With defensive end Simeon Rice's release by the Indianapolis Colts earlier this week, it'll be interesting to see how often Raheem Brock slides out of his defensive tackle spot to defensive end since the Colts have some youngsters settling in nicely at defensive tackle.
Kind of ironic, isn't it? Brock started out with the Colts primarily as a defensive end, splitting time with Robert Mathis. Then he got bumped inside to help fix a shortage of talent on the interior line.
During his first full season at defensive tackle, his performance left some folks — including me — wondering whether or not the Colts had made a bad decision. But since then, Brock has refined his interior skills and overall technique to become both staunch and disruptive at his position.
But now he might get bumped outside to help fill in for Dwight Freeney's absence.
The Colts have some rookies at defensive tackle who have become a pleasant surprise, creating a good problem for Indianapolis at a position where they were previously finding it hard to find a capable run-stopper. Former Penn State defensive tackle Ed Johnson has done a terrific job of throwing his weight around as a rookie starter next to Brock, but rookies Keyunta Dawson and Quinn Pitcock have also settled in and are making plays as they have rotated in throughout games this season.
The Colts appear to be ready to slide Brock outside, replacing 6-foot-5, 271-pound defensive end Josh Thomas on obvious passing downs. But you have to wonder why they wouldn't use rookie Keyunta Dawson in that role instead? With Brock and Johnson playing so well side-by-side on the inside, and Pitcock now adding his 299-pound frame into the mix at defensive tackle, it might make more sense for the Colts to put the former Texas Tech defensive end out there than Brock.
Dawson lacks the ideal bulk at 254 pounds to play inside, but he has been able to use his quickness to hit the gaps and get into the backfield anyway. But at right defensive end, he would likely thrive even more.
I actually think you'll see a rotation at right defensive end that will include Thomas, Brock and Dawson as the Colts mix and match their defensive line throughout the game. It's actually a good strategy if you have the depth of talent to pull it off. Instead of preparing for Dwight Freeney on a given Sunday, the opposing left tackle will likely have to watch film on possibly three different players, while the left guard and center would have to prepare for at least two different faces and playing styles at right defensive tackle.
You make the call
After being called up from the practice squad, wide receiver Craphonso Thorpe returned punts and kickoffs during Indianapolis' games against the Buccaneers and the Chargers. But after averaging just 5.2 yards per punt return, he's been strictly handling kickoff returns ever since, including the Colts' matchups against the Chiefs and the Falcons.
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With 15 kickoff returns under his belt during that four-game stretch, Thorpe is averaging 21.2 yards per kickoff return including a season-high 40-yard return. He had his best overall average against the Falcons on Thanksgiving night with a 25.5-yard average on four returns.
T.J. Rushing has proven his value as a punt returner, averaging 9.1 yards per return this year on 15 returns while also handling 10 fair catches. But he's also handled 21 kickoff returns prior to the Colts giving Thorpe a chance at the job, and he was averaging 23.9 yards per return &mdash including a season-best 47-yard return against the Texans in Week 3. In four of his six games as a kickoff return specialist, he's averaged 26.5 yards per return or better.
And yet, the Colts released the second-year cornerback on November 11th prior to bringing him back three days later.
Seems to me that the Colts would be better served by turning Rushing loose on both aspects of the returns game, unless they are simply trying to get Thorpe some game experience in case he's needed for the playoffs due to depth or injury issues.
A bit curious
If I was to ask you which Indianapolis offensive lineman had been flagged most often this season for false starts, you might guess that one of the younger guys such as Charlie Johnson or Tony Ugoh would be the most likely to make that kind of mistake. But it's actually veteran right tackle Ryan Diem, who's been flagged five times in his 10 game appearances already this year. That's a career-high for him for a single season — and he still has five games to play if he stays healthy.
During his seven years in the league, Diem's been flagged 23 times for false starts, with 13 of them occurring in the most recent three seasons. And while five false starts may not seem like all that many, it puts Diem in a tie for ninth place as the most frequently flagged player for that penalty amongst all offensive linemen, tight ends and receivers.
Be sure to check back on Saturday for my Insiders Report on the Colts pass protection. I'll be pointing out who's been doing the best job of protecting Peyton Manning this season so far and who's been responsible for allowing the most sacks. And while you might think that it's one of those younger offensive linemen who have allowed the most sacks, that's just not the case. I'll also be expanding on the penalty analysis for the offensive line, showing you which players have been able to stay almost penalty-free through the first 11 games of the season &mdash and which ones have set back Indianapolis' offense most frequently so far.
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