Colts Linebacker Sims Returning to Familiar System

Ernie Sims sacks Lions quarterback Shaun Hill in 2010. (Rick Osentosk - AP Photo)

When it was announced that Ernie Sims signed with the Indianapolis Colts yesterday, the initial story-line was that while Sims entered the league with a great deal of hype out of Florida State — and even managed to have three productive seasons — his performance dropped off significantly over the last two years. The questions for a lot of fans is, will Ernie Sims return to the form he displayed early in his career or will he continue to struggle?

Fans in Philadelphia seems to have the opinion that a rebirth of Sims’ early NFL career is unlikely. Eagles fans think Sims often over-pursues, is over-aggressive, and makes mistakes as a result of these characteristics as often, or more often, than he will lay a bone-rattling hit on his opponents. But, there certainly is something about Sims that caught the eye of the Colts front office, and whatever that is wasn’t the things Eagles fans say about him.

Head Coach Jim Caldwell likes the Sims and Harris signings specifically because they have experience in the Cover-2 defensive scheme. This experience should certainly help make the transition for both players rather smooth. With an abbreviated summer, a steep learning curve is a huge value booster.

Sean Yuille, managing at Pride of Detroit, offers a different perspective on Sims, suggesting that the Colts may have just stolen a great player for their system.

Ernie Sims put up big numbers in the Tampa-2 defense when Rod Marinelli was the head coach for the Lions. He was drafted by that regime and was a solid player in a generally bad defense. When Jim Schwartz took over as the head coach, however, Sims just didn’t seem to fit all that well with the new scheme. As a result, the Lions opted to trade him to the Eagles last offseason. The three-way deal sent him to Philadelphia (and Tony Scheffler from Denver to Detroit), where his numbers once again dropped. With Indianapolis, Sims will play in a defense similar to the one Detroit ran under Marinelli, and I would expect him to have much more success than he did the past two seasons.

There is no denying that Philadelphia’s defense and the Jim Schwartz-led defense in Detroit were significant departures from the Cover-2 defense employed in Indianapolis and in Detroit under Rod Marinelli. As a result, it is logical to suspect that Sims will see at least marginally improved production when he returns to the system where he thrived earlier in his career. If his production approaches 100 tackles in 2011, this signing will drastically improve the defense and will give the Colts the best linebacking corps I have seen since the combination of Marcus Washington and David Thornton.

A rotation of Kavell Conner, Gary Brackett, Pat Angerer, Ernie Sims, and Philip Wheeler is a strong unit with significant depth. It should be fun to see how Sims comes along during the preseason.

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