Want to Play Defense for the Colts? Applications Now Being Accepted

Nick SouthCorrespondent INovember 6, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 18:  Bob Sanders #21 of the Indianapolis Colts stretches prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on December 18, 2008 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

It's been somewhat of a tough week for the Indianapolis Colts' defense. I'm almost positive that there were less casualties in the first 15 minutes of Saving Private Ryan than what the Colts have had in the past week.

Before we discuss it, here's a run down of this week's injury list.

Tyjuan Hagler, out for the year.

Kelvin Hayden, out at least a month.

Marlin Jackson, out for the year.

Bob Sanders, out for the year.

Feeling left out, the offense lost Anthony Gonzalez for another two to three weeks because of his knee injury.

The Colts have always relied on their "next man up" philosophy, but no one has mentioned what happens when they get to the end of the line.

Anyone out there with some defensive experience? How long before we start looking at the UFL for defensive backs?

Glancing around Colts' fan sites, I was expecting to see a lot of doom and gloom posts. Instead, I see a remarkably calm fan base that has bought into the next man up mantra.

And really, when you stop and think about it, this team is built to withstand injuries. Every NFL team must endure through a time during the season where the training facility resembles a M.A.S.H. unit.

The Colts seem to be one of the NFL's best at persevering through those times.

I discussed Hagler's injury in my previous column. I believe Hagler can be easily replaced with Philip Wheeler. In fact, the defense played better once Wheeler came into the 49er game (though defensive adjustments had a lot to do with that, though).

Wheeler is raw, but very talented. With Gary Brackett's leadership, Wheeler should become a solid player in the defense.

Behind him is Freddie Keiaho. Keiaho was actually the Colts' leading tackler last year. Though he's been demoted, he still has enough talent to provide quality minutes when he plays.

The linebacking corp may not be spectacular, but they are solid and their play has been much improved this year.

Where the injuries have really hit has been the defensive secondary.

Sanders, who has played in half of his regular season games, has been lost for the rest of the season due to an elbow injury.

Though he has a reputation of being one of the league's toughest defenders, Sanders possesses a body seemingly made out of Papier Mache. His body can't handle his intense style of play, so the Colts will lose his talent for a majority of the season once again.

Hayden, who has already missed several games himself this year, is struggling with a knee injury that is likely to sideline him at least another four weeks.

Last year, the Colts lost Jackson to a right-knee injury sustained during practice. This year, Jackson repeated history, albeit injuring his left knee this time around. At least there's not a third knee to injure next year.

Personally, it's a hard loss. Many fans, like myself, have a deep appreciate of Sanders, Hayden, and Jackson considering each played considerable roles in the run to the Super Bowl in 2006.

For me, Hayden's Super Bowl interception return will forever be one of my favorite all-time Colts' plays.

But, as difficult as it is to fathom the loss of three defensive backs in one week, I have to ask this question.

Name a significant play either of them has made this year.

You can't, because they haven't made any. Losing them all at once isn't the sudden tragedy it would seem to be. Sanders only recently came back before being lost again. Hayden and Jackson have been off the field more than they've been on it this year.

The fact is, The Colts pass defense is one of the best in the league not because of those three men, but because of the play of unsung heroes like Antoine Bethea and Melvin Bullitt and the outstanding finds in rookies Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey.

Bethea, especially, has emerged as a true defensive leader this year. Unlike Sanders, who leads a lot through his bravo, Bethea has been leading by pure example.

While there are several safeties in the league who grab headlines with bone-jarring hits, it's difficult to name more than one or two that are playing better than Bethea.

Sanders to Bullitt? The media may play that as a huge loss, but if they do, then they obviously haven't watched Bullitt play. He'll make plays anywhere, line of scrimmage, deep pass routes, and he's quietly consistent.

Even more amazing is the fact that the Colts have allowed only three passing touchdowns this year while often having two rookie corners in the game.

Lacey and Powers have been nothing short of outstanding in their ability to make plays in the passing game. Both have the ability to break up passes and neither seems to be rattled when asked to lineup against the likes of Larry Fitzgerald.

2009 has already been a season of surprises. Backups and rookies have been playing with the maturity and poise of 10-year vets. This is all led by a first-time NFL coach who had a losing record at Wake Forest.

Either the stars are aligned, or Bill Polian is some sort of demi-god.

Maybe the Colts don't need those applications after all. No one wants to see their favorite team's injury report be filled with more names than Heidi Fleiss' client list, but if there's ever a team that can actually survive, it just may be this year's Colts team.


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