THE CORNERBACKS

Position-by-Position: The Cornerbacks

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The Eleventh in an Off-Season Position-by-Position Series on the Colts
INDIANAPOLIS – Justin Tryon began the season looking for a chance.

He found it – along with a new team – and when he took advantage of that opportunity, he set the tone in a very real sense for the 2010 version of the Indianapolis Colts' cornerback position.

Next Man Up . . .

That's a motto that has been more than motto around the Colts in recent seasons, and that was particularly true this past season, when a slew of well-known, high-profile players missed extended time with injuries.

Tryon was among the backups and lesser-known players who filled in for those players, and with two backups finishing the season as starters at cornerback, that spot helped the Colts surge to an NFL record-tying ninth consecutive post-season appearance.

Tryon and Jacob Lacey . . .

The pair wasn't expected to be among the Colts' starters when the season began, but by season's end they were helping the team finish strong defensively, and helping the cornerback position again remain a contributing factor on a defensive that improved as the season continued.

"Coming here was wonderful," Tryon said. "It was a huge blessing."

Tryon, a fourth-round selection by the Washington Redskins in the 2008 NFL Draft, appeared in 12 games for the Colts this past season, and while he later played extensively on defense, he made his early contribution on special teams. He finished the season with 10 special teams tackles.

"They throw you right in the fire," Tryon said of the Colts. "I was like, 'Whoo. I've been here three, four, five days and I'm already out there.' But you have to stay ready."

When he arrived, he got an opportunity on defense.

The Colts, who have talked often in recent seasons about their "Next Man Up" approach of having reserve and backups contribute when starters sustain injuries, this season placed more than a dozen players on the season-ending injured reserve list. The list included not only wide receivers Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez, but safeties Melvin Bullitt and Bob Sanders, as well cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Jerraud Powers.

With Powers and Hayden out much of the final month of the season, Tryon not only played a role, he started six games, including five at corner and one at nickelback.

"Justin Tryon obviously showed he is a very capable cornerback, so that's a real plus," Colts Vice Chairman Bill Polian said shortly after the season. "You can't have enough cornerbacks, as we found out this year."

If injuries hit the Colts' roster hard, it was particularly true in the secondary.

Powers, a second-year veteran and a third-round selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, played at a high level for a second consecutive season, starting 10 games and finishing the season with 53 tackles. He also had two interceptions and tied for the team lead with nine passes defensed.

Hayden, a sixth-year veteran and a starter since the 2007 season, started 11 games and tied for the lead among Colts secondary players with 61 tackles. He had eight passes defensed, and returned each of his two interceptions on the season for touchdowns.

With Hayden out the final five games of the season, and with a broken arm keeping Powers out the final four games, Tryon moved into the starting lineup on one side, with second-year veteran Jacob Lacey starting on the other side.

Lacey, who signed with the Colts as a free agent shortly after the 2009 NFL Draft, started eight of 12 games he played this past season, tying for the team lead among defensive backs with 61 tackles and also finishing with an interception and two passes defensed.

If Tryon made an impression on the Colts, he said it was just as true that the team made an impression on him. The Colts this season played through their significant personnel losses this season to make an NFL record-tying ninth consecutive post-season appearance.

Tryon said it was easy to see why.

"The guys here, it's about work," he said. "The standard here is to go to the playoffs. Everybody has to be ready – practice-squad guys, everybody. Everybody zeros in on what we have to do each and every week. It's like, 'Hey, you're a professional, and around here, you have to be prepared.'

"These guys you're in the locker room with, you don't want to let them down. You don't want to let down these guys. You don't want to let down (two-time Pro Bowl safety Antoine) Bethea. You don't want to let down (11-time Pro Bowl quarterback) Peyton (Manning). You don't want to let down any of those guys, so you give your all even when you don't want to, or even when you're tired or you're hurt.

"You still have that extra drive in you that's fighting for the buddy."

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