INDIANAPOLIS — This one should be interesting – and a lot of fun to watch develop.
After undergoing a major overhaul under new general manager Chris Ballard this offseason, the Indianapolis Colts head into training camp sure to see plenty of competition along their defensive line.
Returning are some familiar names from recent seasons: Kendall Langford and David Parry among them. But it's the additions to the unit that should make it much tougher heading into Week 1 of the regular season.
Added are free agent interior linemen like Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods, while the edge has been re-stocked with the likes of big Margus Hunt. Then, in the draft, Ballard went out and selected 6-foot-4, 333-pound Grover Stewart out of Albany State in Georgia, while also taking Tarell Basham, the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year out of Ohio University, though he'll likely play more of a role as a pass rusher.
Though there's been lots of moving parts the last few months, head coach Chuck Pagano pointed out the defensive line specifically when asked about improvements from his team he's noticed the most the offseason.
"The defensive line has done a really good job. The guys that are returning are doing a great job, and I love the additions that we've made," Pagano said June 13.
Of the new players, Pagano said: "They fit the scheme. They've learned what to do in a short amount of time. Good communicators. Again, we're in shorts, but I love that. We've gotten younger, and we've gotten healthier."
Let's take a look at the total state of the defensive line for the Colts heading into the start of training camp next week:
— Henry Anderson
— Kendall Langford
— T.Y. McGill
— David Parry
— Hassan Ridgeway
— Tarell Basham
— Johnathan Hankins
— Margus Hunt
— Grover Stewart
— Al Woods
NOTABLE CAMP BATTLES:
— Josh Boyd
— Jhaustin Thomas
— Arthur Jones (released)
— Zach Kerr (free agency)
Last season, the Colts kept six defensive linemen on their roster out of training camp and into Week 1 of the regular season: Parry, Langford, Ridgeway, Kerr, Anderson and McGill.
While five of those names return this season for Indy, the team could very well see at least a little bit of change from 2016 to 2017 along D-line thanks to all the additions made this offseason.
Hankins – perhaps the team's biggest signing this offseason – is a lock to make it, as one would assume he's the Day 1 starter at nose tackle. The other two starting spots, one might figure for now, would go to a healthy Langford and Anderson, whose impressive rookie season ended prematurely in 2015, and then followed up with another challenging season with knee-issues in his other leg in 2016.
The rest of the spots, however, could really be a toss-up.
Parry has the edge as far as experience, as he has started all 16 games the past two seasons since being a fifth-round pick of the Colts in the 2015 NFL Draft; McGill has shown a knack to make plays when given the opportunity; and Ridgeway got an opportunity to get several snaps and starts as a rookie last year, and also made some plays across the board.
Hunt, meanwhile, has been a special teams monster in the recent past, leading the NFL in blocked kicks a season ago, and one might figure special teams coordinator Tom McMahon will lobby to find a spot on the roster for a player that can make that kind of impact.
Then there's newcomers Josh Boyd and Jhaustin Thomas, each of whom hope to catch their coaches' eyes and make their already-daunting decisions even more difficult come final cutdown day.2017 Colts Training Camp Previews:
• Offensive Line
• Defensive Line
• Running Backs
• Inside Linebackers
• Tight Ends
• Outside Linebackers
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