With one of the NFL's top offenses already in place, the Colts are expected to go big on the defensive side yet again in an effort to continue a rebuilding project that has begun to show some signs of success. The recent additions of DE Dwight Freeney (first round, 2002) and S Bob Sanders (second round, 2004) - both expected to be cornerstones of the retooling effort - have set the stage for this year's draft. Freeney had a league-leading 16 sacks last season while Sanders showed a great deal of promise despite missing a lot of time as a rookie recovering from foot and knee injuries.
The spotlight in this year's draft is expected to be on one of three
positions - linebacker, defensive line and cornerback. While the
team might take a long look at the deep group of running
backs available this year, adding more defensive help remains the key.
"There are a couple of guys that we've got our eye on," Dungy said recently. "Unfortunately, picking at 29 (in the first round), we're not exactly sure who's going to go before us or what we're going to have to do. But we're going to do our homework and hopefully come up with some good guys."
While the Colts will have some waiting to do before they get a chance to select someone in the first round, Dungy is confident that a quality player will be available to them when the time comes.
"You look at some of the guys that have played. Bob Sanders certainly played well for us and he was picked in the second round (in 2004). (TE) Dallas (Clark) was kind of at the end of the first round (in 2003) and did a good job for us. We've had success that way," he said. "To me, you look at every player at having a chance to come in and help us. Everybody focuses in on the first-rounders, but you want to have a draft where you add six or seven real good players. I think the (LB) Gary Bracketts, the (WR) Aaron Mooreheads, the (WR-KR) Brad Pyatts that come in through free agency or it could be (DE) Robert Mathis who comes in the fifth round. It could come from anywhere."
One thing may be certain, though. Polian and Dungy both like players early in the draft who come from power football conferences. That will be a key. Among the names that could find their way onto the Colts' draft board are Southern Cal DE Shaun Cody, Southern Cal DT Mike Patterson, Georgia LB Odell Thurman, Nebraska and CB Fabian Washington. Also Florida State DT Travis Johnson, Iowa DT Jonathan Babineaux, LSU CB Cory Webster, Tennessee LB Kevin Bennett, Notre Dame LB Mike Goolsby, Oregon State CB Brandon Browner and Michigan CB Marlin Jackson.
-- The Colts' off-season practice schedule includes a three-day minicamp for rookies (April 29-May 1), a mandatory three-day full-squad minicamp (May 20-22) and a 14-day summer school that begins May 16.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Most of our guys are here. Everybody will be here for some part of it. The two places I've been, we've had very good attendance. We've gotten things done. It's made us a better team because I believe there is a tie-in. The more guys you have here (in the off-season) and the more often they're here, probably the better you do the next year." -- Colts coach Tony Dungy on the expected attendance at the team's voluntary and mandatory off-season practices.