Any time a team drafts a player at a certain position in the first round of the draft, the dynamic of the depth chart at that position will undergo noticeable change. When that first round selection coincides with the release of a player who was amongst the longest tenured defensive linemen on the team, the certainty of change is even greater.
It is easy for drafted players to steal all of the attention away from the depth a team already has, when that depth has yet to see extensive time on the field. Still, the importance of players the Colts took the time to acquire in previous seasons should not be overlooked, as they have had the benefit of learning the team’s system, working with the team’s coaching and training staff, and playing at the faster speed of the NFL.
One such player, who showed promise in his limited opportunities is Ervin Baldwin, who was added off of waivers after being drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, a team that plays a very similar defensive style to the Colts.
Baldwin saw his primary action in the final two games of the 2009 season, in a loss to the Jets at home and a loss to the Bills in Buffalo. He was one of the team’s most productive defenders in both contests, however, replacing Robert Mathis who did not play in either game. In those two games he made 11 tackles, showed good field speed, the ability to get into the backfield, and the kind of effectiveness against the run that Colts fans and coaches have been looking for with players like Raheem Brock and Keyunta Dawson.
At 6-foot 2-inches tall and 270 pounds, Baldwin is a bit lighter than Mitch King but runs an identical 40-yard dash time of 4.83-seconds, which is faster than Brock. While he is an inch shorter than Keyunta Dawson, one of the defensive ends the Colts relied upon most in the big defensive line set and as a back-up to Dwight Freeney, he is heavier and physically more suited for being able to stop the run and hold up against NFL-caliber offensive linemen.
Should Baldwin continue to show development in his second season with the Colts, he could have an inside track to stay on the active roster in place of a player like Dawson who has proven incapable of being effective at defensive end. Players like Baldwin, Ricardo Mathews, and King could be the replacements for much of the Colts former depth at the position and all show promise of being improvements.