Colts Rookie 2016 Season in Review: Defense
The Indianapolis Colts entered the 2016 NFL Draft needing pass rushers and youth all over the defense. They failed to really address the pass rush, but they did get some quality players in all levels of the defense.
Round 2, Pick 57
T.J. Green | Safety | Clemson
Though the Colts' earliest pick on defense in the draft, Green was supposed to be a project who didn't garner a significant role until later down the road. Due to injuries, that all changed. Starting safety Clayton Geathers entered training camp on the injured list with a foot issue, so Green filled in and he actually caught on quicker than many thought he would. Green dealt with his own minor injuries intermittently but wound up starting four games throughout the season and appearing in 15 of the 16 games. On the season, he had 43 tackles and 2 passes defended, seeing time on special teams, starting at safety whenever Geathers or Mike Adams were out with injury and even being put into packages with Geathers and Adams already on the field.
Green showed plenty to indicate that he can be an impactful player but arguably his most evident trait is that he plays with reckless abandon, as he was flagged seven times, five of which were accepted penalties by the opponents. He had two unnecessary roughness penalties (30 yards), two running into the kicker penalties (10 yards), one defensive pass interference penalty (27 yards), and his two declined penalties were a defensive holding and another running into the kicker. If Green can be coached up to show some more discipline, he could become a pretty dependable asset to the Colts defense and someone the coaching staff can feel good about starting in 2017.
Round 4, Pick 116
Hassan Ridgeway | Defensive Lineman | Texas
You could make an argument that Ridgeway was the Colts' best defensive rookie and you might not catch much opposition for it. Ridgeway started five of the 16 games, totaling 21 tackles (2.0 for loss), 1.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup and 1 blocked kick. Though much of the reason he started was due to injuries to Henry Anderson, Art Jones and Kendall Langford, Ridgeway's play was what made the decision to give him the playing time so easy for the coaches.
The Colts' run defense wasn't all that great (25th overall, 120.4 YPG), but Ridgeway was consistently able to shed his blocks and push his way to the ball carrier, affecting their path if not ending the play altogether. But run defense wasn't the only area of the defense that Ridgeway was able to make his impact felt, as his 1.5 sacks went along with 5 QB hits and 7 QB hurries.
Round 4, Pick 125
Antonio Morrison | Inside Linebacker | Florida
Morrison was one of the Colts' most interesting rookies coming into the season, and he remains so now as we look forward to next season. For starters, his biggest 'plus' was in run support, as he attacked ball carriers and made them feel it in the process. He missed some tackles but he looked good overall. He was a disaster in pass coverage at times, however, primarily early in the season. Whether the Colts adjusted his responsibilities as the season went on to not feature as much man coverage or he just got better in his recognition, Morrison didn't have the blatant blown coverages later in the season like he did earlier.
Overall, Morrison started four of the16 games and had 52 tackles (3.0 for loss). If the Colts elect to part ways with starting inside linebacker D'Qwell Jackson this offseason and don't find a no-doubt replacement, Morrison may wind up as a full-time starter in 2017.
Round 7, Pick 239
Trevor Bates | Edge Defender | Maine
There was some real optimism surrounding Bates when he was drafted, up through training camp and the preseason. He had shown a nice ability to put heat on the quarterback but once the 53-man roster was announced and Bates wasn't on it, he fell into no man's land. He made the practice squad and was called up for one game, but then the Colts waived him and he was not brought back. In the one appearance, he played only on special teams, recording no defensive snaps. Considering the Colts had a huge need at outside linebacker and elected not to draft one until the seventh round, the fact that Bates did not pan out in Indianapolis is very disappointing.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
Matthias Farley | Safety | Notre Dame – Farley played very well for the Arizona Cardinals in the preseason before the Colts scooped him up, and he played an important part on the Colts' special teams all season. He appeared in all 16 games, playing just 69 snaps on defense, and totaled 11 tackles.
Curt Maggitt | Edge Defender | Tennessee – Maggitt, like Bates, was another hopeful at outside linebacker, but Maggitt actually stuck to the roster. He was fairly unproductive on both defense and special teams, though, totaling 7 tackles. He displayed a ferociousness off the line and while engaged with blockers during the preseason that just wasn't seen from him during the season. Maggitt's season was cut short by a knee injury after nine games.
Christopher Milton | Cornerback | Georgia Tech – Milton was escalated to the active roster from the practice squad in Week 11, and due to injuries, he stuck to it. He made one start out of his six games and totaled 9 tackles and 2 pass breakups. He was dependable in coverage in limited opportunities.
Jake Arthur is the AFC South Division Manager, Indianapolis Colts Team Manager, Assistant Director of NFL Content and a Featured Analyst for Pro Football Spot. He is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @JakeArthurPFS on Twitter as well as on h, Google+ and FanCred.
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