Colts Veteran Corners Optimistic About Youth at the Position
INDIANAPOLIS – So far, Kelvin Hayden likes what he sees.
Hayden, a sixth-year veteran cornerback, said while the Colts certainly have work to do at his position, and while the depth there potentially could be young, there are plenty of positives surrounding the players at the spot, too.
The front-line talent is experienced, and proven. The youth has ability.
And it's not as if the Colts haven't been here before.
The Colts, Hayden said, played corner with youth – a lot of it – before, and he said there's little reason they can't do so successfully again.
"Those guys are attentive, and that's the start," Hayden said recently during the Colts' 2010 organized team activities, four weeks of on-field, team-oriented work that concluded at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center June 11.
The players to which Hayden referred were a group of young corners, some of whom could play a key role next season.
It's a group overall that got slightly less deep early in the off-season.
After not re-signing veteran corners Marlin Jackson, T.J. Rushing or Tim Jennings in the off-season, the Colts in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft selected cornerback Kevin Thomas from the University of Southern California.
He then sustained what the team announced could be a season-ending knee injury during the team's 2010 rookie camp in early May, and Caldwell said 2010 seventh-round draft selection Ray Fisher, 2010 free-agent signee Brandon King, 2010 rookie free agent Jordan Hemby and first-year veteran Terrail Lambert could make an impact.
"We have a few young guys that we're working with," Caldwell said. "We're working with Lambert, Fisher and Hemby – that particular group, trying to get them developed."
Of the cornerback depth, Caldwell said during OTAs, "We have a lot of work to do."
"We just have to get better," Caldwell said. "That's kind of what this time of year is for, is to try to mold your team and develop your skill level, and in areas where you may be a little inexperienced, you try to improve on that through film study and work on the field as well, and hope you can get yourself in position to be a little bit better.
"That's kind of where we are. We have our eyes on that position. We understand that position is one that we're going to have to work extremely hard and the coaches will do a great job doing just that."
Hayden, like second-year cornerback Jerraud Powers, said the young corners showed positive attributes in the off-season, traits that could allow them to contribute quickly.
"You see these guys paying attention, taking notes well," Hayden said. "It just gives you the observation that these guys want to be here and want to make an impact."
Hayden said Powers – who started as a rookie last season – and second-year nickel corner Jacob Lacey showed similar traits last off-season.
"It's just like when Jerraud and Lacey came in, those guys were attentive too," Hayden said. "You can see everybody trying to help each other. It's not a competition thing where guys feel like they don't need to help each other, but we have good core guys, that have great personalities and just want to be good as a team. That's one thing we all preach on that every guy in the room that will be here, will be needed at some point in the season. Guys just want to prepare themselves."
Powers said the off-season events have made a young position even more so.
"We're very young," Powers said. "We had a couple of guys move on to another part of their career, with Marlin gone and Tim gone and those guys. Now, it's me, Lacey and Kelvin as the only returning guys. You look at me and Lacey, we were just rookies last year. Now, we're telling the rookies this year, 'We were in your same shoes last year. We were doing the same things you're doing not knowing what to expect, but now it can turn out for the good.'
"We look at Kelvin now. He may not look old, but we always call him, 'Old man.' We're like, 'This is you're sixth year in the league, man. We're just trying to get to your level.''
Caldwell during OTAs spoke extensively of the Colts' history of being able to play young players and have them play at a high level. The team, Caldwell said, drafts players with the idea that they play quickly and well, and that that has been true of corner. Not only did Lacey and Powers play key roles last season as rookies, Jason David started as a fourth-round selection in 2004.
A young player, Powers said, depends on veteran leadership to play effectively, and he said the experience he and Lacey gained last season should help them fill that role.
"With me and Lacey able to play early as a rookie rather than having to sit and watch, we're sort of ahead of the game again, coming into our second year," he said. "With me and Lacey getting the experience we got, it's just going to help us out even more, so that when we bring in the younger guys or whoever else, we can just lead as if we're five or six-year veterans rather than younger players."
Said Hayden, "We've got a bunch of young guys behind me, Jerraud and Lacey. Last year, they were mature rookies. They were ahead of the curve. Those guys came in and did a good job for us as a defense. We just expect more things out of those guys this year.
"Unfortunately, we had a third-round pick go down. He was a guy we were really going to need, but you just let it go. It's, 'Next Man Up.' We're looking for big things out of Ray, and some of the rookie free agent guys.
"There are guys that can show some things. We just have to go out there and make plays."