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2014 Roster Analysis: Defensive Line

Josh Chapman is a young component on a defensive line that seeks a more dominant performance in 2014. In the third year of Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 scheme, Indianapolis needs to pack more wallop than was seen in parts of last season.





INDIANAPOLIS – Chuck Pagano came to Indianapolis looking to establish defensive dominance like he left behind in Baltimore.

Indianapolis has taken some steps on that road and took another bold one in March by adding end Arthur Jones in free agency.

"I feel that you can never have enough (linemen)," said Ryan Grigson.  "As you saw last year, guys get injured.  You've got to plug and play guys.  The more talent you have up front can only help.  It's going to help in the run game."

The Colts went into last year's playoffs proclaiming games are won and lost there by trench play. They saw Kansas City and New England rush 78 times for 384 yards and seven TDs, numbers that equated to the end of a 12-6 season.

Jones will provide impact in the middle, joining a bunch that includes Cory Redding, Ricky Jean Francois, Fili Moala, Jeris Pendleton and one of Grigson's early draftees – Josh Chapman.

"It was good just being back on the field, being with the guys and getting back into the groove," said Chapman, who missed his 2012 rookie season with a knee injury.  "It was good getting the first playing time of my career.

"This defense comes to me very naturally.  I love the 3-4 defense.  It's one of those things where you learn how to walk.  When you learn how to walk, it's second nature to you."


There were moments that shined last year with a unit that shut down opponents, but after allowing a 4.5 seasonal rushing average, that mark swelled to 4.9 in the playoffs.

Eight regular-season opponents attempted 30 or more rushes in a game, while the Colts surrendered 140-plus yards eight times.

Indianapolis ranked 13th and 26th in AFC/NFL rush defense and spoke of having a top 10 league unit last year.  The Colts have achieved an overall top 10 unit five times in 30 seasons in Indianapolis.  Only twice (1988, 1995) has the club owned a top 10 NFL rush defense.

The Colts yielded 101 rushing first downs last year, extending an eight-year run with opponents topping the century mark.  Only two playoff teams – New England, Green Bay – allowed more rushing first downs. 

"The defense is a great defense.  It's always that everyone needs to do his job," said Chapman.  "The linemen stay with their technique.  You stay in your gap. 

"The 3-4 defense is built on stopping the run, and we will stop the run.  It's everyone doing his job and being on the same page.  If we do that, we can be one of the top defenses in the league."

The gritty Chapman says his strength is increasing, "I've always been strong and have loved getting stronger.  Strength is one thing God has blessed me with.  I just have to keep it going."

As for the trenches, Chapman licks his chops because he has the pedigree.

"It takes not being selfish.  You're not going to get that much notice.  I'm one of those guys who likes being down there.  It's like a fight.  You have guys coming at you on every play. 

"When you see a linebacker flying around making 100-plus tackles a season, it gets your blood flowing.  You see them flying, there's lot of love you have for it.  I love being in those trenches and playing nose tackle.  I can get a couple of crumbs every now and then, get some tackles.  I love the position."

Crumbs in the form of sacks from linemen is one area where the club would like improvement.  Four linemen accounted for nine of the club's 32 sacks in 2013, while five totaled the Colts' 24 QB hits.

"It's just a mindset thing," said Chapman of getting pressure.  "It's a passing league, so we have to get pressure to help our DBs. 

"Everyone needs to beat the man he is lined up on.  You don't always have to get sacks to get a quarterback going.  If you get pressure and get in his face, it can affect his throws."

Said Pagano, "Josh is a big guy who knows how to play the nose position, how to play with leverage, play squarely, use his hands and eat up blocks. 

"Getting a playing year behind him and having another off-season ahead, I look for him to keep growing.  We'll call it his second year, even though it's his third."

Chapman targets his overall game to help the defense grow.

"I want to get better on the pass rushing and not being labeled as a run-stopper.  I have to get pressure in the pocket and be dominant in the middle.  I kind of held my ground last year in the middle, but there are things I can get better at.  I want to be a dominant nose guard."

Grigson noted how Chapman always showed up in pictures when Alabama won the national title in his final season. 

It was not that Chapman sought acclaim.  It was because he was a huge cog in Nick Saban's defense.  Grigson is assembling cogs.

"I feel like we got much stronger up the middle now with Art, a healthy Ricky Jean and then D'Qwell (Jackson)," said Grigson.  "We feel we have some high-quality linemen.  It helps with re-signing Fili.  It's a 16-game season.  To win at a high level in this league and in the playoffs, you need to have those guys up front play at a high level."

*QUOTE-UNQUOTE (Josh Chapman on what he learned last year): *

"There were different steps to learn, different tricks.  Last year, I learned a lot about backfield sets from the older guys.  I really never thought about what I could get out of certain formations.  I was one of those guys who lined up and played.  With getting some mental reps from the older guys, I can kind of cheat.  You learn well from them."

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