Looming Large: Cato June

Jess Huffman continues his preview of the top players the Colts will face from each of their 13 unique opponents. In Week 5 linebacker Cato June returns wearing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform. And there's nothing he'd like more than to show Colts management that they made a mistake by not keeping him in Indy.

It wasn't easy to watch Cato June go to Tampa Bay. Kind of like parting ways with a childhood friend, the Colts waved goodbye to their linebacker of four years with mixed emotion.

Yes, they were grateful for all he did in the past. But there's just no telling what they'll do without him.

June will return to the RCA Dome with a whole new team but similar approach to the game on Oct. 7. No more will he be playing behind the raucous crowd dressed in blue and white. Those days are gone. However, his role as a game-changer, possessing the ability to stop the run and cover the pass - that remains unchanged.

Since drafting June in 2003, the Colts did their best to build a linebacker to fit their system. Practicing every day against Peyton Manning certainly didn't hurt.

The lessons learned against Tom Moore's offense and within Tony Dungy's defense paid dividends for June the past three seasons. The 2005 Pro Bowl selection averaged more than 118 tackles per season from 2004 through 2006 and picked off 10 passes in that time period. Last season, June led the Super Bowl champions in tackles with a career-high 162.

Cato June scores a touchdown in preseason action
J. Pat Carter, AP
A former safety at Michigan, June's combination of speed and strength made him a perfect fit for the Indianapolis' Cover 2 defense. It's no coincidence that he signed a three-year, $12-million contract to step into a similar role within a nearly-identical system.

The loss was perhaps the biggest blow in the offseason to a continuously suspect Colts defense.

In recent years, there have almost never been questions surrounding the Indianapolis offense. But this year could be an exception to the rule.

The Colts have a lack of depth at the running back position this season. If Joseph Addai's legs are tired by the fifth week, Indianapolis will rely on DeDe Dorsey, Kenton Keith or Clifton Dawson. That could be trouble, allowing defenses to focus their scheme on the passing game, challenging the Colts to try their luck at running the ball instead.

As a result, opposing linebackers will begin dropping back to cover the pass and prevent Manning from striking deep. There's no other opposing linebacker in the league more familiar with Manning than June. And he's one of the best at defending against the pass.

For several years now, there's been a feeling that Manning is unstoppable - at least in the regular season. However, if the Colts' running game isn't clicking, and the Buccaneers defense sits back, June could end up showing up his former team on his former field.


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