INDIANAPOLIS – During his five NFL seasons, Ricky Jean Francois has been on championship level 3-4 defenses.
Fans might see the flashy edge-rushing prowess of a Robert Mathis or the shut down ability of a Vontae Davis but Francois pinpoints another spot of the Colts scheme that is a must.
"In a 3-4 defense, if you don't got a nose (tackle), you don't got a defense," Jean Francois says.
The Colts will have a new nose tackle in 2014 after last year's starter, Aubrayo Franklin, remains a free agent.
In the last two NFL Drafts, the Colts have hit on several key offensive contributors but it shouldn't be forgotten the focus they've shown the nose tackle position.
Josh Chapman (2012 fifth-round pick) and Montori Hughes (2013 fifth-round pick) each have the body type that turns some heads inside the Colts locker room.
The linemen that will be flanking Chapman and Hughes (pictured above) in 2014, know the importance of having penetrating and block absorbing nose tackles.
"Those guys are going to anchor our D," veteran Fili Moala says of Chapman and Hughes.
"If the foundation isn't there, the defense is going to fall. Chap and Montori, they are so stout, so stout in the center of the defense. It's one of those unsaid things that if they don't do their job, everything else is going to crumple around it."
Let's start with Chapman, who saw just under a quarter of the snaps at nose tackle last year.
An ACL injury during his senior season at Alabama pushed the 6-0, 350-pound nose tackle down to the fifth round.
After a "redshirt" rookie NFL season, Chapman made his NFL debut in 2013.
"It was great being back out there, getting really a whole year under my belt and basically just playing again. It was fun being back out there with the guys."
"It feels good going into this year just worrying about straight football."
Veterans along the Colts defensive front rave about Chapman's knowledge of the Colts 3-4 scheme and how he benefited from the tutelage of Franklin.
Now, on to the 6-4, 340-pound Hughes.
He cracked the lineup on four different occasions last season and hearing the other linemen talk about Hughes, it becomes pretty evident the talent they see.
"We stay on his back," Francois says of Hughes. "I don't care if we are irritating, somebody screeching on the chalkboard, we are going to need him this year.
"Tori can be as good as he wants to be," Moala sys. "He has all the physical tools, smart, classroom guy and he applies it well out on the field. How much work he puts in, that's how much he's going to get out. The sky's the limit for that guy."
Back during league meetings in March, Grigson stressed the importance of improving the middle of the Colts defense.
Players like Chapman and Hughes have the chance to do that this fall.
"That's what I came here to do," Chapman says of Grigson's message.
"That's what I want to be---the man in the middle."
The veterans and rookies together on the field for a great offseason workout.