Charleston Hopes a Year of Experience will mean Bigger Impact
INDIANAPOLIS - Jeff Charleston expects things to change next season. He wants things to change next season, actually.
And actually, they already have.
Charleston, a second-year veteran defensive end for the Colts, made the roster as a free agent last season. He then played extensively - first as a reserve as part of the defensive line rotation, then as a starter at times late in the season.
That means Charleston will enter his third NFL training camp – his second with the Colts – not as an unproven player, but as one with experience.
And that, to Charleston, is a big difference.
Actually, it's all the difference.
"I'm trying to make more of an impact," Charleston said during the Colts' organized team activities, 14 days of on-field work that will continue at the team's practice facility through mid-June.
"The mindset I think maybe a first-year guy has is you're looking to come in and make a difference, but you're also trying not to screw up.
"As a young guy, you're trying to get in there and not screw up, basically."
Now, Charleston said he expects things to change.
"Now, every play you're in, you're trying to make an impact," he said. "I'm trying to make a difference, and trying to sack the quarterback and cause a fumble."
Charleston did those things on occasion last season. Just not as often as he wanted.
Charleston, who played collegiately at Idaho State for one season after transferring from Western Oregon, originally signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent shortly after the 2006 NFL Draft.
The Texans waived him late in the preseason, and he signed with the Colts before the next off-season.
After making the roster during the preseason, he played extensively, particularly late in the season after injuries to Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. He started three games and registered 42 tackles, including 22 solos.
He finished the season with a sack, two passes defensed and a forced fumble.
"I'm never pleased with anything," Charleston said. "I always know I can do better. That's a starting point. I want to build on that."
Charleston said he also knows there are no guarantees – not only that he will play better next season, but that he will get a chance. The Colts re-signed unrestricted free agent Josh Thomas earlier this off-season, then selected defensive end Marcus Howard from Georgia in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft.
"Every year, it's a fight," Charleston said. "They bring guys in. There's always a fight for your spot."
This year, Charleston said he will bring to the fight a more increased knowledge of what is necessary to be effective. That's something he said was impossible to know fully last season because he never had played a regular-season NFL game.
"It's huge, because you know your competition now," Charleston said. "You know them well. In preseason, a lot of the time you're going against twos (second-team players). The dropoff, especially on the offensive line, between the first and the second group (is large). A lot of times, they (opposing teams) might only have seven guys who are really good. Then, there are three others who aren't that good.
"During the game, in the preseason, there's a big drop off. Now, going against ones and starting in the last couple of games, it made a huge difference, because you know your competition. You know what you're going to be facing."
Charleston said while that's imant at any position, it may be especially true at defensive end, a position where the difference between huge success and major disappointment is often the length of a hand or a half a step.
"It's just finishing the play," Charleston said. "Especially for a defensive end, it's one to two steps away every time. The better tackles you go against know that. They know how to keep you away from there. It's driving that extra step. It's reaching for the ball on the quarterback, just to get a piece of it."
Charleston said he expects a year of experience could mean the difference in that length of a hand, or that half a step. And he certainly wants it to be. And actually, he said he already has begun to see the difference.
He said he has seen it the past few weeks in the Colts' off-season conditioning program. Whereas last year he was a young, unknown player, now he said he knows what to expect.
And that can be a big difference.
Actually, he said, it's all the difference.
"It's night and day," Charleston said. "Before, you hardly know any of the guys. That's a lot of it, too, knowing the guys you work with. After spending a year with them, it makes it a lot easier. You can be yourself.
"You know what you need to work on, going through drills and camp now. It's not something you haven't seen before. You know the play. You recognize it. It's just going back to your natural instinct and reaction. It's a lot easier to pick up."
THE DEFENSIVE ENDS
Seventh NFL season
Acquired: First round, 2002 (11th overall)
Freeney, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and a 2004-2005 Associated Press All-Pro selection, has been one of the NFL's top pass-rushers for the last six seasons. . . . He missed the last seven games of last season with a foot injury. . . . He had 34 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 19 pressures and four forced fumbles. . . . He had a team-high 19 pressures last season and has 60 sacks in six NFL seasons, including 3.5 last season. . . . He led the NFL in 2004 with a franchise-record 16 sacks. . . . He had 40 sacks in his first three seasons, the third-highest total over such a span in NFL history . . . He had 51 sacks in his first four seasons, also the third-highest total in NFL history over such a span.
Sixth NFL season
Acquired: Fifth round, 2003
A strikingly speedy, athletic player, Mathis has emerged as one of the NFL's top pass-rushers during the last four seasons. . . . He had 10.5 sacks in 2004 and led the Colts with a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2005 and 9.5 in 2006. . . . He also led the team with seven sacks last season. . . . He has forced 25 fumbles in four seasons, including six in 2004, eight in 2005 and four each of the last two seasons. . . . . After playing mostly in pass-rushing situations on defense in 2004 and 2005, he has played a starting role each of the past two seasons.
Fifth NFL season
Acquired: Free agent, 2004
An athletic player, Thomas has developed into a solid pass rusher and run defender in four NFL seasons. . . . He made the team as an undrafted rookie in 2004. . . . He had a sack and 18 tackles as a rookie before a season-ending knee injury in November . . . He returned in 2005 to register three sacks. . . . He had a sack in the regular season and a sack in the postseason in 2006 and had a sack and three passes defensed last season.
Second NFL season
Acquired: Free Agent, 2007
Charleston, who joined the Col