Colts Blog: March 28, 2007

There's always room for another pass-rusher in Indy, especially when he has the size to play defensive tackle as well.

If you're surprised that the Colts' first official pre-draft visit is by a defensive end, don't be. Despite the massive talent (and paychecks) currently residing at the position in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, the team's defense, especially against the run, suffered from the loss of 2005 starter Raheem Brock. Oh, Brock still played, but necessity sent him inside to tackle where he was needed even more. As a result, opposing teams ran off tackle with near impunity and both Freeney (5.5 sacks in 2006 after 11 in 2005 and 16 in 2004) and Mathis (9.5 after 11.5 and 10.5) saw a drop in production. The Colts need another guy on the defensive line capable of playing for long periods, especially on first and second downs. If he's an end, Brock can stay inside exclusively and he's a tackle, Brock can shift back outside when needed.

Luckily, the guy they are looking at — Ikaika Alama-Francis — can play either position. An ex-basketball player, Alama-Francis is an eye-popping athlete. Capable of running a genuine 4.78 forty at 275-280 pounds, he also has a very quick first step and long, strong arms. The son of a former NFLer (Packers backup quarterback Joe Francis), Alama-Francis is a hard worker who never gives up or backs down.

The only real problem with him is a significant lack of experience at football. He didn't play the sport in high school and only put in any meaningful time in his last two years of college. He's also had a few nicks (including a torn pectoral at the Hula Bowl). Still, with proper coaching, this kid could be a monster.

Because of his high ceiling and the dearth of true athletes on NFL defensive lines, look for him to be drafted early. It's very unlikely he'll last until the end of the third round, so the Colts would probably have to trade up to get him. But it's not like that's never happened.

• Speaking of trading draft picks, the Colts finally have some ammunition to do so. The NFL has awarded a shockingly generous set of picks to the Colts — a third, a fourth and a fifth — perhaps out of guilt for all the terrifically bad crops they have given them in the past. The additions now give the Colts a first, two thirds, two fourths, two fifths and a seventh. The second rounder was traded to Tampa for Anthony McFarland (a trade that may have won them the Super Bowl, but seems like a steep price now) and the sixth went to Tennessee in a draft-day trade last year. They traded a seventh to Baltimore for defensive end Ryan LaCasse, but have the Ravens' seventh in exchange for safety Gerome Sapp.

• Unless someone really wants to take a flyer on Jim Sorgi, I think the Colts will have little problem re-signing their remaining restricted free agents. Josh Thomas isn't worth a second-rounder to anyone, but the Colts tendered him so high that's what he'd cost.

For all his courageous play and improvement, Jason David is still the last guy to know when it's raining, and few teams will take a chance on a guy that small.

Jake Scott has matured into a good starter at guard, but he has the curse to deal with. Ex-Colt offensive linemen have a habit of failing with their new teams and scouts and GMs are beginning to whisper the word "system" when dealing with them. Besides, few teams are interested in 270-pound linemen anymore, no matter how good their handwork is.

• Colts president Bill Polian said he wouldn't mind having Mike Doss back. I'm sure that surprises a few people, but Polian does appreciate good defensive backs and Doss has a great deal of talent. To be realistic, though, he'd be the Colts' third-best safety if he returns, so don't expect them to pay him much. He'll only be back if no other team offers him starter's money and none has yet.

One the other hand, the team's other remaining unrestricted free agents — James Mungro, Aaron Moorehead, Terrence Wilkins and Rocky Boiman — better hope the Colts crap out in the draft. At least at their position.

• Part of the joy (or hangover) of winning the Super Bowl is that the league feels free to mess up your schedule to get you on TV more often. Not only will the Colts play the Falcons on Thanksgiving (giving them a short, then a long week), but they will also play the tough and nationally beloved Saints in the season opener.

• While we're on the subject of TV, I have to applaud Peyton Manning for his appearance on Saturday Night Live. Not only did he do a great job, but the parody of the United Way commercial was awesome. Nobody is saying the United Way and the players involved don't do great work (and I love their commercials), but SNL is supposed to be all about satire and it was nice to see them take an unexpected shot at Manning's square image.


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