Editor's Note: This is a great piece by one of our readers, Kyle Winslow. He's written a few things this offseason, such as one that was featured on Football Outsiders, and did a great job with this one in the Reader Blog section of Colts Authority. It's an informative piece that deserves to be read.
The Colts have a well documented need at the corner back position opposite Jerraud Powers and although the training camp competition is ongoing, it's very possible that the eventual left-side starter isn't on the roster yet. Luckily, the team has the highest waiver priority; when teams trim their roster to 53 players on September 3rd, the Colts will have their pick of the litter.
Since most of the Colts' free-agent and trade acquisitions have come from the Eagles, where GM Ryan Grigson was a scout for 8 years, or from the Ravens, where Chuck Pagano was formerly the defensive coordinator, I wanted to take a look at defensive backs from those two teams that are projected to be cut before the start of the season.
I watched every defensive and special teams snap of the first preseason game for both teams, and took notes on the defensive backs that are likely to be cut according to the recent "Getting to 53" series of articles published by CBSsports.com Rapid Reports.
I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the Rapid Reports roster predictions, and in fact the "Getting to 53" article on the Colts brazenly predicts that the team will only keep two safeties on the final roster and cut their 5th round pick from this years' draft. However, the Eagles and the Ravens have veterans firmly entrenched as the starters and both teams are among the deepest in the league at the position. So here's a look at the rosters from which defensive hope springs eternal for the Indianapolis Colts:
Jason Butt of CBSsports.com predicted that Gorrer will actually make the Raven's final 53, but he said that it likely will come down to a choice between Gorrer and Chykie Brown. Gorrer was an undrafted free agent signed by the Saints in 2009, but eventually wound up on Baltimore's practice squad in 2010 when Chuck Pagano was the defensive backs coach there.
Gorrer got his first preseason action with the Ravens second unit and finished with two solo tackles and one pass defensed. He made good breaks on plays in front of him, including a big hit on an RB in the flat. Gorrer wasn't particularly physical, whiffing occasionally in press coverage and failing to get off blocks a couple times. He was decent in coverage down the field, and on his pass defensed he did a good job of tracking the ball and swatting it away (although it was underthrown).
I think Gorrer will likely make the Raven's roster, but if he does get cut I think the Colts would definitely take a look at him. I doubt Gorrer would warrant the use of our top waiver claim because he probably isn't as valuable to other teams. His familiarity with Chuck Pagano's defense might make him a useful addition to the Colts.
Mabin is an undrafted free agent rookie, so he doesn't have any direct ties to the Chuck Pagano regime in Baltimore. He is much more likely to get cut by the Ravens than Danny Gorrer, and the only advantage to picking him up over other free agents would be that he has had a full training camp to learn the same defense in Baltimore that Pagano is installing in Indy.
Mabin started the second half at left corner back and was immediately targeted by the opposing Falcons offense. Luckily for Mabin, the second or third string Atlanta offense was pretty inept. Back to back quick passes to the WR that he was covering fell incomplete, but Mabin started each play a million yards off the receiver. Both passes were wide open for at least 6 or 7 yards.
Mabin looked smooth turning and running with a wide-out, but played too loose in zone and was inconsistent covering down the field. I doubt he will make the Ravens squad, and I don't think the Colts would improve their roster much by acquiring him.
The jury is going to have to remain adjourned on Chykie Brown, because he didn't play in the first preseason game against the Falcons. Or if he did, I couldn't find him and he didn't post any stats. He may have had an injury or the staff may have just wanted to get a longer look at other players.
Brown is in his second year with the Ravens and was drafted in the fifth round during Chuck Pagano's tenure as defensive coordinator. If Pagano had a hand in drafting him then there's a good chance he'll lobby to sign him if he gets released by the Ravens this year.
Lindley was a fourth round draft pick while Ryan Grigson was director of player personnel for the Eagles, so the new Colts GM should be very familiar with his skill-set. In the Eagles' first preseason contest he played both on special teams and the entire 4th quarter at right cornerback. He was credited for one solo tackle, but would've had one on special teams as well had the play not been canceled by a penalty.
He stayed with his assignment well the few times he was tested, but he isn't very physical and showed that he didn't have tremendous speed. He wasn't aggressive or particularly active in the running game. At one point he got completely plowed over by a RB/FB after the Steelers QB scrambled. He covered well on a go-route in which the ball was overthrown, and did a good job of locating the ball when the receiver did. Had the pass been accurate he was in good position to bat it away.
Acquiring Lindley is a possibility based on his relationship to Grigson, but he doesn't flash the kind of talent that would make him a priority for the Colts and he may not fit well in the hybrid 3-4 defense. Of course, neither do several of the defensive backs that are currently on the roster.
A fifth round draft pick 2009 by the Chargers, Hughes was claimed by Grigson's Eagles off the Giants practice squad in 2010. He played on special teams early in the preseason game against Pittsburgh, and would've made a nice play on a punt return if he hadn't been illegally blocked in the back (the penalty was not called by the replacement refs).
Hughes came in at right corner back as soon as the super-star first stringers were done for the night. The Eagles defense didn't miss a beat with him in the lineup and he immediately made his presence known by blowing up a WR reverse with a jarring hit. He looked really comfortable playing man-to-man, and didn't allow a single completed pass to a WR he was covering that I saw.
Twice in this game when the opposing QB targeted the receiver Hughes was covering, the coverage was so tight that the QB couldn't make the throw and either scrambled or was sacked. Hughes often lined up playing press coverage and was successful playing bump-and-run.
The competition for a roster spot is so gritty for the Eagles DBs that Hughes might get cut no matter how well he plays. The team has several middle round draft picks and special teams stars vying for positions behind Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and the starting safeties.
This is only one preseason game, so both the intensity level and the competition are obviously sub-par. But if Hughes is indeed cut and the Colts decide to spend their waiver priority on him, I would have no immediate complaints.
Notes on a couple other Eagles players:
Cliff Harris (5-11, 180) didn't play in this game and is another likely candidate to get cut by the Eagles. As an undrafted rookie free agent he has limited ties to Grigson.
Wade Bonner (5-10 195) is listed as a DB on the Eagles roster but he was playing safety in the first preseason game. Former Colt Kevin Thomas played opposite Trevard Lindley for a good portion of the second half; I doubt he makes the Eagles final roster but I also doubt the Colts would want to pick him back up.
Wow...this is the best reader piece ever. Seriously well researched.
I love that you keyed in on the Ravens defensive backs because I think that, like you said, is where Pagano and Grigson will look first. Right now the safety situation isn't nearly as bad as the corner spot although there are more corners on the roster. Brown fits the bill.
Chykie Brown played most of the 2nd half in the Raven's second preseason game tonight. I wasn't watching close enough to really analyze him, but he was credited with 3 total tackles, 2 solo. I saw him give up one intermediate pass, but it didn't look like bad coverage, more just a good play by the WR.
Having the first waiver priority is huge either way... with 31 other teams all cutting 37 players each, I'm sure there will be better DBs available than we have on our depth chart right now
I think Hughes looks like the best bet. Hopefully the Eagles log-jam at DB works in Indy's favor and the Eagles give him walking papers!