After bringing defensive tackle Joe Bradley and wide receiver Matt Trannon in for tryouts Tuesday, the Colts continued to work out young players this week, as defensive end Justin Hickman came in for a look Friday.Hickman is an intriguing prospect, despite going undrafted after a solid career at UCLA. He began his college career in community college, but played in 10 of 12 games as a sophomore at UCLA and started all 12 games as a junior. As a senior in 2006, his 19 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks earned him first-team All Pac-10 status and All-American consideration.
After going undrafted, Hickman signed with the Washington Redskins as a free agent, but suffered a setback when he injured his knee in the team's first minicamp. He was cleared again on July 28 and hung on with the Redskins until they made the 80-man cutdown on Sept. 1.
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At 6 feet, 1 inch and 255 pounds, Hickman is undersized for a defensive end in the NFL, and would ideally be converted to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
"Obviously I know that in a 3-4 scheme I'm going to play outside linebacker," Hickman told Scout.com's Ed Thompson before the draft. "I'm not 6-foot-6, 290 pounds so when I met with 3-4 teams like the Dolphins, the Chargers and the Texans I know they're looking at me to play outside linebacker. That's just the way it is. Most of those 3-4 teams, their linebackers are like a standup defensive end, they'll rush the passer and they'll drop."
Although the Colts play a 4-3, Hickman could be a good fit in Tony Dungy's system, which emphasizes speed over bulk, and his 4.75 speed in the 40-yard dash is above average for a defensive end.
When Thompson asked about his strengths, Hickman said, "God-given athletic ability, being able to move laterally and being fast — being able to move this big body as fast as I can. I feel I'm a very smart football player with a high football IQ. I also use my hands very well. I try not to get overpowered. I try to use my technique to not get beat, and being a shorter guy I play with leverage. The combination of good leverage, strength and technique allow me to be successful."
With injuries to Raheem Brock, Dwight Freeney and Anthony McFarland on the defensive line, the Colts are looking for all the help they can get in the defensive front, which is probably why they brought Hickman and Bradley in for tryouts this week. Neither is likely to see the field anytime soon for any team, but they both could possibly fit in the Colts system, with time and training.