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NFL Draft Preview: Colts’ upgrade ongoing

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INDIANAPOLIS — For a team that has posted 11 wins in each of the last three years, the Indianapolis Colts head into the 2015 season with plenty of questions remaining to be answered.

Can former Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson become the go-to receiver that the Colts desperately need him to be? Will ex-San Francisco running back Frank Gore continue to defy those observers who think that he may be on the verge of losing the skills that has made him one of the best power runners in the National Football League?

With former Pro Bowl outside linebacker Robert Mathis expected to remain sidelined until mid-season as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles heel, will former Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole be able to give Indianapolis some much needed pass-rush help?

Johnson, Gore and Cole were perhaps the top three additions made to the Colts roster since the end of the 2014 season. But they weren’t the only ones.

Indianapolis also added former ex-Eagles offensive guard Todd Herremans, former St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford, ex-Denver Broncos inside linebacker Nate Iriving, former CFL offensive guard Ben Heenan, ex-CFL wide receiver Duron Carter, former San Diego wide receiver Vincent Brown and former Atlanta Falcons safety Dwight Lowery.

Herremans and Heenan are both expected to push for starting jobs on the offensive line. Langford and Lowery are already penciled in as defensive starters. Irving is still rehabbing a knee injury that he suffered last year in Denver but could be a potential starter when healthy.

Carter and Brown will add to a wide receiver corps that will feature returning starter T.Y. Hilton, 2014 rookie Donte Moncrief and Johnson.

The Colts parted ways with the likes of wide receiver Reggie Wayne, defensive end Corey Redding, safety LaRon Landry, running back Trent Richardson, offensive guard Mike McGlynn, offensive guard A.Q. Shipley and defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois.

Among the veteran Colts who were re-signed were offensive tackle Joe Reitz, running back Daniel “Boom” Herron and outside linebacker Daniel Adongo. All three could prove to be valuable to the team’s positional depth at their respective positions.

As for players injured last year, running back Vick Ballard says that he should be good to go. Ballard has missed the last two seasons with knee injuries. Mathis probably won’t return until mid-season while offensive guard Donald Thomas and offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus remain question marks.

Thomas has also been sidelined for the past two years with quad injuries, so his availability for 2015 may be problematic. Cherilus has been a good starter at right tackle but multiple injuries got the best of him in 2014. He wound up on the team’s injured reserve list.

Heading into the NFL Draft, Indianapolis has numerous areas that they want to shore up. Getting bigger, more physical and more athletic on the defensive line remains paramount. The Colts run defense has been inefficient in key games, most notably against New England and Pittsburgh.

Improving depth along the offensive line, defensive line, safety, cornerback and running back are the areas in which Indianapolis will be looking improve in the draft.

The Colts will have nine draft picks to try and fill some holes. Indianapolis will also be looking for some long-term solutions at several positions.

2014 Record: 11-5, 1st in AFC South

First Draft Pick: #29 Overall

BEST FIT: Alabama SS Landon Collins.

With the loss of free agent Antoine Bethea to San Francisco prior to last season and the decision to part ways with veteran LaRon Landry at the conclusion of 2014, the Colts need to address the safety position. Collins would be a strong get for Indianapolis. He is primarily an in-the-box safety who also has pretty good pass coverage skills. That kind of versatility could work well in head coach Chuck Pagano’s hybrid 3-4 defense.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Safety: Mike Adams was a godsend last year after signing with Indianapolis in June near the end of OTAs. Adams led the team in interceptions and earned a Pro Bowl nod. But he’s on the back side of his career. The Colts have also added former Atlanta safety Dwight Lowery in recent weeks. But Lowery has battled injury issues during his NFL career.

2. Defensive line: Indianapolis has to become more stout against power running football teams. The Colts have tried the veteran free-agent route in recent years with mixed success. But getting some immediate help in this year’s draft class would help to bolster the team’s overall depth. Head coach Chuck Pagano wants to get bigger, stronger, faster and younger.

3. Running back: Frank Gore should prove to be a great addition for the Indianapolis offense. But the Colts would love to find a three-down back who can be that home-run hitter that they’ve lacked since Edgerrin James ended his tenure with the team. This is supposed to be a pretty good year for running backs in the draft. But they have to be good fits for the Indianapolis offense, which means being able to run, catch the ball and, most important, pass block.


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