INDIANAPOLIS – The front seven was the offseason focus on the defensive side of the ball for the Colts.
A trio of players was signed in free agency in an effort to try and improve the Colts defense in 2015.
Colts.com takes a look back on the 2015 additions on defense (Yesterday’s look at the offense can be found here):
*Defensive End Kendall Langford (Rams) *-2014 Stats: 16 games played (4 starts) 51 tackles, 1.0 sacks and 1 forced fumble.
-Career Stats: 112 games played (90 starts) in 7 seasons. 318 tackles, 15.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles.
-Langford's Quote to Note: "I just feel like the 3-4 is where my home is."
-Ryan Grigson's Thoughts: "That's 6-6, 314 or whatever that can be that pillar on the edge there to help stop the run. I think he's got enough wiggle to at least keep things interesting on third down."
-Outlook: In losing Cory Redding and Ricky Jean Francois this offseason, the Colts saw more than 1,300 defensive line snaps from last season disappear. Langford is going to be expected to take on many of those reps in 2015. The durability factor in Langford cannot be overlooked. He's never missed a game at any level of football and his 112 straight starts are the most for any defensive lineman in the NFL. Last year was his first season in the NFL not being a full-time starter as he rotated amongst arguably the best defensive line in football. He's now back in his preferred 3-4 scheme and the Colts will need to count on Langford to be stout in trying to be a more consistent run defense.**
Outside Linebacker Trent Cole (Eagles) **-2014 Stats: 15 games played (15 starts). 64 tackles, 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
-Career Stats: 155 games played (145 starts) in 10 seasons. 795 tackles, 85.5 sacks and 19 forced fumbles.
-Cole's Quote to Note: "I have a lot left. The Colts and the other teams that were after me, that tells you something. That tells you that this guy has a lot left in him, that he can be an impact to the team. Being in a 3-4 defense, it's added some years to my game. I feel really good. If I didn't feel good, I was going to retire, and I would be happy without a Super Bowl ring. But I have a lot of gas in the tank. I'm not going to sit around. I'm not going to quit, I'm not going to retire because I want a Super Bowl ring. I'm playing for this team, I'm playing for this organization and I'm playing for the guys out there who retired before me that haven't got that Super Bowl that they want."
-Ryan Grigson's Thoughts: "He's been a productive football player from the jump. Chip on his shoulder, fifth-round pick, just been productive no matter what they've done with him. He went from that wide nine technique in that four-point stance with his rear in the air coming off the edge in that four-point stance, to having to stand up, and he's productive just like that. He's just a football player."
-Outlook: Ask virtually anyone who has ever been around Cole and they laud the relentless nature with which he plays the game. The Colts are going to need that early in 2015, especially with the uncertain rehab of Robert Mathis. Cole's strength is as a pass rusher but the 270-pounder will also be called upon to be an edge setter in the Colts 3-4 scheme. If there was an offseason addition who brings a certain edge to Indianapolis, it would appear to be Cole. In his last 92 games, Cole has recorded at least one quarterback pressure in 90 of those contests. That consistency would be a welcomed sight to a Colts defense striving for more dependable pressure on opposing quarterbacks.**
The Colts agreed to terms with OLB Trent Cole.
Inside Linebacker Nate Irving (Broncos) **-2014 Stats: 8 games played (8 starts). 44 tackles and 1.0 sack.
-Career Stats: 54 games played (12 starts) in 4 seasons. 104 tackles, 2.0 sacks to go along with 22 special teams stops.
-Chuck Pagano's Quote to Note: "The depth chart alone tells you that it was a great addition. We know he's rehabbing right now and he's got to get healthy. The tape that we watched on him when he was healthy, he's a good football player. He's a downhill guy. He's a tough guy. He's a sideline to sideline. He loves playing the game."
-Ryan Grigson's Thoughts: "A lot of times it comes down to the entire picture. You look at the inside linebacker depth in this draft and you kind of quantify that. You look at a guy like Nate, who we were very bullish on the recovery of the knee. It's not going to be tomorrow he's going to be healthy, but what we saw on film, the fact that he was able to play MIKE or WILL for us. He's always been productive, a guy that had 44 TFL in college. Always been a productive player whatever spot he's been at, both inside positions he's played for Denver. He's had a number of starts and we really liked his style of play. He plays like we want him to play. He plays with his hair on fire."
-Outlook: Irving's 2014 season ended at the midway point due to an ACL injury to the then Broncos starting middle linebacker. When that knee recovers in 2015, Irving is going to be in the mix for one of the Colts starting inside linebacker spots. Both Pagano and Grigson pointed to the lack of Colts inside linebacker depth, thus making Irving's addition a priority. The Colts have five outside linebackers who have all played lead roles at some point in their respective NFL careers. With Irving now in the building, the Colts have three inside linebackers who have started games at this level.