STUDYING THE BEST

Colts third-year DT Keyunta Dawson, a seventh-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, started 14 games last season, but was disappointed he didn't record a sack. He spent the offseason studying pass-rushing techniques of some of the NFL's best tackles.

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Colts DT Dawson Spent the Offseason Studying the NFL's Best Players at His Position

INDIANAPOLIS – Keyunta Dawson spent the offseason learning from the best.

For Dawson, that meant not only talking to older, more-experienced defensive linemen on his own team, but it also meant time watching tape. A lot of time.

And a whole lot of tape.

Dawson, a defensive tackle entering his third NFL season with the Colts, wanted to improve as much as he could in the offseason, so in addition to studying himself and trying to improve he spent the offseason studying tape of the best linemen in the NFL.

Dawson said he learned from the process.

And he said the coming months will be about utilizing what he learned.

"We looked at all the other different players in the league who had success," Dawson said during the Colts' recent offseason conditioning program at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center. "We pulled things from their game and studied how they finished things, things like that. I talked to the veterans, some of the older guys.

"I wanted to find things I could add to my game and get better."

Dawson, who originally joined the Colts as a seventh-round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, has contributed heavily in his first two seasons with the team.

As a rookie, he was part of a three-rookie rotation of himself, Ed Johnson and Quinn Pitcock. The trio played well enough to help the Colts finish in the Top 3 in the NFL in total defense.

Last season, Johnson was dismissed from the team in Week 2 and Pitcock retired in training camp, and Dawson – the lone remaining member – started all 14 games in which he played.

"It was difficult, but it's a part of the league," Dawson said of the unexpected departures from the 2007 rookie class. "It (the NFL) is ever-changing. It's fast-paced. You can be here one minute and gone the next. It's a difficult league and it was different. We had a nice rotation with game experience and all of a sudden it was changed and up in the air.

"You had to adjust on the fly and do the best we could with the people we had."

Dawson said the departures also meant a thinner defensive tackle group, and he leaned heavily on veterans such as end Raheem Brock for guidance.

"That was different, but I had people like Raheem to help me out," Dawson said. "He played that position before he moved out to end. We have good leadership on the defensive side of the ball, so it wasn't just me. It was the whole group of guys.

"I did OK. I could have done better. There is always room for improvement, but me being a smaller guy, I thought I did well with the opunity I had."

The Colts this offseason selected defensive tackle Fili Moala in the second round of the draft, and selected nose/defensive tackle Terrance Taylor of Michigan in the fourth round. Several days later, they re-signed Johnson.

The moves gave the Colts considerably more size at the defensive tackle position than they had last season, a trend Dawson (6-feet-3, 254 pounds) said he welcomes.

"It's going to help," Dawson said. "There are definitely going to be some changes this year. We have a new defensive coordinator (Larry Coyer, who replaced longtime coordinator Ron Meeks in January) and there are going to be some changes in how we're going to play the run and use the big guys.

"I think it's going to be good for the team. Some of the things we had trouble with in the past, it's going to shore up those things bringing the bigger guys in. It's going to give me room to go out and do some of the things I'm good at. There's a place for everybody in this defense. We rotate people in and out. We keep people fresh. We dress a lot of defensive linemen because some games we get in, you need rushers and you need bodies.

"J.T. and Bill do a good job of making sure we're in the right positions in certain situations, and they make sure the right people are in there at certain times."

Dawson said he doesn't yet know his exact role under Coyer, but he said his offseason goal is clear and simple. In two NFL seasons, he has one sack, a statistic he said he wants to improve.

"Getting to the quarterback – that's the biggest thing," Dawson said. "I had a lot of close calls and a lot of plays I just didn't finish. That's my biggest thing. I want to be explosive. I want to be disruptive and I want to get to the quarterback.

"The thing on my end is just finishing plays. If you get a guy, get that last little inch to make a play. It's a game of inches, a game of small things. If I take care of those small things, I can make big plays."

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