Colts Bolster DL in Second Round

After addressing the offensive running game in the first round, the Colts turned to the defensive side of the ground game, trading up with the Dolphins to select USC defensive tackle Fili Moala. Can he turn around the Colts' recent string of bad luck at the defensive tackle position?

Colt fans have long lamented the team's frequent inability to stop opponents running game, and defensive tackle was certainly high on most fans' wish lists coming into Saturday's draft.

After a disastrous 2008 season at the position — their 2007 third-round draft choice, Quinn Pitcock, abruptly retired before training camp, and starter Ed Johnson was cut after an arrest one week into the season — the Colts may have found part of the answer in Moala.

Moala was a force for USC's dominant defense in 2008
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Moala was one of the anchors of Southern California's dominant defense in 2008. The Trojans finished second in the country in total defense, giving up a paltry 222 yards per game, and were tops in the nation in scoring defense with just nine points per game given up. USC gave up seven or less points in eight of their 13 games.

Moala had 30 total tackles, eight of them for losses, with three sacks and two blocked kicks in the 2008 season. He was the fourth-ranked defensive tackle in this year's draft by and the 58th-ranked player overall. The Colts swapped their pick at No. 61 overall to take him at No. 56. Miami took the 61st pick and the Colts' fifth-round choice at No. 165 overall.

"Moala is a versatile defensive lineman who can play inside or outside, depending on the scheme," NFL Draft Expert Chris Steuber said. "He has a great frame and could add more bulk, but he's a strong performer. He's quick off the line and uses his hands extremely well. He's durable, plays with a high motor and gives maximum effort."

But expect Moala to make the defensive line more stout against the run and leave the sacks to outside rushers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

"He's not a pass rusher and lacks explosion," Steuber said. "He plays too high and doesn't play with leverage."

Still, with Moala in the mix, the Colts have the first-day talent to improve their tackle rotation. He'll likely step in right away next fall, joining Eric Foster, Antonio Johnson, Daniel Muir and Keyunta Dawson.

USC is a good stepping stone to the Colts, according to Bill Polian."The system is exactly the same," the Colts president said. "They play the same defensive system we do. He should have very little learning curve involved. The techniques along the defensive line are almost exactly the same. He won't have much boning up to do of both from a playbook standpoint or a technique standpoint. He should fit right in pretty quickly."

Polian called Moala a "long, tough, rough-house tackle" and added "We like his length. We like his toughness. We like his effort. The speed is good. He's very different than what we're used to having. That's fine. We felt like it was a departure in the right direction.

"I wouldn't think he'll have any difficulty at all adapting to what we do. Adapting to pro football is a different story. The NFL is a different level. As good as USC is, it's still a different level. Technique-wise and assignment wise it'll be similar."

The Colts could still search for a big, 300-plus pound defensive tackle on the second day of the draft, but the choice of Moala is certainly a step in the right direction for the team in an area they needed to address.

"I couldn't be anymore happier," Moala said of going to the Colts. "There were some things that I experienced with the organization meeting with them. There are so many good things about the organization and Indianapolis itself, I couldn't have been happier.

"I have no preference on what position I play. I just love being on the field playing football, whatever I can contribute to the team. That's what I'll be doing."

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