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HOLIDAY FEEL AROUND COLTS COMPLEX

Posted Mar 22, 2013

As the second week of the NFL free agency period draws to an end for the Indianapolis Colts, it’s the defensive side of the football that has stole the show in trying to build the depth needed for playoff caliber teams.

INDIANAPOLIS – The holiday season came a little earlier than usual for members of the Colts coaching staff.

 

Thanks to a committed and aggressive approach to free agency by General Manager Ryan Grigson and his staff, the spirits are lively around the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.

 

“All the coaches are coming down that hall this time of year thinking it’s Christmas time,” a laughing Chuck Pagano said when discussing the free agent additions.

 

In particular, the defensive staff has been opening up some pretty lucrative gifts during the month of March.

 

Perhaps the largest gift came in the form of safety in LaRon Landry who will pair with Antoine Bethea to form a Pro Bowl duo that opposing offenses will be keeping a keen eye on next fall.

 

“When our opponents put on the film just like we did this year, he’s a game wrecker,” Pagano, a former defensive backs coach, said of Landry.

“People are now going to have to look at the defensive personnel and one of the first guys they are going to talk about is LaRon Landry. They are going to say, ‘We’ve got to account for this guy. We’ve got to make sure we block this guy.”

While Landry is considered the headliner of the Colts defensive haul in free agency, Indianapolis turned to four guys in the front seven that have helped their respective NFC teams to the playoffs.

The first comes in the form of Green Bay outside linebacker Erik Walden.

Last year, the Colts were introduced to the high-motor Walden during an early October meeting in which the Middle Tennessee State prospect showed off his ability to be a three-down edge player.

 

“On first and second down, (Walden) sets the edge as good as anybody,” Pagano said. “In the National Football League and in our division, we always say, ‘No edge. No chance.’ He’s going to be a great edge setter and then converting on first and second down when we do bring him, he’s going to add that pass rush capability.”

 

“He’s got a great repertoire of pass-rush moves and things like that and a lot of tools in his toolbox. But a lot of it is just outworking guys and this guy’s got a motor that doesn’t stop.”

 

Searching for more of the same ‘high motor’ characteristics, the Colts found just that along the defensive line.

 

Ricky Jean-Francois brings some quality depth to the defensive line and will be reunited with Greg Manusky, his former defensive coordinator in San Francisco.

 

“When you watch the tape, the No. 1 thing that sticks out is how he plays the game,” Pagano said of Jean-Francois. “He plays at a high level. He plays square. He’s been in a similar front. He understands the technique. He’s great with his hands. He knocks them back.”

“When you talk about versatility he’s played over the center, he’s played the nose, he’s played the three, he’s played a four, he’s played a five technique. He’s done it all and he’s been productive.”

Joining Jean-Francois along the defensive front is nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, who was signed on Tuesday afternoon. Franklin is an 11-year NFL veteran who has started 78 games over the past six seasons.

Of the seven Colts signees during the first week of the free agency period, five of those came on the defensive side of the ball, all in an effort to add to the depth needed for sustained success.

“I think we’ve added pieces to the front seven and a couple pieces to the backend that will definitely bring in some great players, add to the great players that we already have and create a ton of competition,” Pagano said.

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