Is The Cupboard Bare At Corner?

With injuries and inactive players, the Colts had only three cornerbacks available for Sunday night's game. Marlin Jackson isn't coming back, but what does the future hold for the rest of the Indianapolis defensive backfield? Brad Keller takes a look and offers some suggestions.

The Colts lined up Keiwan Ratliff, Nick Graham, and Tim Jennings across from the stars on the Patriots in Week 9 and escaped intact, allowing only 204 yards passing and 15 points.

New England struggled in the red zone and missed a number of golden opportunities, to be sure, but the fact that Randy Moss and Wes Welker did not torch this threadbare secondary on Sunday night is a big victory for Indianapolis.

Marlin Jackson's absence is a big blow to the Colts secondary
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Marlin Jackson being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury opens up a roster spot which, presumably, would be filled by either a member of the practice squad or someone from outside the organization.

In the Week 9 edition of his Best Available Free Agents: Defense, Adam Caplan identified a number of interesting names, but none of them really fit the mold of what the Colts are looking for at the position.

Ideally, they would like to sign a player that has starting experience, but, aside from the aging and expensive Ty Law, there aren't any viable candidates like that on the market.

For the most part, they are older players (Fred Thomas, Fernando Bryant, Kelly Herndon, Law), players that have struggled with injuries (Bryant again, Andre Dyson), players who are dime cornerbacks at best (Ricardo Coclough, Roc Alexander), or players that can really only contribute on special teams (Chidi Iwuoma, Dexter Wynn).

Most of these men have been available since at least the August 30th cuts and some of them, given their veteran status, would be a pricey addition to the roster.

The diamond in the rough, though, might be Jason Webster.  He just recently turned 31, has been out of work since the beginning of September, so he will be motivated, and has experience with the Cover 2 defense.  The issues with Webster, though, are that he still carries a fairly hefty salary of $720,000, even at the veteran minimum, and the Patriots did not re-sign him, even after their secondary was hit hard by injuries.

DeAngelo Hall would be a bad fit in Indianapolis, Brad Keller says
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DeAngelo Hall, who was released by the Oakland Raiders Wednesday, is not a good fit for the team or the system.

Hall's expertise — and the term is used very lightly — is man-to-man coverage and he is not well-suited to playing in the Cover 2 zone. He is not a physical cornerback and has either struggled to jam receivers at the line, or simply not tried, relying on his athletic ability to compensate for his lack of press coverage.

He is not a capable or willing defender against the run, which is something that the Colts require from a cornerback, even if they are not in the starting lineup.

On top of all that, he is undisciplined, suffers from frequent lapses in focus, and has a me-first attitude, which something that Tony Dungy will not tolerate. Signing him would be a desperation move in an attempt to grab headlines. That is simply not how Bill Polian operates and Colts fans should be very happy about that fact, since there are very few players in the league that would be a worse fit for this team and this system than Hall.

Most likely, the newly signed player will come from within the organization — rookie Brandon Foster springs to mind, as he went through the entire offseason, training camp, and preseason and knows the defense, as well as being able to help out on special teams.

Rookie Brandon Sumrall could also be signed off the practice squad.  He has a build that is closer to Jackson's at 5-feet-10 and 193 pounds, but he is still learning the defense and probably is not ready for prime time at this point. 

The other option, of course, would be to sign a young player off the street or off of another team's practice squad, as Indianapolis did with Nick Graham.  There are a number of those players out there, so it is difficult to speculate on who the Colts might be targeting, but ColtPower will definitely post something if such a signing is made — or looks as though it is going to be made.

In the meantime, the Colts must cross their fingers and hope that Kelvin Hayden and Dante Hughes are able to recover from their ailments in time for the Week 10 matchup against the Steelers and stay healthy throughout the rest of the season. Pittsburgh has been far more efficient than the Patriots have in the red zone so far this season and, if the Colts allow them to get inside the 20, the Steelers will not let Indianapolis off the hook by kicking field goals.

Additionally, New England uncharacteristically decided not to take advantage of the fact the Colts were so thin at cornerback by attempting only two more passes than runs (34-32).  Other teams are unlikely to make the same mistake, especially if Indianapolis continues to improve against the run. 

Increased involvement by Melvin Bullitt and strides in coverage by Jennings, Graham, and Ratliff will only carry this pass defense so far.  As veterans that have valuable starting experience, Hayden and Hughes need to get back on the field for the Colts to stand a chance of weathering this storm.

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