If you're aware that football exists, you probably know that the Colts need to improve their defense. The draft brought six new prospects, and the Colts are also auditioning nine other free agents who all hope to make a difference. Although none of these undrafted free agents are household names, all of them have some interesting qualities that could earn them a shot at the big leagues.
Defensive end: Simply put, the Colts love pass-rushers. And they should. The insertion of Dwight Freeney into the lineup made huge strides in overall team defense, and when Robert Mathis stepped in, playing the Colts got a bit scary for opposing quarterbacks. Since the Colts probably blitz less often than any team in the NFL, the pass-rush responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of the ends. Because of this, any end with a good first step, some closing speed and a remote idea of where the quarterback is will get a long look. There are already plenty of candidates in camp (and a good one named Josh Mallard in Europe), but auditions are being held constantly.
Justin Brown, DE, East Central (Oklahoma)
stats: 32 TK, 40 AT, 15-79 TFL, 10.5-70 SK, 10 PBU, 1-0-0 FR, 3 FF
Workout numbers: 6016/271/4.57
Who is he: NFL prospects who play at small schools should dominate and Justin Brown was an absolute terror for three seasons in the Division II Lonestar Conference. Despite constant double-teaming, Brown destroyed offensive game plans through sacks, stuffs, stripping a ball-carrier, and getting his hands on ten passes as a senior. I wouldn't put too much stock in his 4.57 forty, though; it was recorded by his position coach when no scouts showed up at his workout. Still, Brown looked great in the Cactus Bowl, recording a sack and a stuff despite lining up against Eagles' fourth-round draft pick Todd Herremans. Where does he fit: He'll have plenty of competition, but the Colts love kids with natural pass-rush instincts and will give him a chance to show his stuff.
Darrell Reid, DE, Minnesota
stats: 40 TK, 12 AT, 17.5-84
TFL, 7.5-58 SK
Workout numbers: 6015/284/4.88
Who is he: A big-time producer for the Gophers, Reid is a solid tackler who knows how to use his hands. He has some good pass-rush moves but isn't really as quick off the snap as you'd like a pro end to be. I'm not totally impressed with the effort he gives, especially when the junk gets heavy, but when he's on his game he can slide and penetrate like a pro. Like Brown, he also recorded a sack and a stuff in the post-season when he appeared in the Shrine Game as a rush specialist.
Where does he fit: Because he's stout and isn't an explode-off-the-edge guy, he could end up as part of the tackle competition.
Defensive tackle: Much to the dismay of many fans, the Colts persist in their plan to use small, quick guys inside instead of giant stuffers. With the addition of last year's starting left end, Raheem Brock, and third-round pick Sweet Pea Burns to veterans Montae Reagor, Josh Williams, Larry Tripplett and Jason Stewart it would appear that the rotation at defensive tackle is close to being set. But the Colts wouldn't be the Colts if they didn't give legitimate shots to all kinds of players other teams overlook.
Lobel. DT. San Diego State
stats: 24 TK, 17 AT, 11-35
TFL, 5-26 SK, 1 PBU, 1-14-1 INT, 1-19-1 FR, 1 FF
Workout numbers: 6030/265/4.90
Who is he: An intense, almost hyperactive tackle who shoots gaps and creates havoc, Lobel plays very much like the rush end and middle linebacker he used to be. Explosive and tough, Lobel is a good tackler but — and this shouldn't be surprising for a man his size — he can be handled if a blocker gets his hands on him. A former wrestling champ, he fights hard until the whistle every time. He has a much better sense of where the ball is than most linemen do and has a habit of coming up with big plays when his team really needs them. Wondering why he didn't get drafted? A torn ACL, a hip flexor, a strained MCL and frequent position changes did a better job of keeping him out of backfields than offensive linemen. Where does he fit: As tempting as it is to dismiss Lobel as injury-prone and vastly undersized, keep in mind he made about as many big plays last year as the Aztecs' Matt McCoy (Eagles second rounder) and Kirk Morrison (Raiders third rounder) combined. Keep an eye on him in camp, if he survives the first cut, he's got a solid chance to make the team.
Michael Pruitt, DT, North Texas*
stats: 33 TK, 16 AT, 12-36
TFL, 5-25 SK, 1-0-0 FR
Workout numbers: 6010/278/4.88
Who is he: Given the unenviable task of replacing Mean Green legend Brandon Kennedy, Pruitt responded with a big season. An all-out hustler without any one particularly great skill, Pruitt is best in short bursts and could really benefit by playing as part of a rotation. Where does he fit: If he can show strong burst and an ability to stay low, Pruitt can contend for a backup spot.
Eric Thomas, DT, Troy State*
2004 stats: 27 TK, 19 AT, 6-26 TFL, 3-23 SK, 1 PBU
Workout numbers: 6000/285/5.12
Who is he: The nose man who anchored Troy's big-time line with DeMarcus Ware (Cowboys first rounder), Alfred Malone (signed by Texans) and Cedric Sullivan (signed by Cincinnati), Thomas relishes doing the dirty work. With a great first step and surprising strength for his size, he did a nice job last year of absorbing blockers so others could run free. He had slightly better stats in 2003 when he played more of a one-gap position. Where does he fit: Although the Colts don't really play a nose man, preferring to keep their tackles over gaps, Thomas brings some stoutness and skills that could earn him some camp time. He'd need to raise a lot of eyebrows to stick.