Good morning, Colts fans. Today, we'll take a quick look at three of the Colts recent free agent signees as they talk about what brought them to Indianapolis and what to expect from each of them. As usual, all quotes are courtesy of the Indianapolis Colts Public Relations Department.
(Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)
LB Erik Walden
Erik Walden is a natural 3-4 outside linebacker (OLB). He is known more for solid tackling and good pursuit than pass rushing, and he can drop into coverage and keep up with tight ends. If Walden holds on to a starting job, that will allow Robert Mathis to move over to the right OLB, or “rush” linebacker position. There, he won’t be asked to spend as much time in pass coverage, where he struggled last year, despite snagging his first career interception.
Walden will play primarily as the left OLB, or strong side linebacker. When Mathis played on that side, the strong safety or an inside linebacker often had to cover the opposing tight end or running back on pass plays because Mathis had very little coverage experience. With Walden on the strong side, Pagano will have another coverage option, occasionally freeing up the safety to provide help over the top and cover deep (or blitz, for that matter). This will also free Robert Mathis up to take his relentless pass rush to the quarterback’s blind side.
Walden was a part time starter in Green Bay who wanted to be a full time starter. He has the opportunity now, but he could have had had that same chance on a few different teams. So, why Indianapolis? “It just felt like the best opportunity for me and my family,” Walden said. “Just being able to leave one great organization and come to another with a franchise quarterback and a first class organization, it’s kind of a no brainer for me.”
Finally, Walden, like the others, was asked what kind of player the Colts are getting. His answer: “You’re getting an aggressive, high-motor guy that’s passionate and holds himself to a high standard. He’s going to make sure he’s prepared every week and be the best player he can be but also be productive and disruptive. Just week-in and week-out making plays, impact plays. Not just solid plays but impact plays, game-changing plays.”
While he may not be the marquee player many fans were hoping for, Walden sounds like an intelligent young man with an insatiable drive to improve. He also fills a need that opens up more options for the defense.
(Note: While I'm personally not sold on the Walden signing, I am both hopeful and impressed by his attitude)
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY SPORTS)
DT Ricky Jean Francois
With four teams vying for his services, after he proved he could play as a starter while filling in for Justin Smith in San Francisco, Ricky Jean Francois cancelled the remainder of his free agent tour after talking with the Colts’ staff. Like the other players who signed free agent contracts with Indy this week, Francois had a great deal of good things to say about the team and organization. He described the Colts as “on the rise,” and referred to Andrew Luck as a great quarterback.
Francois will be reunited with his former defensive coordinator as well as his former LSU teammate, Drake Nevis. “I talked to Greg Manusky, a guy that coached me when I first got into the league,” Francois said. “He gave me my first shot. Me and him were laughing a majority of the time. Drake Nevis, it was good to see him once again and to be playing beside him again.”
As far as what position he will play, it didn’t sound as though it mattered to him because he can play all three positions up front. When asked what kind of a player the Colts are getting, Francois said, “They’re getting a versatile player, a big dude that can do just about anything you want him to do besides punt and kick field goals. (You can’t do that?) No, I can’t do no kicking. You won’t get a kick out of me. If you want to win, please do not let me kick.”
There you have it. Don’t let the man kick.
(Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
CB Greg Toler
Greg Toler, as you know, has struggled with injuries the past two years. Thus, part of his interview session focused on his injury issues, specifically what caused him to sit out five games last season after missing all of 2011. “It was a hamstring issue,” he began. “I think it was complications from the knee injury, me missing a whole year, my body was just tight, tighter than usual. Just trying to get out there and I just happened to pull my (hamstring) and they kept me off of it. I wanted to be out there and I wanted to be out there with the guys giving it my all. But sometimes you’ve just got to listen to your body. But my knee is feeling great, my hamstring is feeling great right now. I just have to be proactive and stay on top of it.”
The next question was whether he expected to be a starter. Toler didn’t hesitate. “Most definitely. You know prayers go up and blessings come down so this is a new opportunity for me and a new beginning,” he said. “So I just want to come here and just impose my will and fight and just work hard at it and keep my nose to the grind. Like I said, just get this team further in the playoffs and help the guys out anyway I can wherever we need help at.”
Toler will be replacing a great teammate and locker room leader in Jerraud Powers. He clearly has a great deal of confidence and work ethic. But what kind of player is Toler? ““I’m a leader,” he answered. “I don’t do too much talking. I play hard-nosed football. I stick my nose in the fan if it’s a run. I’m going to cover up the pass. I’m not going to let them pick on me too much.”
Time will tell whether Toler will be able to stay healthy, but given the Colts’ defensive back situation from a year ago, it’s safe to say he will be in the mix for a starting spot, which he had earned in Arizona before his injury. While Francois’s new beginning is a chance to become a starter at last, Toler’s is more of a reclamation project.
- Some interesting notes on Indy’s newest cornerback; according to The Indianapolis Star’s Mike Chappell, Toler, and the newly re-signed Darius Butler were ranked 5th and 2nd respectively last season in Pro Football Focus’s opposing quarterback ratings. In essence, opposing quarterbacks had very poor ratings against the two players. Here is a link to Chappell’s article.
- The Colts have carefully avoided targeting the top, most-talked about name at any position in free agency, opting instead for lower cost players with potential but lacking the price-driving hype that often gets teams into trouble.
- In the next notebook, we will get to know OT Gosder Cherilus, OG Donald Thomas, and LB Lawrence Sidbury.
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I just went on to stampede blue for the first time since summer and it crushed my spirits lol.. That place has 0 optimism. Everything has a negative connotation to it. Here all the questionable signings are met with optimism.. Over there, the sky is falling.
@ABlueColt I deleted from my phone and said I would never go back as Brad Wells is the worst Colts fan (yes, even more than Kravitz) out there. Even his 'upbeat' columns will bash someone. I downloaded today as I was hoping to get info on the Irsay tweets, and sure enough I tried reading the 1st Brad Wells column I came to and didn't even finish. Deleted app again.
@cwjwl I've tried reaching out to Wells a time or two and was ignored. That's a very high traffic site over there. Do you use our app, or do you go through your phone's browser?
@cwjwl I asked bc I've had trouble with the app too. I usually use the pc or the browser on my phone.
@ABlueColt I noticed they were a little bit doom and gloom over there. I agree that Indy spent som serious cash on 26-27 year old backups. Of those, I think Thomas could end up being a steal. We try not to put too much opinion in these notebook articles because we get the transcripts from the team. But our writers are doing some balanced (highlighting the positive and negative) pieces on each of the major free agent signings. So far, I'm excited about Landry, Cherilus, and maybe Toler.
I no longer read Brad Wells for the same reason I no longer read Wormtongue Kravitz. Regardless of what either is writing about, their is ALWAYS an agenda behind it. Somewhere along the line, they both decided they were not talented enough writers to attract an audience based on their honest assessments, instead they felt like they had to con their readership.
Since I have not read Wells in over a year, maybe what he is writing now actually has some credence. Still even if I did read him, it would carry no weight with me because I know he has no integrity whatsoever. Wormtongue Kravitz on the other hand, is just an ass.
@MarcusDugan @ABlueColt More I see Cherilus, more I like the signing. Plus I'm a huge Landry fan. His two yrs of injury issue was for same prob that later was fixed with surgery so I don't see (what do I know!) a prob going forward. Also like Toler. More I delved into Walden, I'm not as WTF as I was, but still WTH!
@cwjwl @ABlueColt I'm a little concerned that Mathis could by the only legit pass rusher this season. I wonder if Jerry Hughes will get to compete with Walden, although I think he usually plays on the other side. I agree. Landry might still be in Washingtom if he'd gotten the surgery to repair his Achilles he first time it became a problem.
Jennings to the Vikings, 5 yrs/$47.5 mil. IMHO too much for a 30 in September WR with health issues the last 2 years.
Glad Grigson and staff worked the long hours to find quality under the radar picks that will fill real team needs and fit offensive and defensive schemes, allowing the Colts to go BPA in the draft, instead of going for the big name/big money sexy FA picks.
Doomerville has agreed to stay with the Broncos... which means that Freeney could sign with the Pats.
I just can not imagine #93 wearing a helmet with the Flying Elvis. Friggin' Giants, please step up to the plate.
@DougEngland It just feels wrong for Freeney to sign with the Patriots. I felt the same way when it was released that Wayne was being courted by them. I am pushing for the Broncos to make a move.
Calm down, weird stuff going on in Denver--looks like Doom agreed to lower his price from $12M to $8M, but the paperwork was delayed and Den had to cut him before 4 pm (or they'd be on the hook for all $12M). Will he re-sign? I am not sure anybody is willing to pay a pass-rusher $8M this year, so maybe he will, maybe not. I really want #93 to have a fantastic finish to his career, racking up many sacks in a 4-3 D in the NFC. In Foxboro, not so much.
Zibs released today. Figured he'd be OK as backup, but Lefedge outplayed him last year at cheaper salary so I guess he was expendable.
@cwjwl Looks like grigson is putting out parts of the dumpster fire that was last year's free agent haul.
@cwjwl I wonder if there's more to it. He could've asked to be let go so he could try to get another starting job. I think he'd be a fine 2nd stringer, but I doubt he starts anywhere.
Listened to the radio show last night. Colts could go interior OL, CB, NT or OLB in 1st round and find solid justifiable BPA picks. Need wise the Colts could use another guard or interior OL player to deal with the greatest threat to the Colts' winning the division, Houston's J.J. Watt.
Most draft analysts are saying there is a limited selection of worthy 1st round WRs. With Luck's better than Marino pocket mobility , I think the Colts can develop 3rd and later round receivers. After all Marino made pro bowlers out of Duper and Clayton and they were respectively 51st and 223rd draft picks. With Luck's mobility and better pass protection, receivers are going to get open.
Last, Donnie Avery was not worth 3.6 million a year when odds were by late 2013 he would be playing behind Hilton and Brazil. Still, Good Luck Donnie in KC. I hope you earn your paycheck.
Yeah, but back when the draft had lke 17 rounds, a 51st pick was in the top fifth of all selections, and 221st was comparable to a late third-rounder these days. ;-)
Indeed, Colts still need an interior OL. There are a lot of good, first round worthy pick, unclear if they will drop far down enough, though. Not sure if they will go CB early in the draft. They seem to be investing in Butler and Tolen.
walden is still weak as a pass rusher but hopefully colts can get some inside pressure and hopefully the d line stays healthy. I still wish the colts would add another guard either through the draft or free agency but preferably the latter. I still want a corner in the 1st round unless a good olb pass rusher somehow falls. You can't have too many quality corners in this passing lg especially with the way injury situations have played out.
Not getting enough mention but the colts have like no wide receivers. Wayne Hilton and Brazill thats it? Hopefully colts can get some solid ones in the late rounds or via free agency.
@mr_yannex the colts have six wide receivers on the roster, Wayne, Hilton, brazil, Kelley, Palmer, Whalen
@mr_yannex I'm not crazy about the Walden signing either. I decided to be positive about it, but I couldn't come up with much beyond the fact that he'll put Mathis in a better position. A whole slew of OLB's could do the same. I'm hoping for a CB and WR in rounds 1 & 3. They need another good receiver somewhere. I am glad they let Avery leave though. They need more reliable receivers, and Avery's hands were a problem.
@MarcusDugan i agree. there werent many great options here and walden is at least good at setting edge and stopping the run which is something both freeney and mathis have been unable to do so thats a positive. kruger definitely not worth big money and avril is also poor vs run. Hopefully they can find a gem in the draft tho.
And i agree avery definitely needed to go. He made some big plays but also left a bunch of plays on the field with his drops. Darrius Heyward Bey is an option while not the greatest wide receiver he would make sense an a 3rd/4th option behind Wayne and Hilton.I dont think any good wide receivers fall to the colts in 1st round. They could also trade the 1st round pick and get more picks to address other positions.
@mr_yannex I wouldn't mind seeing them trade down either. They should get a couple compensatory picks too. I can't remember when they figure all that out.
Finally something positive about Walden... that he can drop into coverage and keep up with tight ends.
@DougEngland Yeah, he's no ball hawk, but at least he has some natural coverage skills. In all honesty, I am annoyed they didn't get a more dynamic player, a difference maker here. But I'm glad they didn't pay a kings ransom for Kruger either. For all we know now, he could end up competing with Jerry Hughes in camp.
Nice. Looking forward to the next notebook. To be fair, some mention should be made of Walden's off field trouble. How has he put that behind him, etc.
@smonroe True. I haven't seen much info about what transpired afterward. In 2011, the Packers were supposedly going to replace him in 2012, but they ended up keeping him. I am careful sometimes about what I delve I to I. The notebooks because we get the quotes from the Colts, but I probably should've addressed that a little. We might have someone doing an in-depth article on just him, along the lines of what Ben and Josh have done on Toler and Cherilus.
@MarcusDugan @smonroe I worry a lot about his past. As long as I can remember the Colts have been a stand-up franchise with little to no shenanigans off-field. Although one does come to mind: Nick Harper stabbed by his wife prior to the 2005 Colts-Steelers divisional game...and we all remember what happened.
@MarcusDugan @cwjwl @jelewin @smonroe OOOh, I remember Ed J. Teammates loved him and he was very good in his limited time. I recall thinking, okay, now we're set at DT and the next day, more or less, he's on the unemployment line.
@cwjwl @jelewin @smonroe Good point. It might've been more of a Polian thing, though they were into second chances too. The gave Ed Johnson two shots at redemption. He had been guilty of something along the lines of "sexual misconduct with confinement" in college, sick sounding sh*t. Then, there was a drug charge with the Colts, and he was cut. They brought him back one more time, he started a game, and they cut him again, this time for being too fat... Apparently, he wasn't trying hard enough to get to a healthy weight.
The arrest I heard about, the urination... man, that's just icing on the gravy, so to speak.
I think Dom also had an issue with the mother of his kids--only reason I recall this (even vaguely) was her name: Latrina Moore. Clearly not from an Army family (I hope!). Domestic abuse? Might have been one of those 911 calls where the caller says "mistake" when the cops arrive but they have to arrest somebody. I forget all the details, but remember thinking "this guy's gone" and he wasn't.
@jelewin @smonroe Argh. Nick Harpee's wife. She is right up there with Hank Baskett and Mike Vanderjagt. I do recall Dom Rhoades and Ed Johnson each getting into some trouble. There was one other, a linebacker, maybe. But unless Walden is either innocent or a changed man, he doesn't really fit Itsay's philosophy.
Good stuff, Marcus. I hope these guys can come in and be what they want to be. I look forward to the next "Notebook." Did you get anything from Landry?