Is McCargo The Answer In The Middle?

The Colts traded for a defensive tackle on Tuesday and released a familiar face. Is the new guy the run-stuffer Indianapolis has been looking for since Ed Johnson was released? Brad Keller has the inside look.

On Tuesday, Indianapolis traded for former Buffalo Bills defensive tackle John McCargo and released current tackle La Juan Ramsey to make room for McCargo on the roster.

McCargo played his college ball at NC State, where he started 30 games for the Wolfpack and tallied 134 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, and four sacks in his three seasons with the team.

His best season with the Wolfpack was 2003, his first season with the team, where he had 52 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and three sacks.  In the season before he declared his eligibility, McCargo started only six games, but still managed 35 tackles, ten tackles for loss, and one sack.

He was selected in the first round of the 2006 draft (26th overall) by the Bills, where he became the third member of NC State's defensive line selected in the first stanza, joining number one overall selection Mario Williams of the Houston Texans and Manny Lawson, chosen 22nd by the 49ers.

Lawson was eventually converted to an outside linebacker to suit San Francisco's 3-4 scheme, but it is still noteworthy that the Wolfpack had three players talented enough to be chosen in the first 26 selections.


McCargo brings down Chester Taylor in a 2006 game
Rick Stewart/Getty

It is also noteworthy that Williams is the only one of those three to stay healthy enough to make a serious impact for the team that drafted him.

After spending most of his rookie season on injured reserve, McCargo has amassed only 35 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the NFL and Lawson started his first season, but has struggled with injury and ineffectiveness since.  Lost in the Williams vs. Reggie Bush vs. Vince Young debate is how little the two other NC State first round defensive linemen have done at this level.

As a prospect for the 2006 draft, McCargo was considered to be a top-10 tackle, due to his excellent size — 6-feet-2, 307 pounds — quick feet, strong hands, and ability to rush the passer.

In limited exposure against NFL offenses, the fact that McCargo has any sacks, to say nothing of two and a half sacks, is an accomplishment.  When he was selected by the Bills, the consensus was that he had the motor, hands, feet, and pass rushing ability to play the nose tackle position in the version of the Cover 2 defense that Dick Jauron prefers to run.

"I think he's a great player with great potential," says veteran scout Tom Marino.  "He has quick feet, some pass rush ability, a good motor, and he takes good angles to the ball.  I spoke with Bill Kollar (defensive line coach for the Bills) and Bobby April (Bills special teams coach) during the offseason and they said he looked hungry and active in camp.  If he's healthy, I think he's going to be a good player for the Colts.  And, I've known Bill Polian for years.  He wouldn't have traded for this kid unless he had done his homework."

The fact remains that McCargo has exceptional potential to be the replacement that the Colts have been seeking since they let Ed Johnson go for disciplinary reasons.  While the argument regarding performance versus off-the-field indiscretions can continue to be made, what cannot be argued is that Ramsey and Daniel Muir are not the players Indianapolis needs at the position — which facilitated the trade for McCargo.

Though the draft pick compensation that the Bills will receive from the Colts has not been disclosed — likely because it is a conditional pick, based on McCargo's contributions to the Colts defense — the parallels to the Anthony McFarland trade are obvious. 

The difference between the two situations is that McFarland was a known quantity, playing in a nearly identical defense, whereas McCargo, aside from his draft position, is an unknown quantity.

Bill Polian and his staff obviously saw something in McCargo that separated him from the pack of gentlemen that they had brought in previously — they must have in order to give up a future draft pick for him — but, at the moment, McCargo is another in an increasingly growing line of players that has been brought in to fill Johnson's shoes.

It is now incumbent upon McCargo to prove that he is, in fact, worthy of the investment that two teams have placed in him.  Over the next few weeks, Colts fans will see whether or not he will take advantage of the tremendous potential that he holds.


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