When researching the top two guards in free agency this year, Andy Levitre and Louis Vasquez, I came upon a unique stat: Vasquez, in his four year career, has never hurt his team with a penalty.
It's an overlooked, but impressive facet of Vasquez' game, and one that is a huge asset to a team. The frequency that a player receives penalties, and therefore hurts the team, is one that is important when reviewing players. Now, don't get me wrong, the talent and production of a player takes precedence far before penalty frequency does, but nevertheless, it's something that does affect one's performance (and our perception of that performance).
So, with that in mind, what kind of penalty history do the new Colts have? What can we expect from them in 2013?
RT Gosder Cherilus
2012 Penalties- 9 (5 False Start, 2 Holding, 1 Unnecessary Roughness, 1 Tripping)
Cherilus is a fantastic talent, especially in pass protection, but his penchant for penalties was a bit on the high side in 2012. Cherilus' nine penalties was 44th among 57 starting tackles in 2012. However, Cherilus hasn't always been that way. He was in the top 20 in both 2010 and 2011, with five (one declined or off-setting) and four, respectively.
Cherilus' most common penalty, and one that he's known for among Lions' fans, is false starts. A five-yard penalty, a false start every once in a while is fine when he's an elite pass protector, which he was in 2012. If he can cut the other stuff out in 2013 he'll be back down to an acceptable level.
G Donald Thomas
2012 Penalties- 3 (2 Holding, 1 False Start)
Thomas doesn't have a concerning history of penalties, but he also doesn't have much of a history at all. Thomas has only played about 700 snaps in his entire career, over 600 of which came last season. Three penalties in that many snaps is about average, maybe slightly above average.
For guards, holding is the most common penalty, so it's no surprise that that was Thomas' only repeat penalty. If we do see penalties on Thomas in 2013, I'd put my money on holding.
CB Greg Toler
2012 Penalties- 3 (Pass Interference, Illegal contact, Defensive Holding)
Toler received three penalties in 2012, all of which were in coverage. It's not a high total, until you realize that Toler only played about 300 snaps. Prorate that out to 900-1000 snaps and you have one of the highest penalty totals for cornerbacks. In 2010, when Toler was a starter, he was 80th among 100 qualifying corners in total penalties.
Toler is often described as tough and physical in coverage, which is nice to have, but it can also lead to flags, which lead to extended drives. Each of Toler's three penalties in 2012 came on 3rd down, a time where any of those penalties will extend the drive with an automatic first down.
NT Aubrayo Franklin
2012 Penalties- 0
Franklin was not called for a penalty in 2012, and has generally been very good at avoiding penalties for most of his career. Over the past five years, Franklin has been called for five total penalties, including just one over the last two years.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
2012 Penalties- 1 (Illegal Touch)
Like Franklin, Heyward-Bey has been pretty good about avoiding penalties. He received just one in 2012, an illegal touch penalty after he was pushed out of bounds early in his route. Don't expect to see much involving DHB with the refs in 2013, he only has four total penalties in his four-year career.
DE Ricky Jean-Francois
2012 Penalties- 1 (Encroachment)
Jean-Francois only received one penalty in 2012, but also only played 328 snaps. He received an offside penalty and an unnecessary roughness penalty in 2011 as well, when he also played about 300 snaps. I wouldn't expect more than an offside or two from Jean-Francois in 2013, especially if he's just a rotational player at end.
SS LaRon Landry
2012 Penalties- 4 (2 Late Hit Out of Bounds, 1 Horse Collar, 1 Pass Interference)
When it comes to Landry, it's going to be all or nothing. Over his career he hasn't been a big volume penalty guy, but he got caught for four in 2012, 7th most among 58 starting safeties. Landry is a big-hitter, which led to him getting caught for a couple out of bounds hits in 2012 (and he likely got away with a few).
Like I said, over his career he usually doesn't get called for a ton of penalties (no season prior to 2012 with more than two total), but when he does it's going to be 15 yards. He just needs to be smart and keep his cool, and he'll be fine. A physical, intimidating player will get a penalty here and there by pushing the limits, but more often than not, it's worth it.
LB Erik Walden
2012 Penalties- 5 (2 Offside, 1 Roughing the passer, 1 Illegal use of hands, 1 Face mask)
The broad variety of penalties is worrisome with Walden. His five penalties in 2012 was fifth highest among 3-4 outside linebackers. The thing is, he's always been a moderate-big penalty player. In 2009-2010, Walden accrued eight penalties merely on special teams.
Walden is undisciplined, and it comes out in silly penalties like roughing the passer. Hopefully Chuck Pagano can straighten him out. The Colts finished 8th in the league in penalties, and will look to keep up the tradition of having a disciplined team.