Quick Look at Colts Additions: Day 1 (Defense)

In part one of the series, we looked at the offensive free agents brought in for the Colts 2011 training camp.  In this second part, we take a look at the defensive free agents acquired on Tuesday.

DT Ollie Ogbu (Penn State-2011):  Ogbu is undersized, but for the Colts that is not a problem, even for their 1-tech DTs. His lack of size does result in him getting swallowed up by massive linemen from time-to-time, but this is not a normal occurence. He is a high character player who has made his bones in the sport off his technique and mental acuity rather than his freak physical gifts.

Ogbu has experience at both 1-tech and 3-tech, but is known for being adept at taking on double teams and preventing running lanes from forming. He has a fairly good reaction off the snap, and is noted for keeping an eye in the backfield, adjusting himself to prevent RBs from hitting running lanes in his direction, forcing them outside. Ogbu also was rather undervalued at Penn State where the defensive tackles were asked to carry most of the load for defensive ends who couldn’t penetrate, and linebackers who were considered by fans of the team to be one of the worst groups in the history of the school.

Throw in being undersized and a lack of an invite to the Scouting Combine, and Ogbu dropped out of a middle round pick in this past April’s draft. Training camp will make or break a number of rookies for the Colts, but Ogbu has one of the best initial projections of the rookie class the Colts have brought in this year.

DE David Bedford (South Florida-2011):  No Information Available

LB Kerry Neal (Notre Dame-2011):  Neal is dynamic. He’s served as a 3-4 OLB, a 4-3 DE, and finally a 4-3 OLB during his career at Notre Dame. The only problem is that this has gone on long enough that Neal has not seriously developed the refined skills one would expect from a linebacker with his experience. This is shown by his rusty coverage skills, and his mix-matched pass rushing skills.

The best comparison that Notre Dame fans can come up with is a less talented and less polished Phillip Wheeler. Wheeler was also a DE/OLB tweener, and like Wheeler, Neal’s ‘specialty’ is pass rushing. Unlike Wheeler, Neal never really dazzled as a pass rusher. If Neal manages to stick with the Colts when the season begins he would not be the first to do so without a great deal of hype coming into training camp. If he shows excellent special teams coverage abilities, he could push for one of the final roster spots.

LB Adrian Moten (Maryland-2011):  With Clint Session now signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, there is an opening at weak-side linebacker(WILL), especially for a prospect with serious coverage skills. Moten is just that. He is about 10 lbs. lighter than a traditional linebacker, and he will likely be asked to beef up to around 235 lbs. His lack of size limits his ability as a pass rusher against offensive linemen, and even NFL tight ends. He will have to break his natural habit of dancing around blocks and learn to use any added bulk to enforce his will. That Moten also lacks top end closing speed leaves him vulnerable if he allows too much separation in passing situations.

The good thing about Moten is that the way he was used in college is very similar to the way the Colts would use him. He was used in nickel situations, and was routinely asked to cover slot receiver. His two strongest characteristics are his coverage skills and his tackling ability. What current WILL starter Kavell Conner lacked last season was an ability to play in nickel situations due to an inability to cover in passing situations (which is why Tyjuan Hagler was brought back and saw so much time on the field despite not actually starting), and a very poor technique for tackling. While Conner received rave reviews for his highlight reel tackles, he was one of the worst tacklers last year for the Colts with double-digit broken tackles due to poor form. With Hagler also gone, it is conceivable that if Angerer is not promoted to nickel linebacker, Moten could see serious time as the Colts second linebacker in those formations.

LB Chris Colasanti (Penn State-2011):  Colasanti is camp fodder. The Colts are not suckers at evaluating players, but Colasanti was one of the most unremarkable pieces in a linebacking corps that was considered one of the worst, if not THE worst group in Penn State history. While Colasanti is by no means the sole cause of the woes at Penn State, the general mindset was that if Colasanti was even mildly good, he would have separated himself from the rest of the group simply because everyone else was exceptionally poor. That was not the case, so Colasanti was not even given any consideration in any scouting site. Some even went so far as to say that they did not expect him to be invited to training camp.

SS Joe Lefeged (Rutgers-2011):  For everyone that was sad about letting Bob Sanders go, all hope is not lost. The Colts have found a high intelligence run stopping strong safety(SS) with a knack for highlight reel plays against the run and a nose for the backfield when playing up by the line of scrimmage. Now, in terms of pass coverage, Lefeged is essentially the anti-Bethea. He is more or less a liability in pass coverage right now as he has poor pursuit angles, very limited experience, and is considered a very poor candidate playing in space. He is also a guy whose propensity for highlight reel plays is proportional to his likelihood for whiffing badly on other plays. He shows poor tackling technique, which means he doesn’t wrap up properly when merely landing a glancing blow on an offensive player, not guaranteeing he goes down. However, he is the kind of guy that will blow up WRs and RBs when he does land a hit correctly.

Lefeged will have the benefit of learning from Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea, who are both known for their pass coverage skills. He should offer that 3rd safety option that many Colts fans want with the loss of Sanders. While this year may be too soon to expect Lefeged to step up as a starter, he may be asked to if Bullitt gets re-injured. If that happens and Lefeged still is not comfortable defending in space, the Colts could switch their Tampa-2 from an east/west divide for the safeties to a North/South divide with Lefeged playing in the box and Bethea defending over the top. Against run-heavy teams, Lefeged could be brought in to help neutralize plays in the backfield with his exceptional talent for reading play fakes and handoffs.

One thing that makes Lefeged a strong candidate for improvement is that despite his limited experience and skill in passing situations, he does show intrinsic understanding and awareness of passing plays, he just lacks the closing and finer coverage skills to be effective at this point. He does react very well to passing situations initially, and drops back well without often biting on play-action. If he improves his closing technique and he could become a poor man’s Bob Sanders.

K/P Travis Baltz (Maryland-2011):  Baltz is more than likely camp fodder, much like Brett Swenson was last year before he got put on IR. While being a true punter at Maryland, Baltz showed the ability to handle kickoffs and place kicking as well. Problem is that he was never particularly great at any of these jobs.  He has never averaged over 42 yards per punt in his college career, and is only capable of 40 yard field goals with any semblance of accuracy or power. He does have a good size and is able to keep his kicks airborne for a lengthy time, but so can pat McAfee when he wants to only kick 40 yards deep. As of now, Baltz stands essentially no chance of making the roster or practice squad. If he proves himself, the most he can hope for is the Colts holding onto his number in case of an emergency.

KR David Gilreath (Wisconsin-2011):  Gilreath, like Larrone Moore and (Brandon James before them) is essentially a return specialist. While he was a WR at Wisconsin, he only had 67 receptions over his career with a little over a thousand yards. There are two explanations for that occurrence though. The first is that behind Lance Kendricks, and 3-1,000 yard rushers at Wisconsin, and given their run heavy offense, it is exceptionally difficult to get many targets. The other train of thought is that if Gilreath truly good, he would have stood out enough to warrant being targeted more — even in a run heavy offense. Either way, Gilreath’s primary talent is that he has some home run speed behind him. Unless he is a rare special talent as a returner, he stands very little chance beating dual threat skill players like Blair White, Joe Horn, and Devin Moore for a spot on the roster.

KR Larrone Moore (Delaware State-2011):  Moore, like Gilreath, is a return ONLY type guy in the mold of Brandon James from last year. While he was utilized as a wide receiver at Delaware State, his hands and route-running leave a lot to be desired as an NFL Wide Receiver. It will come down mostly to his ability to overcome the very poor blocking that is typical of Colts kickoff returns.

Moore even has the resume of a quality return man with a low 4.4 forty time and a Short Shuttle time of 4.18 (spectacular). What may hold him back is his catching technique. As Brandon James demonstrated last year, it doesn’t matter how slippery you are with the ball in your hands, if you can’t catch a kick off, you aren’t going to work out. Moore catches the ball with his body too much, which leads to the ball bouncing off his chest or falling through his arms, both of which can be devastating for a return specialist. Even if Moore shows great potential, his use as a WR will be limited, which hurts his stock quite a bit. At best, look for Larrone to be a practice squad addition, like Brandon James before him.