasons, but the Colts moved him to end because Mathis was being abused by opponents running backs. The Colts might consider moving Brock back to defensive tackle. But, the Colts seem to be in better shape at tackle than they were last season.

Keyunta Dawson and Eric Foster were the Colts main performers at defensive tackle last season. Eric Foster was an undrafted free agent defensive tackle from Rutgers last season, and could be challenged by Ed Johnson and Fili Moala. Both Keyunta Dawson and Eric Foster were expected to be defensive ends in the NFL, but the Colts decided to use them at tackle. That is a problem when the Colts are always undersized. The Colts like smaller defensive tackles, because the Colts scheme is a one gap penetrating defense.

Ed Johnson returns to the Colts after being cut early on last season after being busted with pot. Johnson is a boom-or-bust product, who could start for the Colts, or not make the roster. It all depends on how fit he is. Moala and Terrance Taylor could compete for starting jobs. Both are bigger than Foster and Dawson. Taylor was expected to be a first or second round pick, but he had a bad senior season, he could surprise.

Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir made the Colts roster last season, but they might have trouble making it this year. Johnson might not make the roster if Ed Johnson is in great shape. Muir will most likely not make the roster. Johnson gave the Colts line a huge lift last season, but that lift might be unnecessary this year.

Marcus Howard and Curtis Johnson have a similar build to Mathis and Freeney, they might have trouble making the field, but they will probably make the Colts roster. Howard could be a sleeper, he has looked really good in the Colts practices.
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