Good morning, Colts fans. Today, we'll take a quick look at three of the Colts recent free agent signees as they talk about what brought them to Indianapolis and what to expect from each of them. As usual, all quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department.
(Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)
LB Erik Walden
Erik Walden is a natural 3-4 outside linebacker (OLB). He is known more for solid tackling and good pursuit than pass rushing, and he can drop into coverage and keep up with tight ends. If Walden holds on to a starting job, that will allow Robert Mathis to move over to the right OLB, or “rush” linebacker position. There, he won’t be asked to spend as much time in pass coverage, where he struggled last year, despite snagging his first career interception.
Walden will play primarily as the left OLB, or strong side linebacker. When Mathis played on that side, the strong safety or an inside linebacker often had to cover the opposing tight end or running back on pass plays because Mathis had very little coverage experience. With Walden on the strong side, Pagano will have another coverage option, occasionally freeing up the safety to provide help over the top and cover deep (or blitz, for that matter). This will also free Robert Mathis up to take his relentless pass rush to the quarterback’s blind side.
Walden was a part time starter in Green Bay who wanted to be a full time starter. He has the opportunity now, but he could have had had that same chance on a few different teams. So, why Indianapolis? “It just felt like the best opportunity for me and my family,” Walden said. “Just being able to leave one great organization and come to another with a franchise quarterback and a first class organization, it’s kind of a no brainer for me.”
Finally, Walden, like the others, was asked what kind of player the Colts are getting. His answer: “You’re getting an aggressive, high-motor guy that’s passionate and holds himself to a high standard. He’s going to make sure he’s prepared every week and be the best player he can be but also be productive and disruptive. Just week-in and week-out making plays, impact plays. Not just solid plays but impact plays, game-changing plays.”
While he may not be the marquee player many fans were hoping for, Walden sounds like an intelligent young man with an insatiable drive to improve. He also fills a need that opens up more options for the defense.
(Note: While I'm personally not sold on the Walden signing, I am both hopeful and impressed by his attitude)
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SPORTS)
DT Ricky Jean Francois
With four teams vying for his services, after he proved he could play as a starter while filling in for Justin Smith in San Francisco, Ricky Jean Francois cancelled the remainder of his free agent tour after talking with the Colts’ staff. Like the other players who signed free agent contracts with Indy this week, Francois had a great deal of good things to say about the team and organization. He described the Colts as “on the rise,” and referred to Andrew Luck as a great quarterback.
Francois will be reunited with his former defensive coordinator as well as his former LSU teammate, Drake Nevis. “I talked to Greg Manusky, a guy that coached me when I first got into the league,” Francois said. “He gave me my first shot. Me and him were laughing a majority of the time. Drake Nevis, it was good to see him once again and to be playing beside him again.”
As far as what position he will play, it didn’t sound as though it mattered to him because he can play all three positions up front. When asked what kind of a player the Colts are getting, Francois said, “They’re getting a versatile player, a big dude that can do just about anything you want him to do besides punt and kick field goals. (You can’t do that?) No, I can’t do no kicking. You won’t get a kick out of me. If you want to win, please do not let me kick.”
There you have it. Don’t let the man kick.
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
CB Greg Toler
Greg Toler, as you know, has struggled with injuries the past two years. Thus, part of his interview session focused on his injury issues, specifically what caused him to sit out five games last season after missing all of 2011. “It was a hamstring issue,” he began. “I think it was complications from the knee injury, me missing a whole year, my body was just tight, tighter than usual. Just trying to get out there and I just happened to pull my (hamstring) and they kept me off of it. I wanted to be out there and I wanted to be out there with the guys giving it my all. But sometimes you’ve just got to listen to your body. But my knee is feeling great, my hamstring is feeling great right now. I just have to be proactive and stay on top of it.”
The next question was whether he expected to be a starter. Toler didn’t hesitate. “Most definitely. You know prayers go up and blessings come down so this is a new opportunity for me and a new beginning,” he said. “So I just want to come here and just impose my will and fight and just work hard at it and keep my nose to the grind. Like I said, just get this team further in the playoffs and help the guys out anyway I can wherever we need help at.”
Toler will be replacing a great teammate and locker room leader in Jerraud Powers. He clearly has a great deal of confidence and work ethic. But what kind of player is Toler? ““I’m a leader,” he answered. “I don’t do too much talking. I play hard-nosed football. I stick my nose in the fan if it’s a run. I’m going to cover up the pass. I’m not going to let them pick on me too much.”
Time will tell whether Toler will be able to stay healthy, but given the Colts’ defensive back situation from a year ago, it’s safe to say he will be in the mix for a starting spot, which he had earned in Arizona before his injury. While Francois’s new beginning is a chance to become a starter at last, Toler’s is more of a reclamation project.
– Some interesting notes on Indy’s newest cornerback; according to The Indianapolis Star’s Mike Chappell, Toler, and the newly re-signed Darius Butler were ranked 5th and 2nd respectively last season in Pro Football Focus’s opposing quarterback ratings. In essence, opposing quarterbacks had very poor ratings against the two players. Here is a link to Chappell’s article.
– The Colts have carefully avoided targeting the top, most-talked about name at any position in free agency, opting instead for lower cost players with potential but lacking the price-driving hype that often gets teams into trouble.
– In the next notebook, we will get to know OT Gosder Cherilus, OG Donald Thomas, and LB Lawrence Sidbury.
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