Colts Owner and Chief Executive Officer Jim Irsay Pleased with Day One of 2009 NFL Draft
INDIANAPOLIS – As Jim Irsay saw it, Saturday was a good day.
Irsay, the Colts' Owner and Chief Executive Officer, said the first day of the 2009 NFL Draft was a productive one for the Colts.
They selected a running back in the first round.
They selected a defensive tackle in the second round.
Donald Brown, a running back from Connecticut, was the Colts' first-round selection at No. 27 overall and the team then traded up, sending a 2009 fifth-round selection to the Miami Dolphins to move up and select defensive tackle Fili Moala in the second round with the No. 56 overall selection.
The Colts now have five selections on Sunday, one each in the third, sixth and seventh round and two in the fourth.
Irsay said he liked each Saturday selection, and spoke first of Brown.
"It's a guy who we were saying, 'Hey, if we get this guy it's going to make a big difference on our football team,' " Irsay said of Brown shortly after the Moala selection.
Irsay said the decision to draft Brown was a move to improve the Colts' running game, which finished 31st in the NFL this past season.
"It's no secret that you try to balance the whole thing," Irsay said. "We all recognize the imance of offense and defense, the balance. I said last year to (Colts President) Bill (Polian) and (then-Head Coach) Tony (Dungy) and (offensive line coach) Howard Mudd, 'We'll go as far as we'll be able to run the ball.' We just didn't run it as well as we should have last year."
The area came into sharp focus in the posteason, Irsay said.
"When it came to that moment, in the San Diego game (a 23-17 overtime loss in San Diego), for whatever reason we didn't get it done when we needed one first down," Irsay said. "What happens with your weaknesses is when everything's on the line, if you have a weakness it catches up with you.
"It's the whole aspect – the running backs, the offensive line . . . We have to be able to run the football better. We have to see how that transpires."
He also discussed running back Joseph Addai, a 2006 first-round draft selection and a 1,000-yard rusher in 2006 and 2007.
"We're looking for a big year from Joseph," Irsay said. "He just didn't have the year we were all hoping for last year. We hope he's healthy, because you need two guys, but I really think Brown's a difference maker. He's an explosive guy.
"He's our type of guy in terms of character."
Irsay, the Colts' owner since 1997, also said the dynamic of the Colts' offense has changed with the departure of eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison.
Harrison, a 1,000-yard receiver from 1998-2006, was released earlier this offseason in a salary cap move.
"We relied on him so long to get over the top," Irsay said. "He affected defenses more than I think people realized. With him gone, you look for Gonzo (Anthony Gonzalez) to step up, but you also look for the offense in general to be more dynamic."
That, Irsay said, is where improving the running game comes in, comparing Brown to Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas.
Thomas played for Polian's Buffalo Bills teams of the late 1980s and early 1990s, and was a versatile back who was equally effective rushing and receiving. The Bills made four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-1993.
Brown, an early-entry junior, led the nation in rushing this past season, averaging 160.23 yards a game. He rushed for 2,083 yards and 18 touchdowns on 367 carries and also caught 21 passes for 125 yards.
"They don't want to jinx him too early, but he reminds people of Thurman Thomas," Irsay said, adding, "This is really a question of the best player on the board, a guy who can make an impact. It could have been literally linebacker, offensive line – any position. It's something where we really thought he was a Pro Bowl type of guy and a guy who can make an impact.
"You need two guys. It's an overall aspect where we have to get better in '09. We have to run the ball better. We know that. That's the reason I think it's exciting. He's a guy who really excited us.
"There was no way we were going to trade down and get out of the pick and take a pass on him. A week ago, if you had said, 'Hey, if he's on the board and you take him, will you be happy?' We'd have said, 'Definitely.''
Moala, Irsay said, will add a defensive presence and "some stoutness inside."
Moala (6-feet-4, 303 pounds), who played all four collegiate seasons, started 38 of 52 games for Southern Cal, a total that included his last 33 games. While Moala played mostly right defensive end in the Trojans' 3-4 scheme, Polian said Moala's experience at Southern Cal and his style translates well to the Colts one-gap, penetrating style of defensive line play.
"Going into his junior year, there was talk he could be the top pick in the draft," Irsay said. "He was looked at as that sort of player. We think he's a big presence inside that we're lacking. We're going to continue to get some more size inside at defensive tackle.
"That's obviously a big part of our offseason work and getting ready for '09."