Summer Showdown: John Chick v. Ervin Baldwin

The Indianapolis Colts summer is chalk full of competitions to round out the team’s depth.  One position with shoes to fill and potentially new faces is defensive end, which will have to make up for the loss of stalwart Raheem Brock and make room for new pass rushing specialist Jerry Hughes, the Colts first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.

A number of players have spent some time on the outside for the Colts in the past few seasons, including departed Josh Thomas, converted defensive tackle Keyunta Dawson, hybrid players like Eric Foster and Brock, and Ervin Baldwin, an early-season acquisition in 2009.  One player who will join in the mix to compete for a pass-rushing spot on the roster is last year’s Canadian Football League’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year, John Chick from the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

The Canadian Press | Chris Young Photo

A few things pop out about Chick that make him unlike many undrafted prospects.  First, he graduated from Utah State in 2006 and spent his time developing pro potential in the CFL.  Second, he was listed at 6-foot 3-inches and 265 pounds coming out of college.  Now he is listed at 6-foot 4-inches and 245 pounds.  Looking at him, he appears heavier than his listed weight and it seems unlikely that he has developed physically since his senior college season but dropped 20 pounds.

Regardless, it is clear that Chick is capable of adding 20 or more pounds to his frame while maintaining his speed.  Which is something he will likely be asked to do in order to play defensive end against NFL caliber offensive linemen.  Exiting his collegiate career NFL Draft Scout noted that Chick, “Has a developing frame with good upper body muscle definition, adding more than 20 pounds of strong bulk to his frame during 2005 while actually improving his speed from 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash to 4.59.”

NFL Draft Scout also referred to Chick as a “Lunch pail type who plays with excellent aggression and instincts.”  He is “quick to locate the ball and has above average acceleration to close.   Stays on his feet working through trash and has the power in his punch to push the offensive linemen back into the pocket.  Has a sudden burst coming off the edge, effectively using rip and club moves to slip past the offensive tackle.  Will widen with a blocker and has the speed to reach the corners to make the play on the ballcarrier.”

To this point, Chick has allowed his production to speak for itself, developing into a force in the CFL, producing 11 sacks in 2009 alone.  His advanced age and experience could give him a leg up in his competition for a roster spot.  One thing can be said for sure though, at 28 years old Chick cannot afford to let this opportunity pass him.  Entering the NFL much older will be extremely difficult.

Although Keyunta Dawson has been with the team for some time and made a move outside to defensive end from defensive tackle in 2009, he was not overly effective in either phase of his game (against the run or pass).  This could make developing player Baldwin the biggest competition for Chick entering training camp.

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, 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 Brock and Dawson.

At 6-foot 2-inches tall and 270 pounds, Baldwin is a bit lighter than defensive tackle prospect 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 Dawson, one of the defensive ends the Colts relied upon 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.  Players like Baldwin and Chick may require a bit more development and have not proven themselves yet but they may be competing with one another to replace Dawson and help make up for the loss of Brock.

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