Footballoutsiders week continues with a look at the Colts defense today. Last year’s defense was opportunistic and thanks to Freeney and Mathis, kept the Colts in a lot of games (or got them back into a few), but was riddled with fatal flaws. Injuries all over the secondary robbed the Horse of what should have been a strength. The DTs had moments of glory (paging Eric Foster. Eric Foster to the Goal Line Stand counter, please), but were mostly out matched. Since the season ended however, the Colts have lost one of the great defensive minds in history (Dungy…did you think I meant Ron Meeks?), drafted/signed a bevy of new beefy DTs, and mostly just got a lot healthier (esp. Brackett and Marlin Jackson). Colts fans are wildly optimistic that a defense that finished sneaky high last year (10th in the NFL’s flawed rankings), might jump into the top 5.
The 09 Almanac says, “Keep hope alive!”. First they look at what effect losing Dungy might have on the Colts:
When Dungy left Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers retained defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Since Kiffin was a long-time associate of Dungy’s, the theory was that the defense would remain elite and fundamentally the same. Dungy’s influence is apparent in looking at Tampa Bay’s DVOA before and after his departure. In Dungy’s last four years in Tampa, his defenses ranked seventh, first, fourth, and second in DVOA. In 2002, the first year after his departure, Tampa Bay had -32.1% DVOA, the best defensive rating of the DVOA Era. (No other defense has been below -30% for a whole year.) The Buccaneers fell to third in the rankings in 2003, and have regressed from that dominant level to merely very good since 2004.
So, eventually the loss of Dungy will be felt, but there’s a good chance it won’t come right away. The Outsiders also give some fascinating research about what to expect from new D-coordinator Larry Coyer, as well as a hint about the run defense. When Dungy left Tampa, the run improved dramatically, even as the overall defense declined. Dungy is a smart guy who knows that stopping the pass is the key to winning. You need a competant run D, but not even a good one to field a tough overall unit. The Colts problem most of the years was an inability to even field a mediocre run defense (thanks to the curse of the Corey Simon).
Speaking of Jabba, they love the new tackles coming in this year as well.
The Colts have responded by giving (Ed) Johnson another chance and drafting a couple of big defensive tackles in Fili Moala (USC, second round) and Terrance Taylor (Michigan, fourth round). Moala in particular may be a draft steal; our friend Russ Lande at GM Jr. rated him as this year’s second-best tackle prospect, ahead of first-rounders Peria Jerry and Evander Hood, because of his consistency and explosive closing burst. These players give the Colts the most defensive tackle depth they have had this decade… The Colts now have three defensive tackles over 300 pounds for the first time since the team switched to the Tampa-2
The Almanac is rife with statistical data begging to be poured over for a deeper understanding of how the Colts operate. Of particular note is this nugget:
DVOA versus TE (negative is good)
2006 -8.4% 12th
2007 -21.6% 2nd
2008 1.6% 14th
So what happened that lowered the Colts to being below average against tight ends (having a DVOA above zero) for the first time in several years? Sigh…
Just a word of warning, we’ll wrap up our look at the 2009 Almanac tomorrow, and on Thursday, we have an amazing 18 Questions with Mike Tanier of the Outsiders. It’s spectacular in every possible way. I promise I’m not overselling it at all.
I rarely post about my kids because other than me…who cares? Still, my four year old daughter said today:
My name is Strawberry Shortcake Hello Kitty Blossom. That’s because I fight bad guys, have fun with my friends, and am a kitty. Meow.
Demond Sanders: Politics should be more like this: