INDIANAPOLIS – Coming into 2014, only one position on the Colts roster does not have NFL starting experience.
Incumbent starters are gone at the center, inside linebacker and safety spots but guys like
The anchor in the middle of the Colts 3-4 defense for 2014 has yet to be determined but whoever occupies that spot will be making their first NFL start at the nose tackle position.
Veteran Aubrayo Franklin was the Colts starter at nose tackle in 2013 but the now free agent was not re-signed by Indianapolis this offseason.
That has opened the door for a pair of prospects the Colts have drafted in the fifth rounds of the past two drafts.
In 2012, the Colts new regime made
The 350-pound Chapman truly embraced the grunt work taken to survive in the trenches of a 3-4 defensive scheme.
Chapman sat out his rookie season while rehabbing from an ACL injury he played through during his senior year at Alabama.
His NFL debut came last season and Chapman played 237 defensive snaps in 2013 (22.4 percent), mainly against run heavy teams/formations.
“We saw signs of what we saw in college,” Chuck Pagano said of Chapman at last month’s League Meetings.
“It was finally midway through the season he was healthy. He’s got the confidence. Playing the position that he plays, you’ve got all that weight pounding down on you play-after-play. It’s one thing for the doctors to say you’re healthy, your knee is fine (but) until you get in there and you take on a double team and you put that foot in the ground and you put all that weight on that knee, from a mental standpoint, from a physical standpoint, he’s in a great place.”
Pagano didn’t finish his thought without also throwing
Hughes, who played 71 defensive snaps last season, is a 6-4, 340 (plus) pound defensive lineman that is extremely nimble and was an intriguing prospect coming out of college.
“Every year since I’ve been doing this, you find very small handfuls of men and athletes that are this big and can bend and accelerate and decelerate and move laterally like this guy can,” Ryan Grigson said after selecting Hughes.
While the starting pedigree is lacking at the nose tackle spot, there’s a pair of talented wide bodies waiting in the wings.
Throw in some proven veterans flanking the outside of the Colts three-man defensive front and Grigson is anxious to see what Indianapolis has in the trenches.
“You always hear from the defensive coaches, you’ve got to be strong up the middle. We need better nose guard play. There’s no doubt about it,” Grigson said at the League Meetings.
“Chappy, this is a big year for him. He has all the ability to be a very good nose tackle in this league. He’s made strides. Everybody’s got to be playing at a championship level for us to win it. We can’t have guys that are just solid. We are not looking for that. We need guys that bring a certain amount of greatness to their position and at least the arrow is up.”