Other than Freeman, Colts backups struggling

Arthur Arkush
Pro Football Weekly
Other than Freeman, Colts backups struggling

The Giants’ dismantling of the Panthers one week ago was particularly impressive because they didn’t skip a beat with unproven backups like Ramses Barden and Andre Brown replacing injured starters such as Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw.

New York’s enviable depth wasn’t built overnight, though; it required a lot of patience from GM Jerry Reese, who found Barden and Brown in Rounds Three and Four, respectively, of the 2009 draft.

For a team like the Colts, 2-14 a season ago and in the midst of a complete rebuild under the guidance of GM Ryan Grigson, head coach Chuck Pagano and QB Andrew Luck, all of whom are brand new to their positions, assembling a deep team that can withstand key injuries like the Giants is a process.

The Colts have experienced their fair share of injuries at key positions in the early going, and, predictably, the backups have had varying degrees of success.

Easily the most impressive “next man up” has been former CFL star Jerrell Freeman, who replaced starting SILB Pat Angerer (foot) the first three weeks. One source described Freeman, the Colts leader in tackles (27) who has shown a knack for being around the football, as a taller, younger version of former Colts MLB Gary Brackett. With Angerer expected back after the bye week, the Colts can feel good about the valuable experience Freeman gained and his ability to make plays when called upon.

Unfortunately, not all of the Colts' backups pressed into the starting lineup have held up as well.

The arrival of Pagano and his new 3-4 scheme was supposed to be a golden opportunity for former first-rounder Jerry Hughes. An ankle injury to Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney only further opened the door for Hughes to begin attempting to shed the bust label. But the way we hear it, Hughes has failed to make the impact the coaching staff hoped for in replacing Freeney. Robert Mathis (four sacks) notwithstanding, Indianapolis has been starved for a pass rush since Freeney went down early in Week One.

The results haven’t been much better for OLG Seth Olsen, who consistently has been overpowered as a run blocker and in pass protection while filling in for starter Joe Reitz. Dime safety Sergio Brown also failed to pick up the slack of CBs Vontae Davis (ankle) and Justin King (groin) late in the fourth quarter in Week Three, when Brown was beaten by Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts on an 80-yard game-winning TD.