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Colts Notebook: D-line Becoming a Strength – McAfee’s Missed Opportunity

Quick Notes

Jack Mewhort, Ahmad Bradshaw, and yes, T.Y. Hilton were back in practice yesterday, which is a welcome sight. Meanwhile, C Khaled Holmes, OT Xavier Nixon, G Ulrick John, ILB Josh McNary, ILB Jerrell Freeman, ILB Shawn Loiseau, S Delano Howell, S David Sims, DT Montoi Hughes, and WR Reggie Wayne all sat out practice, according to Colts.com’s Kevin Bowen.

 

An Improved Defensive Line

Yesterday, I took to social media via the @Coltsauthority twitter account to get a few fans’ opinion of what they feel is the Colts’ biggest strength (besides Andrew Luck) after two preseason games. As expected, wide receiver is a popular answer, but another one has emerged this month: defensive line. We’re talking interior guys, big, powerful 3-4 D-linemen and run stoppers – not exactly Indianapolis’s strength over the past decade and a half.

There are plenty of reasons the big guys have looked so good this year – overall depth, Josh Chapman’s improvement, a pleasant surprise in UDFA Zach Kerr, Cory Redding doing Cory Redding things, and, of course, Arthur Jones.

Jones came to Indy as a free agent this spring from a similar defensive system in Baltimore. It’s still an adjustment though, right? I mean, we’re talking about different play calls and terminology at least. “Toughest part?,” he said when asked about his transition. “How flat it is here in Indiana. But other than that, the fans are great, everything’s been really well. It’s been a smooth transition for me.”

“Flat?” Arthur, sir, I believe you mispronounced “awesome.” Take it from this Hoosier who enjoys a good hike, you don’t have to drive far out of the city to find some hills and ravines. Then again, those areas are ankle twisters. Maybe flat is perfect for a pro athlete.

Of course, while the defensive line – and the defense in general – has looked very solid, they haven’t exactly been playing against offensive juggernauts in the preseason. This Saturday, however, they’ll have a more arduous challenge in the New Orleans Saints.

Jones is looking forward to what should be a great early test for the defense, but no more than any other game. “I look forward to all of them. I really do,” he said. “As a professional, you learn to play hard every single play because you never know when it’s going to be your last play. It’s another blessing and opportunity to play this great game.”

The Saints are such a force offensively, and a decent game against them by the defense would be cause for legitimate optimism. But for now, this defensive line, and the defense as a whole certainly looks stronger than it has in the past few preseasons.

 

McAfee Deals with the Miss

Well, if you stayed up for the end of the second preseason game, you saw one group of fringe NFL players go into a lull while the other completed a big fourth quarter comeback.

Yes, many of these guys will be personal trainers, insurance salesmen, and to borrow from a great reader comment, P.E. teachers soon (albeit with a rare and interesting story to tell), but a meltdown while up 26-0 is still disappointing, especially for all the guys clinging to a tiny sliver of the NFL dream.

The Colts did, however, have one more chance at the win. They struggled to move the ball, but elected to send punter Pat McAfee in to try a 64-yard field goal. Now, it’s no secret McAfee wants to add placekicking to his duties someday.

His main asset is a monster right leg, meaning his rare chances to prove himself as a kicker have come on particularly long kicks. “Yeah, I mean last year we only had one opportunity and it was in Jacksonville,” McAfee said. “It was a chance for a 69-yarder and we didn’t go for it. That’s why whenever they come up, you’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities. I missed the opportunity on that one. Very upset about it still to this day. We’ll just keep working, get better. Hopefully I’ll get another shot and I’ll drain that thing the next time we get a chance to swing at it.”

The kick was off to the left, but it certainly had the distance, as McAfee looked as though he could’ve bombed one into the cheap seats if he were trying a shorter field goal. “I even talked to Vinatieri afterwards and Vinnie’s like, ‘Man I was sprinting on the field to tackle you,’ because he thought it was in,” McAfee said. “I think everybody on the team was excited for it. Everybody was confident for it. I just have to make it next time.”

Without the need for building more distance, McAfee said he just needed to aim differently. “I should have just aimed a little more bit right,” he said. “I hit a draw. I knew I was going to hit a draw. I aimed right center, I should have aimed right upright. It’s just like a golf shot, if you’re playing a draw, you’ve got to play it a little bit more, that’s all. In hindsight, that’s what I would have done differently. I went 3/4 swing at it just to get it up above the line. I just wish it would have went in. Very upset about it.”

All quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts PR Department.

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Marcus Dugan

About Marcus Dugan

Marcus is a husband, dad, twitter geek, and all around average guy who covers news, game recaps, and additional material for The Colts Authority, while working even harder as an Indy area real estate broker. He's been known to overuse parentheses while editorializing (but who doesn't?)

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