Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
On Tuesday, while people were still debating the merits of signing a high-priced backup for Andrew Luck, the Colts quietly picked up a veteran nose tackle, Aubrayo Franklin (6-1, 317 pounds, turns 33 in August), from the San Diego Chargers. A little over a week ago, U-T San Diego’s Michael Gehlken was reporting that San Diego wanted to re-sign Franklin, calling him a “proven fit in the Chargers defense.”
Franklin, however, nearing the end of his career, opted to play for a winning team and an old coach instead and signed a one-year $890,000 contract with the Colts. “Just the chance to get back with my former defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky,” he said yesterday. “Plus these guys made the playoffs and I feel like they are a contender again.”
San Diego fans and writers alike seem to have a favorable opinion of Franklin, including Bolt Beat’s Ernie Padaon, who adamantly expressed that losing Franklin “sucks.” He then went on to say:
Franklin was a big part of the run defense last season. He clogged up blockers and allowed the middle linebackers, Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler, to make plays in the run game. Franklin was a big part of the defense.
After four years each with the Ravens and 49ers, the Colts will be Franklin’s third team in as many seasons. His year in New Orleans only proved he isn’t a good fit in a 4-3. Franklin is a true 3-4 nose tackle who has built his career on stopping the run and holding off double teams in the middle to keep the linebackers free to make plays. Like many at his position, Franklin’s stats have not been particularly flashy, as his main job is to be huge, be strong, and draw double teams.
Franklin made a respectable 20 tackles in twelve games with the Chargers last year but finished 2012 on IR because of a knee injury. Throughout his career, however – including his injury-shortened 2012 season, he has been a picture of durability. After being used sparingly in his first two years with the Ravens, Aubrayo Franklin has played 119 of 128 possible regular season games over the next eight years, or about 93% of the games in that span.
Franklin’s best years in the NFL came under Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky in San Francisco. There, he started 59 of 62 games, compiled 115 tackles, 3 sacks, and an interception. It is no wonder the 10-year vet is so eager to play for his old coordinator again. “Yeah I mean we were real close in San Fran,” Franklin said of Manusky. “We came in at the same time. It was his first defensive coordinator job and it was my first year up there so we grew together.”
Three things we can deduce from this signing. First, this signing falls right in line with the Colts defensive free agent strategy: stop the run. Though the NFL is a passing league, for many years, the key to beating the Colts was simply to run, and run and run. It’s difficult to defeat any team when your own offense can’t get onto the field, and last year, they gave up just over 5 yards per carry.
Chuck Pagano does not want other teams to be able to dictate the game by running the ball. His philosophy, like that of his former team, is to be strong against the running game, force the opponent to be one-dimensional, then unleash a wild array of blitzes, coverages, and pass rushes on them.
Second, Ryan Grigson is not afraid to pull the trigger on a player coming off an injury. Recent signees Greg Toler, Gosder Cherilus, and LaRon Landry each have a recent injury history. At nearly 33 and coming off a knee problem, however minor, Franklin’s impressive durability will be put to the test this year. If he passes, he can provide considerable value to the Colts this season. Should second year man Josh Chapman also be healthy this season, nose tackle could become apposition of strength in 2013 (and beyond, if Chapman works out).
Finally, the Colts are about full at the nose tackle spot, meaning Antonio “Mookie” Johnson, last year’s starter is not likely to be re-signed. Franklin provides some great depth as an early down lineman, and many fans and experts believe Chapman will be the starter if he’s finally healthy and ready to play. The Colts also still have Martin Tevaseu (6-2, 325) and Brandon McKinney (3-2, 345) on the roster, along with Ricky Jean Francois, who can also play NT from time to time.
Tevaseu worked his way into the rotation in 2012, partly because of injuries to other players while McKinney spent his season on IR. If the Colts do happen to bring in another NT, which would most likely be through the draft or as a UDFA, he would most likely be in competition with McKinney and possibly Tevaseu for a roster spot.
Overall, this is a smaller contract for an aging veteran. If he works out, even if it’s just for this year, Ryan Grigson will come out looking like a genius for this and hopefully a few other free agent signings.
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@mclloyd10 Thanks a lot!
Someone who wrote the idea behind building a stop-the-run defense in a passing league. I was getting so tired of hearing people bash the philosophy as 'old fashioned'. Its much harder to prevent completions than stop a run w/ the rules today, force the pass then bring the blitz. Thank you!
Nothing quite like 10lb of potatos squeezed into a 5lb bag. Haven't seen pants so tight on a man since these childhood legends. https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRxT5stjbuWvTbp4Xt2UTWmkto-UyPg73bPDUd8_OBC8hHqD08s2w
Somebody needs to tell Baby Huey here that Alex Smith wants his shoulder pads back.
For you culturally deprived youngsters, here is the Baby Huey reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_Huey
@Coltsfanwilson seems like a great deal while Chapman and MTV mature. Actually have a big solid defence (on paper) now.
@DougEngland And when did CA start referring to him as "second year man" instead of "football messiah", et al.?
@Westhoff Yes, it does work against a large part of the NFL. The Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, and New York Jets of the league won't stand a chance. There is nothing wrong with a defense that stops the run. There is, however, something wrong with a defense that stops the run at the expense of the pass defense. This is what I and other Colts fans fear. When you are depending on unproven guys in the secondary to keep receivers pinned down while your only true pass rusher is fighting a double team, elite and even good quarterbacks will burn you.
"Oh, you did a great job stopping Stevan Ridley there. I have to hand it to you. Now watch this." - Tom Brady
It's true that it is harder to prevent completions in today's "don't touch him, that's pass interference" league. However, the team that defends the pass best (especially in the playoffs) and passes the ball best will win most of the time.
@thellamajockey Can someone PLEASE help me with this shoulder pad fad? I first noticed it last year in college ball--turned on a game and said, damn! That DT must be huge, his pads barely fit him. But I've seen it more and more and Franklin's in that shot look like lacrosse pads (I refer to my sons' lax pads as "the tank top of protection.") So why do guys wear these? To make themselves look like flesh mountains? These things clearly provide a LOT less protection than what Jack Lambert wore in the 70s, but for a DT, do you really need a lot of pro there, or are they just places where an OT can illegally hold without being caught? If Franklin wanted pads that fit him, he could get them, of that I am sure. So why the small ones? Thanks.
@thellamajockey I wanted to caption that pic, but I'm not sure if our license allows me to do my own caption, especially if it was a joke about a fat guy in a little football uniform. Great Baby Huey reference, btw. I couldn't load your other link. I figure this guy's past his prime, but he's lasted this long in the league for a reason. Made a living being huge and strong. Looks like he has at least one of those covered.
No kidding - dude looks like I do when I'm trying to get dressed in the dark and accidentally throw one of
my kid's shirts on. It's happened. Don't judge.
@mclloyd10 Yeah, I like that signing a lot - especially after seeing the contract he got.
@matt_has @DougEngland Well, one makes mistakes writing at 1 AM. Correction: Football Messiah, Bringer of Pain, and all around hefty fella, Josh "Fire Hydrant" Chapman. Seriously, Doug, I'll look through my transcripts, but I believe I remember Pagano or Grigson letting it skip that they see him as a starter. Talking about Francois, one of them said something like, "starting next to Chapman." I could be wrong. I'll read back through it later.
@bradicus18 @Westhoff I see where you're coming from. I agree with their plan. Like Dungy and Polian, Pagano wants to force the pass. Dungy did it by having a high octane offense. Pagano wants to do it by making it the only viable option. The problem is, Dungy had two legit pass rushers, one of the best tandems ever. Pagano only has one so far, the other guy is Walden. The Walden signing, while I do like his attitude, throws a wrench in the whole plan. Hughes was finally effective, but played very little, perhaps in part because he was a penalty waiting to happen (and there was Freeney). But even he doesn't strike any real fear into opposing qb's. I like Pagano's plan, but not with only one true pass rusher. Gonna stay optimistic and see what happens.
Your guess is as good as mine. I could see a guard or center struggling to keep his hands inside the pads only too have them slide off a sweaty mound of man boob.
I really have no idea, But the tiny pads do go with the whole two sizes too small ensemble. It is an awesome look.
Like I am trying to say, Not sure Indy has seen such tight pants on a man since these guys' 72 tour;
@mclloyd10 Yeah, they desperately need another pass rusher. I wouldn't even put Sidbury there yet. Think it's all Mathis at this point.
@Coltsfanwilson now we just need a strong bull rushing pass rusher to compliment the speed of Mathis and Sidbury.
@cwjwl @MarcusDugan @Westhoff You are correct in that they were not the featured pass rushers. Suggs and/or Kruger have supplied that. However, pressure is very important. Even if it does not end with a sack, pressure forces the QB to make decisions under stress. The Colts interior linemen get little to no pressure. And the signings point towards run stuffers but maybe RJF can offer something more. Moala was getting more pressure this past season and Nevis, if he could just freakin' stay healthy, might be in the mix as well.
For the record, the Colts had 5 sacks contributed by interior linemen in 2012. The Ravens had 12 in 2012, 15.5 in 2011, and 8.5 in 2010. I would be interested in the number of pressures and QB hits for each team as well.
@bradicus18 @cwjwl @Westhoff I believe you're right. They went with a 4-2-5 nickel look when they needed extra DB, rather than going to a dreadful 3-3-5. My hope is that using situational guys as second pass rushers will suffice (though I still think Walden is getting too much $$) because of the big fatties in the middle taking the pressure off them, and making it difficult to double team the edge rushers.
@MarcusDugan @bradicus18 @cwjwl @Westhoff I wish that having Redding made me feel better. But maybe you are correct in the notion that Hughes and/or Sidbury can be that other pass rusher. I hope so but forgive me if I lack the faith.
Maybe Walden is our traditional 3-4 OLB that sets the edge and occasionally rushes the passer. And maybe Hughes and Sidbury are the situation-dependent, pass-rushing 4-3 DEs. I think they used a 4-3 in obvious pass-rushing situations last year, right?
@bradicus18 @cwjwl @Westhoff We DO have Redding. I'm hopeful that Hughes and Sidbury can split that second pass rusher role, but in a more situational role, kind of like Mathis did early on his career. Sidbury's measurable a are all about the pass rush. Grigson seems to think he was under utilized. The dude is linebacker fast with interior line strength and good size, though at his age, I don't see him having some breakout year, just being a solid contributor.
@cwjwl @MarcusDugan @Westhoff Suggs and Kruger may have been the featured pass rushers but the Ravens have interior pass rushers that demand blocking attention as well. Arthur Jones, Haloti Ngata, Cory Redding, and Pernell McPhee have all contributed well to the pass rush. Indy cannot say that. If we had a JJ Watt or Geno Atkins, I'm fine with an OLB that better sets the edge.
This is why I was fearful of the Walden signing being about stopping the run. The signing seems to suggest the Colts value such a game plan over the pass rush. Maybe they believe the current interior linemen can provide a better pass rush. Maybe they will draft an OLB or DE in the first round (very possible) that offers as much. Although, given the d-line signings lately, it would confuse me if they did so. If a pass-rushing OLB, what does that say about the value of Sidbury or Walden? I'm trying to stay optimistic but these are my concerns.
@cwjwl @MarcusDugan @bradicus18 @Westhoff Yeah so that was what I was thinking... typically a reaction to the speed/spin move of Mathis and Freeney is for the OT to automatically kick-out wide to stop the speed rush (or TE or RB w/ a chip) and then double w/ OG for spin (or if chip, then OT takes the inside).
By brining some big bodies in to clog the middle then that should help against the double team and open up the outside or one-on-one bull rush.
The other alternative is loading one side w/ ILB, CB, or S blitzes. Any one know how effective Toler or Landry was when they blitzed?
@hankster It depends on the talent of the defenders. If you play with good press corners then you don't need as many people in coverage. If you play with zone corners like Hayden or others then you better pressure with 3 or 4 to allow the secondary to cover their zones.
@hankster @cwjwl @bradicus18 @Westhoff That's one thing I haven't liked as much. They keep blitzing smart qb's, who are great against the blitz (like that Ugg-wearing Brady guy in Boston). I like watching an aggressive defense at its best, causing confusion and making big plays, but I hop they'll understand when not to blitz.
@MarcusDugan @bradicus18 @Westhoff I'm no expert on the 3-4, but I was reading Mathis can go back to the 'rush' side. Sounded as if the blind side olb was the sack guy and the other was more the pass and run stop. Looked at Baltimore and they typically do it with one main sack guy.
2012 - Kruger 9, next high 5
2011 - Suggs 14, next high 6
2010 - Suggs 11, next high 5.5
2009 - Highest on team was 6.5
With our new found size, if Mathis can get after the qb, and we throw in blitzes (something Colts fans are not use to till last year) then life in the secondary gets a lot easier.