DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters — LE Raheem Brock, LT Eric Foster, RT Keyunta Dawson, RE Dwight Freeney. Backups — DT Adrian Grady, DE Marcus Howard, DT Antonio Johnson, DE Curtis Johnson, DT Ed Johnson, DT Pat Kuntz, DE Robert Mathis, DT Fili Moala, DT Daniel Muir, DT Terrance Taylor.
The Colts could be as deep as they've been in recent memory along the defensive line. Indianapolis officials made a concerted effort to get a big bigger along the front with the addition of draft picks Moala and Taylor along with the addition of Grady, an undrafted free agent.
A veteran group of linemen return with Freeney, Brock, Mathis, Foster, Dawson and Ed Johnson. Ed Johnson was released by the team last year due to his arrest for speeding and possession of marijuana. While getting another chance to show the Colts that he belongs in the NFL, he will added much more bulk and athleticism to the team's defensive front.
Howard is due for a breakout year as a situational pass rusher. His speed and quickness off the line of scrimmage has drawn favorable comparisons to Freeney and Mathis.
Both Brackett and Hagler will see field time for the Colts in 2009
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
LINEBACKERS: Starters — SLB Philip Wheeler, MLB Gary Brackett, WLB Clint Session. Backups — LB Tyjuan Hagler, LB Ramon Humber, LB Freddy Keiaho, LB Michael Okwo, LB Tyrell Sales, LB Jordan Senn, LB Adam Seward, LB Mike Tauliili.
With the possible exception of Brackett, the Colts' linebacking positions at up for grabs heading into training camp. Wheeler had a strong spring and can play either outside spot. Session started on the strong side a year ago but may end up on the weak side this year. He has been impressive, although he needs to develop a bit more consistency.
Keiaho and Hagler were free agents during the offseason who were re-signed and both could end up back in the starting lineup. Seward was brought in as a free agent from the Carolina Panthers and may work his way into a backup role behind Brackett. Senn was impressive as a special teams performer as an undrafted rookie a year ago and did a nice job defensively when called upon.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters — LCB Kelvin Hayden, RCB Marlin Jackson, SS Bob Sanders, FS Antoine Bethea. Backups — CB Brandon Anderson, S Melvin Bullitt, CB Michael Coe, S Brannon Condren, CB Brandon Foster, S Matt Giordano, CB Nick Graham, CB Brandon Harrison, CB Dante Hughes, CB Tim Jennings, CB Travis Key, CB Jacob Lacey, CB Jerraud Powers, CB T.J. Rushing, S Jamie Silva.
Hayden was re-signed during the offseason and Jackson made a strong recovery during the offseason from knee surgery. The pair gives Indianapolis as soon a set of starting cornerbacks in the league. When healthy, Sanders is one of the top strong safeties (and hardest hitters) around. He is due for a big, big year.
Bethea's performance appeared to have slipped a little bit in 2008 but he remains a major part of the Colts' defensive secondary. Bullitt, Giordano, Silva and Condren give Indianapolis really good depth at safety. All four can play either strong or free safety, giving the team a lot of flexibility.
Jennings and Hughes will battle for the nickel role, as will Coe (who is coming off season-ending knee surgery) and Powers (a third-round draft past spring who was impressive in the team's mini-camps and OTAs).
Vinatieri remains as one of the NFL's best kickers, but offseason hip surgery could relegate him to limited work in training camp. He is, however, expected to be fine for the start of the regular season. Just in case, though, the Colts brought back Andrus as an insurance policy. He originally signed with Indianapolis as an undrafted rookie two years ago and has been with the Giants and Buccaneers.
With Hunter Smith now with the Washington Redskins, seventh-round draft pick McAfee will take over as the Colts' punter. He can also kickoff if needed and will probably be the team's regular holder as well. Masthay, another rookie, was signed to split the punting duties in the offseason and preseason.
Rushing was the Colts' primary kickoff and punt return man in 2007 but missed all of last season with a knee injury. He hopes to get his job back but Garcon and Simpson will also be in the mix. The biggest impact on special teams, however, will be the addition of former University of South Carolina assistant coach Ray Rychelski as the Colts' new special teams coach. His aggressive coaching style will be interesting to watch this season.
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