D-Line Help Needed Against the Run

DT Eric Foster (Andy Lyons/Getty)

Improving Indianapolis' run defense, which allowed 127 yards per game in 2010, is a major offseason objective.

The Colts have struggled to stop the run for the past several seasons. Also, defensive end Dwight Freeney will be entering his 10th year in the league. Freeney's opposite number, defensive end Robert Mathis, will be in his ninth year.

The Colts drafted former TCU standout Jerry Hughes in the first round last year and envisioned him as a player who could fill in for both Freeney and Mathis in a rotation. But he didn't see much playing time as a rookie and the jury remains out on what he can do to make a major contribution in 2011.

Eric Foster and Keyunta Dawson are both hybrid players and can play both inside at tackle or slide outside to end if needed. With questions revolving around Hughes, the Colts may be in the market for another athletic defensive end to help add to the team's overall depth at the position.

Fili Moala, Dan Muir, Ricardo Mathews and Antonio Johnson all rotate inside at defensive tackle. Moala, who had a slow start as a rookie in 2009, began to play with confidence and earned a starting job last season. Muir and Johnson give the Colts some much needed bulk inside. Johnson, though, is a potential free agent. Mathews got off to a slow start as a rookie last year but made strides as the season progressed.

Heading into this year's draft, one of the names mentioned as a potential Colts draft pick is Nevada defensive end Dontay Moch. Moch's size, speed and athletic skills brings to mind Mathis, Moch, who is considered to be a potential outside linebacker for most NFL teams, would be a perfect undersized defensive end in the Colts' defensive scheme. He was officially timed at 4.4 in the 40 at the combine. After his combine workout, there were some questions as to whether Moch could successfully play standing up.

Mathis was a fifth-round pick by Indianapolis in 2003. Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget is another possibility. Liuget is a true third-year junior and is 21 years old. He had a breakout year in 2010 with 63 total tackles including 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Like current Indianapolis defensive linemen, he lacks ideal height at 6-2 but he is a solid 298 pounds with the frame to get to 300. Liuget has a high motor and is physical. His versatility is a plus as he can play both defensive tackle or move to defensive end.

Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith is bigger than Moch but is still considered to be an undersized defensive end prospect. Smith has outstanding pass-rushing skills and is an outstanding athlete. Don't be surprised if team president Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian decide to improve the defensive line in the later stages in the draft. They like to find hidden gems in the bottom three or four rounds. Since 2001, the Colts have not drafted an offensive lineman, defensive tackle or linebacker in the first round. During that time, Indianapolis has drafted eight defensive ends and six defensive tackles overall.


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