Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: A season of potential

Colts hoping bigger tackles can finally stop run

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[August 11, 2009]  TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) -- Larry Coyer has the Indianapolis Colts thinking big this season.

They like the new defensive coordinator's attacking style, his concept of moving players around and the philosophy that size suddenly matters on the defensive line -- even in Indianapolis.

"I think it (size) is important for everybody in this game now because the offensive linemen are huge," Coyer said. "You have to be stout down the middle. You look at every great defense in this league and they're always stout down the middle."

Because the Colts preferred speed to brawn for so long, they often struggled against power-running teams.

Last season, Indy finished 24th in the league against the run and got knocked out of the playoffs when San Diego's diminutive Darren Sproles shredded the Colts for 328 all-purpose yards.


So the Colts, long known as one of the league's smallest defensive fronts, changed gears.

The conversion began with Jim Caldwell taking over for Tony Dungy and quickly making the change at defensive coordinator. Indy then drafted 303-pound tackle Fili Moala in the second round, 319-pound tackle Terrance Taylor in Round 4 and re-signed Ed Johnson, a proven run-stuffer.

Those additions have given the Colts a whole different look.

Their starting tackles last season, 265-pound Eric Foster and 254-pound Keyunta Dawson, have been playing more at defensive end in training camp while the new trio does the dirty work inside.

Johnson thinks it will help.

"I love it (the defense), it's fun," he said. "And I guess all the attention will not be on just me. Maybe some other guys will get double-teamed now."

The Colts know what they have in Johnson. He went from undrafted rookie to starter two years ago. Weighing in then at 296 pounds, Johnson's presence in the middle often forced runners to go outside where Pro Bowl ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis could chase them down.

But after starting 17 consecutive games, Johnson was arrested on a drug possession charge following last year's season-opener and was subsequently waived. Indy never really filled that gap, asking Dawson and Foster to stand up to those massive offensive linemen.

It was a mismatch from the start.

"They have to be big enough not to be blasted off the line of scrimmage," team president Bill Polian said last week. "Two-sixty-five in a running situation on first-and-10 is not big enough."

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Indy believes Moala, who went to Southern Cal, is agile enough to play inside or outside. Taylor, at 6-feet, is a low-leverage player who is hard to move. Daniel Muir, at 312 pounds, and 310-pound Antonio Johnson are both entering their third NFL seasons, and 274-pound end Raheem Brock also has experience at tackle.

That's given the Colts depth and size, though everyone acknowledges that bigger isn't necessarily better.

"If we play sound technique, yeah, we can have two big guys in there," Johnson said. "But I think it's more about athleticism. If they are big guys who can run, then they're fine. If they're just big, we really have no use for them."

Which is not a departure from Dungy's philosophy.

Dungy was most successful when he had the big boys. Perennial Pro Bowler Warren Sapp anchored Dungy's defensive line in Tampa Bay, and Dungy won a Super Bowl with Anthony McFarland stuffing the run in Indy.

What Dungy didn't want were a bunch of big guys who slowed the Colts' fast-paced tempo. It won't work in Coyer's defense, either.

"The big deal is our mindset of stopping the run and running hard to the ball," Coyer said. "That was coach Dungy's mindset and I think we need to recapture that. I think they know what we want to do."

[Associated Press; By MICHAEL MAROT]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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