Yesterday we took a look at the Indianapolis Colts' offense after three games. Today we'll evaluate the progress of the defense and special teams units.
Defensive line: C The new-look defensive line won't get as much attention as the 3-4 scheme is designed for them to simply occupy linemen while the linebackers make the big plays. That being said, their ability to control the line of scrimmage thus far has been inconsistent.
Opposing runners have averaged 4.3 yards per carry which is probably the most telling statistic to measure a defensive line's effectiveness. The Colts have also yielded four runs of more than 20 yards, tied for second most in the NFL. To be fair, that's not all the fault of the defensive line, but they're the first line of defense against the run.
One major factor that has held them back so far has been the absence of Cory Redding. If Redding can stay healthy, look for more production out of the big fellas at the point of attack.
Linebackers: B This unit has performed better than expected, given the level of transition required by the new defense and injuries forcing new players into action. Robert Mathis has looked good so far in his rush linebacker role. Mathis has four of the Colts' seven sacks so far. Dwight Freeney has been missing with an injury for all but a quarter of 2012. Jerry Hughes has played capably in his absence as the other rush linebacker.
Inside, Jerrell Freeman has been a pleasant surprise filling in for Pat Angerer. Angerer's likely return this week will create an interesting challenge for Greg Manusky as Freeman has arguably been the team's best defensive player so far. Freeman has 27 tackles, a sack, a pick and a forced fumble in three games. Freeman's tackles top the Colts defense and are 15th overall in the NFL. The other inside backer, Kavell Conner, is tied with Antoine Bethea for second on the team with 17 tackles.
Secondary: C- The Colts' pass defense has allowed opposing quarterbacks to accumulate a passer rating of 102.5, seventh worst in the NFL. That's the bad news. Last season, the Colts' secondary was hands down the worst in the league, allowing 70 per cent completion rate against. Them. There's only one pick so far for the Colts' defense and that went to a linebacker, Freeman.
Jerraud Powers has done a very good job on his side. Most teams aren't even throwing his way. Vontae Davis on the other side, however, has been underwhelming to say the least. As for the nickel backs, there's little depth there. Still, opponents are converting only 37.5 per cent on third down, middle of the road in the NFL through three games. Last season, that rate was over 45 per cent.
Special Teams: B Adam Vinatieri hit the game winner against Minnesota and seemingly had another a week later against the Jaguars. He's also missed two chip shots against Chicago and Jacksonville. The Colts have to have Vinatieri be his usual automatic self if they're going to get wins the rest of the season.
Pat McAfee has been consistent with his punting and kick off duties. He's booted touchbacks half the time, but that number could be bigger had Percy Harvin and Devin Hester not taken deep kicks out of the end zone. He's also fourth in gross punt yardage in the league. That the Colts are fifth in net yards tells us that the coverage unit is doing its job as well, something Colts fans haven't seen in awhile. Considering they've had to face two of the game's best return men in the first two weeks and have those kinds of numbers, the Colts have to be happy so far.
The Colts are 11th overall in kickoff return average at 25.7 yards. Punt returns are only moving at 9.1 yards per return, but so far there's only been one fair catch, something the return team has struggled with in the past.
The record stands at 1-2 and ultimately, that's the only stat that matters, but Chuck Pagano and his crew have to be pleased with the progress made thus far.
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