Summer Showdown: Mitch King v. Ricardo Mathews

When Jim Caldwell took over as head coach for the Indianapolis Colts he quickly snagged Larry Coyer to take over for Ron Meeks as defensive coordinator.  Coyer wasted no time starting an overhaul of the Colts defensive personnel and making tweaks to the team’s defensive philosophy.

Former fifth round draft pick Marcus Howard and undrafted free agent Curtis Johnson were quickly dismissed from the team, replaced by Keyunta Dawson and Eric Foster, who would both move out from defensive tackle, where they played in previous seasons, to defensive end on rushing downs.

Raheem Brock, who started at defensive tackle in 2006, was rarely used inside as Eric Foster moved inside on passing downs and took a significant number of snaps as a penetrating, pass-rush specialist.

When the 2009 season ended Brock was granted his release and the Colts signed former Iowa standout Mitch King.  Then, in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the Colts elected to pick up Ricardo Mathews to compete for Brock’s vacated hybrid position.

Listed at 6-foot 2-inches tall and 280 pounds, Mitch King is a bit shorter and heavier than Brock but their play styles are rather similar.

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At Iowa, King made his living by getting penetration along the line and making tackles behind the line of scrimmage.  He has the speed and tenacity to play on the outside along with the strength and desire to play inside and generate push.  In his junior and senior seasons he contributed 112 tackles, 3o tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, 7 passes deflected, and forced a fumble.

Beyond that, King is the kind of leader in the locker room that the Colts covet.  King was one of only four players on his team that served on the Iowa’s Leadership Council since his sophomore season.  Anyone who spoke with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz or scouted him coming into the 2009 NFL Draft would find that he was one of the team’s unquestioned field generals on game day and led the charge for Iowa’s aggressive defensive style.

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King’s leadership, coupled with his physical strength and speed (King posted a 4.83 40-yard dash time while Brock was timed at 4.93), make it is easy to see that he fits the Colts mold of hybrid defensive tackles.  Add to this that he played at Iowa, where Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders, and recently drafted Pat Angerer also played, and he pops out as a legitimate contender to make the 2010 roster.

Ricardo Mathews is vastly different from King in terms of his college production and experience.  Mathews started only as a Senior at Cincinnati tallying 44 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks.

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Physically, however, Mathews is impressive as he ran a 4.90 seconds 40-yard dash at 6-foot 3-inches tall and 294 pounds.  At Cincinnati he was used utilized almost entirely for his ability to penetrate, his length to disrupt passing and rushing lanes, and his speed to put pressure on the quarterback.  Colts President Bill Polian suggested that the Colts had a plan to use Mathews in a special role defensively but do not read too much into that statement.

A year ago the Colts drafted Terrance Taylor out of Michigan and he failed to make the final roster.  This year Mathews could find himself in the same situation, or playing for a practice squad spot, if he fails to show that he can outperform Mitch King.

It is worth noting that although King was not drafted by the Colts, the team did attempt to pick him up as an undrafted free agent following the 2009 Draft.  The front office has clearly had their eyes on King since he left Iowa and fans nor Mathews should downplay the significance of his addition to the roster for summer competition.

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