Colts Defensive End Ervin Baldwin Working, Learning
INDIANAPOLIS – He learns what he can whenever he can.
For Ervin Baldwin, a defensive end entering his second year around the Colts, that's the approach that makes the most sense.
He is, after all, in the same meeting room, film room and locker room with Dwight Freeney.
And Robert Mathis.
The aforementioned players not only play the same position as Baldwin, and they're not only starters, they are Pro Bowl selections who generally are considered two of the preeminent pass-rushers of their playing era.
What smarter thing to do, Baldwin said, than to learn?
"I try to work on explosiveness and attention to detail," Baldwin said during the Colts' recent 2010 organized team activities, four weeks of on-field, team-oriented activities that concluded June 11 at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
"I try to work on the little things that I learned from Dwight and Rob. I'm just trying to get better, but the main objective was to come in and get stronger and faster. I could deal with the defense and just go out and work hard."
Baldwin (6-feet-2, 260 pounds) said he's thankful for the chance to do just that.
Baldwin, a seventh-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, played collegiately at Michigan State, then spent the 2008 season with the Bears. He spent part of last season on the Bears' practice squad, signed with the Colts' practice squad on November 11, and then was signed to Indianapolis' active roster on December 2.
He played in the final three games of the regular season, then was on the roster, but inactive for the Colts' three post-season games. Baldwin said although his playing time was relatively limited, the value gained from the experience was not.
"I'm a lot more comfortable," he said. "I feel like I know the defense. I know what to expect from the coaches, what the coaches want."
Baldwin said he did that not just by working in practice, but combining that work with study in the film room. And he said, yes, he played enough last season to learn this past off-season from what he saw from himself on film.
"Even though I wasn't playing a lot, I still was working hard in practice," he said. "Just watching film and getting reps in practice, coach is telling me things I need to work on, watching practice film and film from the games I did play. You can always work on your all-around game.
"I had enough film where I could work on the little things that can improve my game."
A critical part of Baldwin's motivation this off-season, he said, is the Colts' organization. The Colts have a reputation for being a team with which undrafted free agents not only get an opunity, but excel, and the same is true of little-known, low-drafted players acquired from other teams. Offensive linemen Jeff Saturday and Ryan Lilja, longtime starters for the Colts this decade, made the roster in similar fashion, as did longtime defensive end Raheem Brock, and Baldwin said that environment is evident daily around the team.
It is, he said, a place where draft selection matters far less than performance in practice and in games when it comes to determining roster positions and playing time.
And that approach, Baldwin said, is evident from players, coaching staff and front-office personnel.
"It's a great organization from top to bottom," Baldwin said. "No matter what round you got drafted, or if you were a free agent, what you did in the past – they give everybody the opportunity to go out and try to prove themselves. I love being on this team. I love the players on this team, the coaches.
"They give everybody a chance to go out and make plays."
Baldwin said the reality is that's not the only reason the Colts are a logical fit and good opportunity for him. The Colts' style is a factor, too. While many NFL teams prefer a defensive end of more prototypical size, the Colts' defensive scheme emphasizes quickness and pass-rushing ability over size. While Freeney and Mathis are generally considered two of the premier pass rushing ends, neither is particularly big for the position compared to many defensive ends, and each has been cited by young undersized pass rushers around the NFL as players after which they pattern themselves.
Baldwin said the same is true for him, which makes his current situation about as ideal as he said he can imagine.
"Most definitely," he said. "This is a great defense to come to and learn from great guys like Dwight and Rob and to get around and fly around to the ball. They like guys who can get after the ball and guys who can get after the quarterback, so it's a great defense and a great fit for me.
"I feel I should be around here after training camp."