Practice Squad Update

The Colts had a busy day Tuesday, working out two defensive linemen and signing a linebacker to the practice squad. Find out who they were in this Insider feature.

The Colts signed linebacker Dedrick Harrington of Missouri to their practice squad Tuesday, and the team cut ties with defensive back Darrell Hunter.

Harrington visited the Colts last Friday, Dec. 7 and it was suggested here that he may soon find a home on the taxi squad.

Worth noting, though, is that the young middle linebacker also had a visit with Green Bay yesterday. He would most likely be a practice squad addition for them as well, though, and Indianapolis probably pulled the trigger on this transaction because of Harrington's visit to the frozen tundra.

Tuesday turned out to be a busy day for the Colts, since they also held tryouts for a pair of defensive tackles — Joe Anoai, formerly of Georgia Tech and Barry Cryer of Nebraska.

Joe Anoai
(AP Photo/Ric Feld)

Anoai was a first-team All-ACC performer in 2006 for the Yellow Jackets and saw his draft stock rise to the 18th overall prospect in the 2007 NFL Draft after he ran a 4.92 in the 40 and checked in at a less undersized 303 pounds at the Scouting Combine. While many still felt he was a second day pick, he ended up going undrafted, was signed as a free agent by the Minnesota Vikings, and subsequently released at the end of May.

It is difficult to refer to a man that is 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs more than 300 pounds as "undersized," but the truth of the matter is that Anoai added 25 pounds of dead weight, not muscle in preparation for the Combine. He left Georgia Tech at 280 and checked in at 303 three months later.

The weight gain obviously did not effect his quickness, but it made him soft in the middle — where he did not have tremendous upper body strength previously, as well as below average lower body strength &mdashl and raised concerns about his ability to stay in shape. Regardless of whether or not he was drafted, he was still quickly released by the Vikings and has not caught on with another team in the last six months. That is a red flag, since even though Minnesota has a great deal of depth at the defensive tackle position, not all teams in the league are so fortunate.

However, he does possess the gap-penetrating skills that Cover 2 teams look for in a tackle and, if he is able to shed a few pounds and transform some soft tissue into muscle, would be about the right size to fit into Tony Dungy's scheme.

Another reason that teams may have passed on him is that he comes from a family of famous professional wrestlers and had conversations with the WWE about a career change in July. As with any prospect that is considering another sport, most NFL teams approach such players with extreme caution.

Finally, Anoai's tryout, coupled with other tackles that have come in for a visit, could indicate serious issues with Raheem Brock's rib injury.

Barry Cryer
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

With three other rookie options on the roster, it looks as if the Colts are just trying to see what's out there.

Cryer was only a one-year starter with the Huskers, but did show some explosiveness and gap penetration during his brief stint in the spotlight in Lincoln.

He also showed some weakness at the point of attack, inability to hold up against the run, and the inexperience that goes with being a first-year starter.

Like any young player, he will have lapses in concentration, shoot the wrong gap, miss a tackle, or penetrate too far into the backfield on a draw or a screen. With some time, attention, and training, he could develop into someone that would fit well into the tackle rotation, though.

When making a decision on personnel, even one that doesn't involve the regular roster, it is important to mitigate risk with upside. At this point, Cryer has the least risk and the most upside. If you're trying to sign a player to the practice squad, you need to identify athletes that are gifted enough to play at the NFL level, have yet to realize their full potential, have the ability to grow and improve through training and repetitions, and are likely to stay around so that you can take advantage of the time and energy you've spent on them.

Anoai is close to his ceiling, may have trouble staying in shape and learning a new system, and could ditch the low pay, long hours, and lack of accolades that accompany life on the practice squad.

For the lowest risk and the most upside, the Colts should take a shot at Cryer, the lean, one-year starter that doesn't have Vince McMahon's assistant on speed dial.

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