INDIANAPOLIS --- Cory Redding signed with the Cardinals. Ricky Jean Francois is in Washington. Now, Art Jones and Josh Chapman are the only defensive linemen on the Colts that started more than half of the team's games last year, but free agent signee Kendall Langford is already emerging in training camp as a leader for the unit that has been mandated by Owner Jim Irsay to stop the run this season.
"It's a combination with me and Kendall," said Jones Monday, about who the leaders of the D-Line are for the Colts. "We're just embracing the role and just working hard as a unit."
It's the front line of a defense that ranked 18th in rushing defense last season, allowing 113.4 yards per game, 4.3 yards per rush, and 14 rushing touchdowns. It's also the front line of a defense that allowed 657 rushing yards in the past 3 games against the Patriots, a statistic Owner Jim Irsay knew off the top of his head when speaking to reporters this offseason.
Jones and Langford are key pieces tasked with improving that area this season, in particular against other AFC contenders. They certainly have the experience.
"Me and Art, we're two older guys in the (defensive line meeting) room," said Langford Monday. "We have a lot of young guys that look up to us. This isn't our first rodeo. This is my 8th training camp (and the 5th for Art Jones after winning a Super Bowl with the Ravens)...We've been around for a little while and know what to expect, how to bring the pack along."
Langford said Jones and him both came from a team with great leaders and picked up some traits from those leaders as they try to pass those traits down. It's been well received by his new teammates too.
"They welcomed me right in from the day I walked in the door," said Langford. "You would think we've been around each other for years. We chill. We talk. We text each other. Just little things. The camaraderie is amazing."
It doesn't hurt either that Langford is back in a defense that he believes is a better fit for him.
"I feel more at home in a 3-4 defense. That's what I played the majority of my life. I only spent three years in a 4-3," said Langford, who played the last three seasons in St. Louis. "I definitely feel more comfortable."
The defensive line has played well this first week of practice, with Jones picking up multiple tackles for loss in Monday's practice alone.
The regular season will determine how far along the on-field chemistry is up front, but the off-field chemistry appears to be ahead of schedule.