The State of the Colts: Defensive Ends

The Colts are absolutely loaded at defensive end. But so were they last year when they traded to move up to grab Jonathan Welsh. Jerry Langton looks at the Colts' itchy trigger-finger when it comes to defensive ends, and who they might consider in the later rounds of this draft.

Current status
The Colts have an embarrassment of wealth at defensive end. It all begins with Dwight Freeney (11 sacks, 6.5 TFL), who was a draft-day surprise in 2002, but has evolved into perhaps the best defensive player in the league. The attention he gets from offenses has freed up things for the other ends.

Robert Mathis (11.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL) is too undersized at 235 pounds to be a fulltime player, but he's a monster on third downs. The other starter, Raheem Brock (6.5 sacks, 5 TFL), came to the Colts as a free agent after the Eagles drafted him in 2003 before they realized they'd spent their entire rookie pool. As the starter on the left side who often moves inside to tackle on third downs, Brock is a versatile hard worker who has improved his game steadily.

Behind them is quick and rangy Josh Thomas (3 sacks), who would be able to start for many other teams if he wasn't so injury-prone. As if those four weren't enough, the team has stockpiled young pass-rushing talent in ultra-quick 235-pounder Jonathan Welsh, small-school phenomenon Justin Brown and former Colorado standout Gabe Nyenhuis.

What they'll do
Mathis and Thomas will be unrestricted free agents after the 2006 season, but with the investments made in Brock and Welsh and the looming long-term deal for Freeney, it's unlikely the Colts will draft an end early unless they see a guy who could push them over the top falling. Instead, they will more likely save their top picks for areas of more dire need.

How about
Both president Bill Polian and coach Tony Dungy have never met a natural pass-rusher they didn't like and this draft is full of them. They may just have to bite their lips and suffer as they hear the names of such obviously Colts-type players like Miami's Elvis Dumervil and Cal-Poly's Chris Gocong (who will be drafted far earlier than the media is predicting) being called by other teams. Later in the draft, Syracuse's Ryan LaCasse (9 sacks, 12 TFL) or Arizona's Bryan Copeland (7.5 sacks, 10.5 TFL) could be options, as could small-school stars like Northern Iowa's John Hermann (12.5 sacks, 18.5 TFL), Sacramento State's Jacob Houston (missed 2005 season, 10 sacks, 24TFL in 2004) or Weber State's Shane Barkdull (8 sacks, 14 TFL).

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