Final Analysis of 53-Man Roster: Defense

The Colts have finalized (for now) their 53-man roster, after making their final cuts and waiver claims. 

Yesterday, I took a look at the final group of young men that make up the current roster on offense. Today, we’ll look at the players that will comprise the defensive side of the roster. 

Defensive End

Starters: Cory Redding, Fili Moala

Key Reserves: Ricardo Mathews, Drake Nevis

The defensive end position is going to be one of the more frustrating units of the season, as their inconsistencies will likely be what determines the effectiveness of the run defense. Redding is the one accomplished, proven starter on the roster, but could be slowed down by age (31) and injuries (has been sidelined in the preseason). 

Of the other three, Moala has the most experience, but Drake Nevis has the most explosive potential. Nevis had a promising start last season, but was only able to play in five games. This preseason, Nevis has had 13 tackles and two sacks (in limited time in four games), and if he transitions to the 3-4 well, he could end up starting by the end of the season. 

Nose Tackle

Starter: Antonio Johnson

Key Reserves: Martin Tevaseu, Josh Chapman (PUP)

Nose tackle, along with the defensive backfield, will be the thinnest unit on the team, although with the addition of Vontae Davis, nose tackle may have taken the lead as the least talented group. Johnson was mediocre at best as a 4-3 tackle, making the transition to the 3-4 will be rough to say the least. 

Tevaseu provides a rotational body, but not much more after being waived by the Jets and Browns over the last two years. Chapman is the real hope for the future, but he’ll be sidelined on the PUP until Week Six, when he becomes eligible for the active roster again. Unfortunately, he likely won’t be back in games until Week Nine or so. 

Outside Linebacker

Starters: Robert Mathis, Dwight Freeney

Key Reserves: Jerry Hughes, Mario Addison, Justin Hickman

Mathis and Freeney have been underwhelming in the preseason, if you want to even give them that much credit. Freeney in particular has not looked good, failing to set an edge on run plays and not showing his usual tenacity getting after the quarterback. It IS the preseason, and both players likely aren’t giving their all, but it’s still concerning regarding their transition to the 3-4. 

Hughes and Addison, on the other hand, have looked very good this preseason, combining for 31 tackles and six sacks in four games as well as numerous pressures on the quarterback. They have yet to prove themselves in the regular season, but they’ve shown potential over this preseason that is encouraging.

Hickman was a bit of a surprise for me to make the roster, but he’ll likely be a special teams guy, and little else. 

Inside Linebacker

Starters: Kavell Conner, Jerrell Freeman, Pat Angerer (PUP)

Key Reserves: Mario Harvey, Moise Fokou

Pat Angerer will likely be gone until after the bye week, but Jerrell Freeman has looked like an adequate replacement for a short period of time. Freeman seems to get swallowed up when the defensive line is getting overwhelmed, but when the defensive line holds their position, he fills gaps well and can cover in pass protection. 

Kavell Conner still looks like a stud in run defense, making plays all over the field. He may be a liability in pass protection, but he wasn’t tested much in the preseason. 

Harvey and Fokou were inconsistent in the preseason, but did show enough potential to make the 53-man roster. 


Starters: Jerraud Powers, Vontae Davis

Key Reserves: Justin King, Cassius Vaughn, Josh Gordy

The Colts may have some change at this position yet, as Gordy has looked bad in limited preseason action, and other teams will be letting fringe players go. As it stands, Powers looks like a dependable starter (if he can stay healthy), while Davis has the potential to be a stand-out player if he can become more consistent. 

King and Vaughn have enough talent to be serviceable nickel and dime cornerbacks, but they’ll still be targeted by opposing quarterbacks when they get on the field. If the Colts can make moves to improve any of those bottom spots, they’ll be much better off. Even with the addition of Davis, the position is still weak, with little depth. 


Starters: Antoine Bethea, Tom Zbikowski

Key Reserves: Sergio Brown, Joe Lefeged

Antoine Bethea is a fantastic player, and will be taking the point as the leader of the defensive backfield.  He looked himself in the preseason, and will be needed to stabilize the young backfield this season. Zbikowski has looked soft in the preseason, disappointing considering his reputation as a tough, hard-hitting run defender. 

Brown was a starter at times for a bad New England defensive backfield, but has some potential as a depth guy in rotation. Lefeged is decent in coverage, but doesn’t bring much in run support. Like cornerback, the position is not deep, and an injury to Bethea would be devastating to the group. 

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.