Athletic LB Catching Attention

The Colts have a pair of athletic outside linebackers in Clint Session and Philip Wheeler, but there's one player that was at the Senior Bowl who is high on a lot of teams' lists. With potential changes coming to the team's defensive scheme, the Colts sat down for a talk with this player in Mobile. Is he a good fit in Indy? Brad Keller takes a closer look.

After redshirting in his freshman season, Clint Sintim was a four-year starter for Virginia appearing in 49 games with 245 tackles, 40 tackles for loss, 27 sacks, three passes defended, and five forced fumbles.

With an average of nearly five tackles, a tackle for loss, and a half sack per game, he was certainly around the ball a lot and, working in head coach Al Groh's 3-4 defense and playing outside linebacker, had numerous opportunities to pursue the ball.

As a player, Sintim says that he tries to model his game after Joey Porter.  "I try to model my game after the passion that he plays with, the way he runs to the ball and is aggressive," Sintim said at the Senior Bowl.  "And the way that, when he's on the field, he has the confidence that he's the best guy out there."

While Sintim certainly has a confidence about him, he is soft spoken and more mild mannered than the mercurial Porter.  He does point out that he tries to emulate Porter on the field, not off of it.  "Off the field, he's a little different than I am. The way he does things is a little different than the way I do things."

LB Clint Sintim
Kevin C. Cox/Getty

As 3-4 linebacker, the rush or Will linebacker in that scheme, Sintim definitely was productive, especially in his senior year, when he had career highs in sacks (11), tackles for loss (12.5), and passes defended (three).

At 6-feet-3 and 249 pounds, he certainly possesses the size that teams look for in the position and has the right mentality, saying that he feels the best part of his game is his ability to get to the quarterback.

"I think I'm a solid pass-rusher," he said.  "I think I use my hands pretty efficiently and I'm able to swat down the tackle's hands and kind of bend that corner a little bit. I mean, I'm not a Dwight Freeney coming off the edge, I'm not extremely fast, but at the same time I feel I have a solid burst coming off there."

Scouts certainly agree that he has a great deal of ability and holds him in high esteem as well, ranking him third at outside linebacker and 38th overall.  In Chris Steuber's most recent mock draft, he has Sintim going to the Dolphins at 25.  There is no doubt that Sintim has the measurables, college production, and instincts to make it at the next level.

The only trouble is that, while he seems like a slam dunk as an outside linebacker in the 3-4, he is far from ideal to play any of the linebacker positions in the 4-3, especially considering that, at 249 pounds, he is bigger than all the linebackers currently on their roster and bigger than ends Curtis Johnson, Robert Mathis, and Marcus Howard.

Unless the next defensive coordinator for the Colts represents a major paradigm shift for their defense, Sintim isn't polished enough as a 4-3 linebacker to take in the first round. 

Now, he did specifically mention Freeney in the above quote and he is bigger than many of the ends currently on the roster, but he would be more of a pass rushing specialist than an every-down player and thus may also not be worth it at 27th overall.

The way things currently stand with the Indianapolis defense, they expect their linebackers to patrol a lot of the field in coverage and to work further from the line of scrimmage than Sintim is used to being.

Even defensive tackle Evander Hood — another player Indianapolis has taken a look at — had eight passes defended in 50 starts, which is five more than Sintim had in 49 games. 

Considering that the Colts already have a potential specialist in Philip Wheeler on the roster and have taken a look at another possibility who will be available later in the draft in Zack Follett of Cal, and that Steuber reported that Sintim needed extra time adjusting to the 4-3 scheme after the January 19th practice — although he improved during the week and was one of the few bright spots for the North, with six tackles and one tackle for loss — it seems like a poor fit for Indianapolis. 

In all likelihood, the Dolphins will select him 25th overall and he'll never reach the Colts when it is their turn to draft at 27.  However, if he is still available, taking him at that point would be a literal interpretation of the "best athlete available" strategy.

He is going to make some team that deploys the 3-4 as their base defense very happy, but he does not fit what the Colts are trying to accomplish, to say nothing of the fact that they have not used a first-round pick on a linebacker since they selected Rob Morris 28th overall in the 2000 draft.

Although Sintim is a very accomplished and intriguing player, taking him 27th overall would represent too much of a paradigm shift for the Colts, provided they don't decide to blow up the Cover 2 defense they've spent the past seven years building and go to the 3-4. Then again, if they do decide to do that, Sintim would be a perfect fit.

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