Margus Hunt Jersey

If the Bears went to Paul Brown Stadium on Saturday night in search of a little self-confidence, they left unfulfilled.

This team is short on talent, and you didn’t need to watch the most significant of the four exhibition games to know that. The Bears’ drafts from 2009 through 2014 — six drafts totaling 40 selections — produced four of the team’s starters in the 21-10 loss to the Bengals.

Preseason isn’t a good indicator of regular-season success, but the Bears aren’t suddenly going to look faster when the Packers come to Soldier Field on Sept. 13. They’re not suddenly going to discover playmakers on both sides of the ball. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod’s back isn’t going to…

INDIANAPOLIS — Margus Hunt is back to build upon his career year with the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts today announced that they have re-signed the veteran defensive lineman, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent when the league’s new year began on March 13.

Hunt, who will turn 32 just before the start of training camp this year, was a free agent signing by the Colts back in March 2017, after the former second-round pick had spent the first four seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hunt had a solid first season in Indy as a spot starter in 2017, posting a then-career high 29 total tackles, including six tackles for loss, to go along with one sack, seven quarterback hits and two passes defensed.

But with the team changing to a completely new defensive front, the 4-3, in 2018, Hunt, at 6-foot-8, 298 pounds, was originally seen by many outside the organization as a player without a set role heading into the season.

Hunt quickly changed some minds, however.

Mostly starting out at defensive end before moving more inside for much of the second half of the season, Hunt collected career highs in tackles (30), tackles for loss (13), sacks (5.0), and he also added six quarterback hits, two passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

His play was key for a Colts’ defensive unit that made a major overall improvement in 2018, finishing 11th in total defense, and eighth against the run.

“Margus is a unique guy inside because of his length,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said of Hunt on Jan. 14. “Putting him at the three (technique) and the one (technique) it really kind of accentuated on what he is really good at. We were fortunate to have Margus.”

Hunt will be counted on to once again be a key piece for a Colts defensive line that will continue to be molded and shaped by Ballard and head coach Frank Reich and his staff.

Four other key contributors — Denico Autry, Jabaal Sheard, Tyquan Lewis and Kemoko Turay — are also back in 2019, as are the likes of Al-Quadin Muhammad, Grover Stewart, Hassan Ridgeway, Carroll Phillips and Jihad Ward.

The Colts also signed defensive end Anthony Winbush and defensive tackle DeShawn Williams to reserve/future contracts earlier this offseason.

INDIANAPOLIS — Margus Hunt could’ve easily parlayed a career year in 2018 into an opportunity to test the open market and maximize any deals that assuredly would’ve came his way.

Instead, on Tuesday, Hunt signed a reported two-year contract extension to remain with the Indianapolis Colts, a little more than a week before the start of free agency.

As it turned out, Hunt didn’t want to even entertain the thought of playing anywhere else.

“I was really hoping that this contract would happen sooner rather than later,” Hunt told reporters Tuesday in a conference call. “So it wasn’t really a hard decision to where, you know, I was wondering whether or not I was going to play out the market or not.

“I knew that if the opportunity arises for me to be back here in this kind of environment and with this team and these guys, it’s a no-brainer.”

The decision to bring Hunt back was likely a no-brainer for the Colts, as well, who saw the versatile defensive lineman set several career marks in 2018, finishing with 30 tackles — 13 of which were for a loss— to go with 5.0 sacks, six quarterback hits, two passes defensed, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.

Hunt began the 2018 season playing off the edge in Matt Eberflus’ new 4-3 system, but as the season wore on, he found himself lined up more within the interior of the defensive front. And while he started off the year hot with four sacks in his first four games, Hunt was an especially valuable piece for one of the league’s top run defenses, too, finishing with 20 run stops on the season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Hunt said the opportunity to play at several positions during training camp set him up well for when he actually had to play at certain spots once the regular season came along.

“I just think it was the training camp (practices), we had some injuries going on and around the defensive line, so I just got kind of inserted into all these different roles of playing defensive end, defensive tackle, and trying to take the reps and trying to put good stuff on tape, and that hopefully will show up,” Hunt told Colts.com’s Matt Taylor on Tuesday. “And it did throughout the season to where they were able to put me in all these different positions and be successful at it. And it worked out.”

All individual accolades aside, however, Hunt put one priority over all others when deciding to stay in Indianapolis for another couple years.

After starting the 2018 season with a 1-5 record, the Colts stormed back to finish with wins in nine of their last 10 games to earn their first playoff appearance in four seasons. Hunt said there’s something clearly building in Indy under general manager Chris Ballard and Frank Reich, and he’s happy to continue playing his part in taking the team where it thinks it can go.

“The locker room that’s here, and the guys that Chris and Coach (Reich) have brought in, and the chemistry we have right now, I mean, it’s just something that I didn’t want to change out for anything else,” Hunt said.

There are some exceptional prospects in the NFL draft every year, but Southern Methodist University defensive end Margus Hunt is one of the craziest in recent memory. Not literally crazy, but he makes you wonder if he’s from the same planet as everyone else.

Hunt’s from the same planet (probably), but not the same country. He came to America from Estonia, originally to pursue a career in track and field.

He won gold medals as a junior Olympian in the discus and shot put, and he also plays the piano. He’ll be 26 years old by the time the season starts—Hunt is truly a rarity among NFL prospects.

He also possesses an out-of-this-world combination of size and athleticism, measuring in at 6’8” and 277 pounds at the combine. Hunt ran the 40-yard dash in 4.60 seconds and had 38 reps on the bench press. To put that in perspective, Hunt ran the 40-yard dash as fast as the 248-pound linebacker Dion Jordan and had the same number of reps on the bench press as the 311-pound defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

Foreign-born players are always interesting because they typically haven’t been playing the game for very long. In Hunt’s case, he’s been playing football for only the last four years. No one expects a guy who has been playing football for only a few years to have refined technique, but Hunt’s height makes any problems he has more glaring.

Hunt has been labeled as being “raw” from a technique perspective, which is certainly true when it comes to his ability to maintain proper pad level. For a player as tall as Hunt, he needs to keep his pad level down to be effective.

However, when Hunt does play with the proper pad level, he can take over a game. At one point against Fresno State, the Bulldogs assigned three blockers to try to slow Hunt down. If Hunt’s pad level rises, he can be neutralized and disappear in games.

How much a team values Hunt in the draft is going to depend on if it believes he can improve his pad level. For those teams that believe pad level is coachable, Hunt is a first-round talent. For those that think pad level is not coachable or that he’s too tall to ever be consistent with his pad level, he’s a third-round draft choice.

Jabaal Sheard Jersey

Yes, the Ravens outlasted an inferior opponent to maintain their leg up in the AFC wild-card race. That has to be the headline.

But this was not an encouraging effort from a team that has generally rounded into form over the past six weeks. The Ravens talk about making a deep run if they get into the postseason, but that won’t happen if they make as many mental and physical mistakes as they did against the Indianapolis Colts.

“Not the best-played game by us,” coach John Harbaugh said.

The Ravens mishandled a succession of key plays that could have…

During his second year of a three-year contract, Sheard didn’t put up world-beating numbers in the stat sheet, but he was a consistent force setting the edge and rushing the passer.

Starting all 16 games for the Colts, Sheard 5.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss and four batted passes.

As the Colts transitioned the defensive alignment from a 3-4 to a 4-3 under new coordinator Matt Eberflus, Sheard easily converted from an outside linebacker to a defensive end, which appeared to be his more natural position.

The Colts pass rush was inconsistent throughout the season. They would have their strong games but then string together a few quiet ones. Sheard seemed to be a consistent threat from the edge, though, even if he wasn’t racking up sack totals.

Sheard was the ninth-ranked edge defender among 15 in this year’s list. He ranked behind Cameron Jordan (6), Calais Campbell (9), Von Miller (10), DeMarcus Lawrence (12), Melvin Ingram (24), Brandon Graham (27), Joey Bosa (28) and Khalil Mack (31). That’s a pretty great group in which to be included.

As PFF mentioned, Sheard stood out in a down year overall for the Colts defense. Without his 4.2 quarterback pressures per game, their pass rush would’ve been non-existent. He only had 5.5 actual sacks on the year, but pressure can make things almost as chaotic for an opposing passing game. Overall, Sheard also had 52 tackles (4 for loss), 2 forced fumbles and 3 pass breakups.

The Colts signed Sheard as a free agent last offseason while trying to find young, yet experienced players to add to the front seven. You could say that Sheard exceeded expectations. Although he didn’t post double-digit sacks, he provided consistent pressure and was as durable as ever. He played in all 16 games, which reflects his career durability. He’s only missed seven games in seven seasons.

In 2018, we’ll see if Sheard’s production changes at all. The Colts are moving to a 4-3 defense under coordinator Matt Eberflus from their former 3-4 hybrid under Chuck Pagano. Sheard is expected to take a role as a defensive end rather than outside linebacker, where he played in 2017. Sheard has plenty of experience with his hand in the dirt throughout his seven-year career, though. He will likely remain the top pass-rushing option as the Colts usher in and groom some younger players in 2018.

Sheard was the only Colts player to make the top 101. PFF also released a list of the 10 players who just missed the cut. There were no Colts on that list.

Joining the Pittsburgh Panthers in 2010, Sheard consistently developed through his four seasons in college. After totaling just three tackles in seven games his freshman year, Sheard exploded for 45 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2011. His level of play continued to grow and he finished out his collegiate career with 142 tackles, 35.5 for a loss and 19.5 total sacks.

A second round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Sheard would become a member of the Cleveland Browns and spend his first four seasons in the AFC North. Sheard started in his first 45 games of his professional career and had 97 tackles, 21 sacks, seven forced fumbles and nine pass deflections. Sheard’s numbers, however, decreased in each season following his rookie year, which resulted in him starting in just five games in 2014. He would then sign in the following offseason with the New England Patriots on a two-year, $11 million contract.

In his two seasons in New England, Sheard started in nine of his 33 appearances — eight of which were in 2016 — and won his first and only Super Bowl Championship in the Patriots 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl 51. In the 2016 playoffs, Sheard had 0.5 sacks, two tackles and five assists on tackles. That following offseason Sheard signed a three-year, $25.5 million contract with the Colts starting all 16 games of the 2017 season — leading the team in sacks with 5.5 and totaling 37 tackles.

INDIANAPOLIS – Jabaal Sheard was easily the most consistent and disruptive front 7 player for the Colts last season.

Sheard finished his first year with the Colts having posted 5.5 sacks (including a game-clincher in Houston). But diving deeper into Sheard’s numbers shows he was even more productive than just your basic sack numbers.

Per Pro Football Focus, Sheard had the 13th most pressures in the league last year (66) and was 4th in total run stops (30) among edge defenders.

Those effective numbers, against the run and pass, are impressive and offer one of the few glimmers of hope from last year’s major defensive struggles.

But Sheard isn’t up for hearing too much about them.

“We finished as one of the worst teams in the league,” Sheard said to Colts.com earlier this spring. “No matter how you played individually, we’ve got to be better.

“Everyone knows that, unless you want change again.”

Things have changed pretty substantially on the defensive side of the ball for the Colts.

Sheard and his teammates are immersed in learning a new 4-3 system.

It’s been a while since Sheard, an 8-year veteran, played in a 4-3.

The former second-round pick in 2011 points out the ‘dummied’ down defense in which his switch to a hand in the dirt defensive end will gladly remove him from coverage responsibilities.

“It’s about guys up front creating penetration and just making it (cleaner) for the linebackers,” Sheard says. “It’s not going to be your (Dwight) Freeney and (Robert) Mathis back in the day but hopefully we can work to that point where we get some pass rushers and get after the quarterback. We won’t be them, but hopefully something like them, being aggressive and getting after quarterbacks and running backs in the backfield.”

Last season, the Colts finished the year with a mere 26 sacks—the fewest for the team in more than a decade.

What has followed in the aftermath of missing the playoffs for a third straight season?

New coaches. New schemes. New personnel.

“If you don’t win,” Sheard reiterates, “things change.”

Jabaal Sheard is moving on from the New England Patriots following two seasons with the reigning Super Bowl champions, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Field Yates.

Schefter added it’s a three-year deal worth $25.5 million with $12.75 million guaranteed.

Sheard inked a two-year, $11 million deal to suit up for the Patriots in March 2015, and he looked like an instant bargain.
After he racked up 23 sacks in four seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Sheard proceeded to tally eight sacks in his first season as a member of the Patriots. During the productive campaign, Sheard graded out as the Patriots’ top defender with an overall grade of 88.2, according to Pro Football Focus’ Ben Stockwell.

Jacoby Brissett Jersey

Jacoby Brissett is a franchise quarterback-in-waiting, and organizations with issues at the game’s most important position should place Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s number on speed dial in an attempt to acquire the offseason’s most tantalizing option.

“I want to be a starter in this league,” Brissett said, per Fox 59’s Mike Chappell. “If that’s what you’re asking me, yeah, I want to be a starter in this league.”

Every backup wants to be a starter. The difference with Brissett lies in a combination of age, upside, previous experience and potential availability.

The NFL draft and free agency aren’t the only ways to acquire a quality starter. The trade market provided two squads—the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins—with their signal-callers, even though both dealt with serious injuries.

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that Brissett is generating interest in the league. With so many teams needing quarterbacks and high-end depth pieces behind their starters, it was only a matter of time before the Colts received offers.

Brissett was a 2016 third-round pick with the New England Patriots but was traded to the Colts in September for 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett.

After Scott Tolzien failed to get through a full game in 2017, Brissett took over as the starter and was fully given the reigns when the Colts placed Luck on the injured reserve list.

Brissett had his struggles in 2017 but he also had plenty of moments of promise. He completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,098 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

However, it is difficult to blame him for all of the offensive woes, especially considering the Colts virtually had no pass protection or rushing attack.

He also emerged in the locker room as a leader and proved to be tough as nails playing behind an offensive line that allowed the most sacks in the NFL.

Brissett is still just 24 years old and though he has been generating interest, it seems the Colts like him as a solid starter or high end backup behind Luck.

The Colts have a potential trade chip in backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett. However, they also value him highly and aren’t inclined to trade him for cheap.

“I think he’s a starter in the league,” GM Chris Ballard said (via Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star). “It would take somebody doing something that would blow me away, and it has to be the right thing for the kid, too. I’m not just sending him anywhere.”

Last year’s free agent QB crop was uniquely strong, but this year’s group doesn’t offer nearly as many viable options. Between Brissett’s 2017 performance and the dearth of quality signal-callers out there, Brissett could fetch a high price if he’s dangled to other teams.

The Colts went just 4-12 without Andrew Luck under center in 2017, but Brissett did well from an individual perspective. He completed 58.8% of his throws that year for 3,098 yards with 13 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Those aren’t MVP numbers, but he was playing behind a porous offensive line that allowed him to be sacked 52 times.

At some point, the Giants will not be able to sit back and allow their quarterback situation to settle like all those leaves gently falling from the trees. They will need to shake that darn tree.

The Giants say they have a succession plan for life after Eli Manning. That plan cannot entirely wait until the 2019 draft, hoping they find one with a top-five pick. How about trading with the Colts for Jacoby Brissett?

It makes some sense. Brissett is big, mobile, athletic and has a huge arm. Bill Belichick liked him enough to make him a third-round pick in 2016. Belichick also traded him (for receiver Phillip Dorsett) a year later when Andrew Luck went down and the Colts were desperate for a quarterback. Brissett started 15 games last season and, amid all the losing on a bad team, showed promise, completing 59 percent of his passes, with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also can move around in the pocket. Luck is healthy and Brissett is back on the sideline. If Luck gets through 2018 unscathed, perhaps Brissett can be pried away early in the offseason.

This is a 24-year-old who, at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, has the skill set to thrive in the modern NFL offensive circus. Bill Parcells loved him when Brissett came out of North Carolina State. There were some in the Giants organization who were also high on him, with evaluations such as “he has everything you’re looking for in an NFL quarterback of today” and lauding his ability to throw a great deal of passes without turning the ball over.

Perhaps Brissett develops into a bona fide NFL starter. Adding him diminishes the pressure to absolutely, positively take a quarterback in the first round in 2019. Even if the Giants are able to land Justin Herbert of Oregon, Brissett would be a valuable placeholder. Something to think about.

The Giants have a lot of quarterback options this offseason, very few of which would exactly blow away their fans.

But they may have to blow away Indianapolis to land one of them.

The Colts, who possess one of the most enticing backup quarterbacks in the league in Jacoby Brissett, want the NFL world to know they are open for business and are setting their sights high.

Colts GM Chris Ballard admitted he has talked with Brissett about the possibility of trading him this offseason, as the 25-year-old is set to enter the final season of his rookie-league contract — making him especially affordable and attractive to interested teams.

“It would have to be right [fit] organizationally, and for him,” Ballard told reporters Monday as the Colts wrapped up their season, which ended with a 31-13 playoff loss to the Chiefs. “I want to do the right thing for the player, too, now. I want to do the right thing for Jacoby. Jacoby has too much value to us, not only as our backup quarterback, who I think you can absolutely win with and I think he’s a starter in the league, but also to the locker room. He is well-respected throughout the locker room by both sides of the ball — offensively and defensively.

“… It would take somebody doing something that would absolutely blow me away, and it has to be the right thing for the kid, too,” Ballard added. “I’m not just sending him anywhere.”

Brissett, a third-round pick of the Patriots in 2016, impressed immediately that season in filling in for Tom Brady, and then was flipped to Indy for receiver Phillip Dorsett just before the start of the 2017 season. He did not sparkle but did not flop as he filled Andrew Luck’s shoes last year, completing 58.8 percent of his passes and throwing 13 touchdowns to seven interceptions (plus four rushing touchdowns) in 15 games started, all while still picking up the playbook.

With Luck healthy this season, he reverted to backup, a role Ballard praised him for. If he is to be traded, it would likely be to a team looking for competition at the quarterback spot.

“He is a special, special teammate,” Ballard said. “I think you’ve all seen it. You’ve been through that locker room. He is well-respected. And I think the relationship between him and Andrew has become very strong over time — and as you would expect in that quarterback room.”

The Giants have Eli Manning entering the final year of his contract and are coming off a 5-11 disaster. The

quarterback options in the draft are not hyped — although Dwayne Haskins and possibly Kyler Murray could intrigue. Nick Foles also could be on the market — a thin market that might never be better for the Colts to trade Brissett.

“This is what I told Jacoby: I said, ‘I’m not giving you away. Won’t do it,’” Ballard said. “I said I had chances last year and I didn’t do it, and I won’t do it again.”

Matt Slauson Jersey

Indianapolis Colts guard Matt Slauson suffered a significant injury during last Thursday’s loss to the New England Patriots that could have been even worse.

Per Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star, Slauson continued to play in the game after suffering two broken vertebrae in his spine during the third quarter and could have been paralyzed.

“I had no idea how close I was to changing my family’s life,” Slauson said.

The Colts announced Monday that Slauson had been placed on injured reserve after he played 88 snaps—including all 83 on offense—against the Patriots.

Indianapolis signed Evan Boehm on Monday to add depth along the offensive line. The unit has been without left tackle Anthony Castonzo all season due to a hamstring injury, and right tackle J’Marcus Webb landed on injured reserve after Week 1 with a hamstring ailment as well.

Slauson signed a one-year deal with the Colts in March. He started each of the team’s first five games.

Now in his ninth NFL season, Slauson has also played with the New York Jets, Chicago Bears and San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers.

Ex-Jet Matt Slauson has called it a career.

The 32-year announced his retirement on Instagram Wednesday after nine seasons in the NFL. He began his career with three seasons in New York before moving on to the Bears, Chargers and Colts. His time with Indianapolis was unfortunately short-lived after he suffered a scary spine injury in October.

“Four organizations and countless friendships,” Slauson wrote. “What an amazing dream this has all been. Thanks to all my teammates who have gone into battle with me, the group of coaches that have made me better on and off the field, the fans that were there no matter what, and especially my wife and kids who supported me through it all. It has been a very difficult decision but we are excited for what the next chapter holds.”

Slauson, a Nebraska product, was drafted in the sixth round by the Jets in 2009. He played both guard and center for New York and started all but three possible games for the Jets. Not bad for a late-round pick.

This past season with the Colts could have been life-changing for Slauson. After being placed on injured reserve, he learned that he had been playing with two broken vertebrae. Doctors told him he was one play away from being paralyzed.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, Slauson is now walking away from football with his long-term health intact after a surprising but successful career.

On Monday, the Indianapolis Colts placed starting guard Matt Slauson on injured reserve with an unspecified injury. Slauson played all 83 offensive snaps in the team’s loss to the Patriots last week, and his injury was only apparent after the game. As it turns out, he had been playing since early in the third quarter with a pair of spinal fractures. The Indianapolis Star’s Zak Keefer has the terrifying details.

Slauson said today that he still feels healthy, though the risk of paralysis is obviously serious enough that he will be out for the year. There were plenty of plays in the second half of last week’s game that Slauson could have been permanently injured on without knowing why, and he also said playing through the pain was “not one of my smartest decisions.”

Slauson, 32, will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the Colts have asked him to stick around the team and help out the offensive line for the rest of the season. Hopefully he’ll be healthy enough this offseason to get a new contract.

Colts offensive lineman Matt Slauson is out for the season, but he’s incredibly lucky to only be on injured reserve.

On Wednesday — six days after he was on the field for all 88 possible snaps against the Patriots and two days after the Colts placed him on injured reserve out of nowhere — Slauson revealed that he played nearly the entire second half of Thursday night’s game with two broken vertebrae in his spine. He acknowledged that he was a play away from paralysis. He just didn’t know it at the time.

“I felt like if I could stand, I could play,” he said, per the Indianapolis Star’s Zak Keefer.

It was only afterward when he realized how close he came to a life-altering injury.

“I had no idea how close I was to changing my family’s life,” he said.

Slauson added that, “It does me no good to wrestle over (what could have happened), but I’ll be honest, it’s really hard not to think about it.”

Slauson, who entered the NFL in 2009, has played for a number of teams, from the Jets to the Bears to the Chargers and now the Colts. At 32 years old, he’s nearing the end of his playing days. He played in only seven games last year and five games this year. And his contract with the Colts is set to expire after the season. From a health perspective, he’ll be reevaluated in January.

If he does return to the field, Slauson indicated he’d like to return to the Colts next year. And the Colts appear to value his role as a mentor.

Without Slauson, the Colts will likely turn to rookie Braden Smith to fill his void at right guard. Smith, taken in the second round, will be playing alongside first-round pick and starting left guard Quenton Nelson. The Colts might want Slauson back as a mentor, but the youth movement is already taking over as they try to provide Andrew Luck with the protection he deserves.

So far this season, the 1-4 Colts own the sixth-best pass-blocking offensive line, according to Football Outsiders. Last year, they finished dead last.

Matt Slauson’s story could have ended much worse. His move from the roster to injured reserve caught most by surprise after the miserable spectacle that was the Thursday Night football game. There was not a lot of information readily available, but it is now known that in the 3rd quarter of the game, Slauson broke two vertebrae in his spine. He played the remainder of the game.

My first reaction to hearing that is that Matt Slauson’s toughness can never be challenged again. Anyone who can break two vertebrae and then just rub some dirt on it and resume hitting 300lb men is a tougher human being than anyone I know. I for one am greatly relieved that he didn’t suffer a worse injury during that time that could have paralyzed him. He seems to have realized in retrospect what a foolish decision it was to keep playing after the injury, although he obviously didn’t know the extent of it at the time.

The loss of Slauson is big for the Colts’ offensive line as well. He has done a good job holding down the right guard spot, and while he hasn’t been perfect, his toughness, attitude, and leadership have been important in establishing a culture on this young offensive line that stresses the importance of keeping Andrew Luck upright.

It is worth noting that the Colts asked him to stick around to be at practices and for preparation. Though he was signed to only a 1-year deal, the team wanted him to be an influencer on this roster. There is more to what has changed along this line than simply Matt Slauson’s influence, but it certainly has been something that the coaches feel is valuable.

This kind of story just goes to show what players are laying on the line out there on the football field for our entertainment. Despite the league’s best attempts to make this game safer, it is a violent sport that has long term serious effects on the human body. Some of those changes have been good for the game and others not so much.

It is hard to know if playing on a short week could contribute to this kind of injury. More than likely it is just the result of a freak accident. All the same, it is good that the story doesn’t have a much uglier end.

Ryan Grant Jersey

The Oakland Raiders signed wide receiver Ryan Grant, the team announced Wednesday.

Grant appeared in 14 games for the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, catching 35 passes for 334 yards and a touchdown. Through five seasons, he has 1,319 receiving yards and seven scores.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Michael Gehlken noted Grant was on the Raiders’ radar last offseason.

He agreed to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens before he failed a physical, thus voiding the offer. He settled on a one-year, $5 million contract from the Colts.

Grant joins a revamped passing game in Oakland. The team acquired Antonio Brown from the Pittsburgh Steelers and signed Tyrell Williams for $44.3 million over four years.

Upgrading the receiving corps was clearly a priority for the Raiders after a disappointing 2018 campaign. The offense slipped to 17th in pass defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) after sitting 13th in 2017, per Football Outsiders. Jon Gruden also watched Amari Cooper put together a Pro Bowl-caliber season following his trade to the Dallas Cowboys.

Grant should be a solid No. 3 receiver behind Brown and Williams. Together, the three represent a big upgrade over what Oakland had to finish out the season—even when factoring in Jared Cook’s departure.

OAKLAND, Calif. — For the Raiders and Ryan Grant, it was better late than never.

Grant signed a one-year contract worth up to $2.5 million, a person familiar with the incentive-laden deal said Wednesday. The wide receiver visited the team last offseason before signing with the Indianapolis Colts. Time passed, but the Raiders’ interest didn’t.

He becomes their fourth recent addition at the position. Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson are the others.

Grant, 28, caught 35 passes for 334 yards and one touchdown in his lone season with Indianapolis. He initially agreed to join the Baltimore Ravens last March, but a four-year, $29 million pact dissolved following a failed physical.

The 2014 fifth-round pick spent his first four NFL seasons with the Washington Redskins, recording 84 receptions for 985 yards and six scores in that span. Jay Gruden, Raiders coach Jon Gruden’s younger brother, was Grant’s head coach during the entirety of his Washington tenure.

Ryan Grant signed with the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday, the team announced. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the deal is for one year with a max value of $2.5 million.

Grant played last season with the Indianapolis Colts after a four-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens fell through due to a failed physical. During that process, Grant visited Oakland and he will now join them and add to a new-look receiving corps that also includes high-profile additions Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams.

A five-year vet, Grant started a career-high 10 games in 2018 with the Colts and totaled 35 catches for 334 yards and one touchdown. Prior to that, he played four seasons with the Redskins.

Here are other transactions from Wednesday:

The Buffalo Bills have inked longtime Tennessee Titans starting guard Quinton Spain, per Spain’s agency. Terms were not disclosed. A four-season veteran, Spain has started 42 games over the last three seasons including 15 starts in 2018.

Led by standout center Mitch Morse, the Bills have now added six offensive linemen this offseason. In addition to Morse and Spain, there’s Spencer Long, Ty Nsekhe, Jon Feliciano and LaAdrian Waddle.

The Cleveland Browns announced the signing of tight end/fullback Orson Charles on Wednesday. Terms were not disclosed. A season ago, Charles tallied two starts with 13 games played. Since 2012, Charles has been a member of four teams: the Bengals, Lions, Chiefs and Browns.

The Atlanta Falcons announced the signings of offensive guard Adam Gettis and linebacker Kemal Ishmael to one-year contracts. Ishmael has played the duration of his career for the Falcons, while Gettis was previously with the Buccaneers, though he never played a game with them. Gettis hasn’t played since 2016 with the Giants.

Long snapper Patrick Scales will be back for a fourth season with the Chicago Bears, who announced they signed the special-teamer to a one-year contract on Wednesday. Scales’ rookie season was spent in Baltimore in 2014 and since then he’s been with Chicago.

April 3 (UPI) — Former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Ryan Grant signed with the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday, the team announced.

Sources told the NFL Network that Grant’s deal is for one year with a max value of $2.5 million. The team hasn’t confirmed financial terms of the agreement.

Grant played last season with the Colts after a four-year, $29 million agreement with the Baltimore Ravens collapsed due to a failed physical. He started a career-high 10 games with Indianapolis in 2018 and posted 35 catches for 334 yards and one touchdown.

The Washington Redskins originally drafted Grant in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Tulane. He spent four seasons with the Redskins and appeared in all 64 contests (15 starts) with the franchise. He set career highs with Washington in 2017, registering 45 receptions for 573 yards and four receiving scores.

In five seasons in the league, Grant has appeared in 78 career games (25 starts) and recorded 119 catches for 1,319 yards and seven touchdowns.

Grant joins former Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson in the Raiders’ new-look receiving corps.

A little more than a year ago, wide receiver Ryan Grant signed a four-year contract to play with the Baltimore Ravens.

Or so he thought.

The next day, the Ravens announced he had a physical for what Ryan said was a “mild ankle sprain,” making him a free agent. Grant then signed a one-year contract with the Indianapolis Colts. And on April 3, he joined the Oakland Raiders.

“I think it was a blessing in disguise,” Grant told Zig Fracassi and Alex Marvez on the End Zone about the Ravens voiding his contract. “I feel like, had I signed with the Ravens, they probably would have, you know, did some other shady stuff to get me traded or released or something like this. So I’m thankful that they did what they did. No hard feelings towards the organization over there in Baltimore.

‘It just feels like I’ve been drafted all over again’

“But I’m happy where I am now. Super excited to be a part of the Raiders organization. It’s the spirit and the culture of the team. And it just feels like I’ve been drafted all over again. I’m just so ecstatic.”

Nevertheless, Grant can’t deny some lingering hard feelings. He said he had the ankle sprain since December of 2017, while he was with the Washington Redskins, but continued to play through it and “finished the season just fine.”

“It stings a little bit now and it always will,” he said. “When I went to Baltimore for the physical, I was honest with the physicians. I told them, ‘You know, I sprained my ankle, I didn’t miss any time. And for whatever reason, they say that I failed the physical.

“They were like, ‘Oh, there’s something there.’ But, in reality, nothing was wrong with my ankle. It was a minor ankle sprain and it was something that they didn’t want to move forward with that I believe.”

Eric Ebron Jersey

Eric Ebron sat back at Glow Spa and Nails, soaking his size 15s in a plastic tub filled with warm water and Epsom salt.

Ahhhhh.

The scrubbing was next. Then came the clipping and filing of his toenails. Finally, the foot massage and moisturizer.

The callouses from all the miles behind him had been rubbed away. His feet felt so fresh, so renewed.

Then the vibrating of his cellphone interrupted. It was Bob Quinn, general manager of the Lions. Now this was a surprise.

Ebron had recently finished his fourth season with the Lions. He and his wife, Gabriela, were getting ready for a vacation in Curacao, an island in the Caribbean. He was under contract for another year, and he wasn’t thinking about football.

“Hey Ebron,” Quinn said. “Just calling to let you know we are letting you go. We know you will do great somewhere else and find a home soon.”

Stunned, Ebron hung up the phone, finished up at Glow Spa and Nails, and drove to his Houston home. There had been talk that the Lions were trying to trade him. But he never suspected they would cut him.

He had been the 10th overall choice in the 2014 draft, taken two picks ahead of Odell Beckham Jr., and three ahead of Aaron Donald. He was supposed to really be something. But Ebron never played like his abilities promised he would, and Lions fans resented him for it. The Detroit Free Press called him “the most hated man” in Detroit sports.

After he arrived home, he was hit by “a roller coaster of emotions.” He lost it. The frustrations of four dismal seasons streamed down his cheeks.

“I was hurt,” he says. “I felt I let myself down. You get drafted, you want to be on one team forever. That was my thing. In high school my team wasn’t so good. With a few other players, we took that team from nothing to undefeated. In college, [North] Carolina was good, then went down. I come there, football program goes back up, we had tons of draft picks. Then I get picked 10th, Detroit is struggling. My thing was to help out. It didn’t work the way I wanted to. I felt I failed myself.”

He doesn’t feel that way now. A new city, a new team and a new day have changed everything. The tight end who couldn’t do anything right for the Lions can’t do anything wrong for the Colts.

A tattoo on the back of the left hand is of Jesus’ face, a reminder of sacrifice and security. A tattoo on the back of the right hand is a lion, a reminder of power and dominance. On game days, he tapes each finger at its base, and then between the knuckle and the joint. From the outside of his thumb to the outside of his pinky finger, each outstretched hand measures 10 inches.

If you could imagine a pair of hands you’d want to trust, you would imagine hands that looked like these.

But during Ebron’s time in Detroit, no one could trust those hands. Ebron dropped every kind of throw imaginable—high passes, low passes, lasers on the money and soft floaters. He failed to hold onto the kind of catches that little kids routinely make in their backyards. One after another after another.

In college, Ebron made some big runs after the catch. Ron Prince, his first tight ends coach in Detroit, said he thought Ebron started thinking about running before he secured the football. Martin Mayhew, the general manager who drafted Ebron, had a different theory. “I think it was nervousness, being picked so early, the expectations,” he says.

“I thought way too much,” Ebron says. “I thought I needed to do more than I really needed to. I let it all get to me.”

In the months before the NFL draft, Ebron thought he might have a chance to be a mid-to-late first-round pick. But before his senior season at North Carolina, he wasn’t even sure the NFL would want him. He had just started playing football as a junior in high school, and he began as a wide receiver and defensive end.

Yet, he did not lack for bravado as the draft approached. He proclaimed he would play the tight end position like no one else. During an interview with the Falcons that winter, a front office man mentioned they were trying to replace Tony Gonzalez, who is likely to be a Hall of Famer soon.

Front office man: “Those are mighty big shoes to fill.”

Ebron, without skipping a beat: “I’ve got some mighty big feet.”

“I think there was some immaturity,” Mayhew says. “He was a little lacking in confidence. He had some anxiety, and it manifested itself in trying to pretend to be more confident than he was.”

Ebron was not ready to be the 10th pick in the draft. “I had just turned 21. Everything happened so fast,” Ebron said. “I only was playing two years in high school, then three years in college, and here I was, the 10th pick in the draft. I was surprised to go so high. I was really young. I didn’t expect it.”

The Lions had just invested in wide receiver Golden Tate, so they didn’t really need another wide receiver. They also were hesitant to draft a wide receiver in the top 10 after taking Mike Williams, Roy Williams and Charles Rogers with top-10 selections over a four-year stretch. “We had a bad team history with first-round receivers,” Mayhew said.

They wanted to give new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi a tight end who could do for him in Detroit what Jimmy Graham had done for Lombardi in New Orleans.

In hindsight, the Lions thought they were drafting a 25-year old Ebron instead of a 21-year old Ebron.

“He was a developmental player,” Prince says. “There were a lot of things about being a tight end that he had not been exposed to. Some of the routes he was going to run in the NFL he had not experienced. There was a great anticipation of being able to pair him with Calvin Johnson and creating a duo that was very difficult to match up with. Many of those route concepts that he was working on were new to him, the nuances of the coverages.”

Prince said Ebron was inexperienced “about a lot of things tight ends are asked to do in the National Football League. But there was no doubt about his talent.”

He finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown, and more skeptics than fans. Beckham, meanwhile, made one of the most spectacular catches in NFL history and led the league in yards per game.

Ebron often was reminded he wasn’t Beckham. He says he was always happy for Beckham, whom he met and became friends with in the months before the draft.

“I felt like the draft is based on what scheme you are in,” he says. “[Beckham] was drafted in a great scheme. He was taken advantage of. When I was drafted, I was the fourth option. They had Calvin Johnson, they had just signed Golden Tate and they had [tight end] Brandon Pettigrew. It was kind of rough to understand that coming from college, where I was the man. I kind of went negative about it. I thought, ‘I need to play now. I’m the best person on the field.’ But that wasn’t the case. I needed to work my way up the system.”

He overslept and missed meetings twice, by his recollection. He said he didn’t commit himself to learning the intricacies of his position. He didn’t pay enough attention to what defenses were doing. He wasn’t invested.

All of it snowballed. “Some of my worst days,” he says, “consisted of small mistakes, then overthinking and then second-guessing myself.”

In his final year in Detroit, negativity was all around him. Whenever a ball was thrown his way at Ford Field, boos. If the announcer said his name, boos. When his image appeared on the video screen, boos.

“I guess they just didn’t like me,” he says. “I would get booed over stuff that wasn’t even my fault, like if a ball was overthrown but thrown in my direction. When they started booing me, I was playing my best. I just lost connection with our fans.”

Mayhew believes if Ebron had been the 25th pick instead of the 10th, he could have played a dozen years for the Lions.

The end.

That’s all Ebron could think about when those tears were streaming down his face after being cut. What he couldn’t yet conceive was what was about to begin.

The phone call from Quinn meant Ebron’s island vacation would be put on hold. The Panthers called. Since he went to high school in Greensboro, North Carolina, and college at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte and the Panthers would be his first stop. But there were other options, good options. Also interested were the Ravens, Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks and Colts.

The Colts were the most aggressive suitor, so Ebron traveled to Indianapolis next. New coach Frank Reich had coordinated offenses in Philadelphia and San Diego that featured tight ends Zach Ertz and Antonio Gates. In Ebron, he saw a weapon with similar potential. Ebron, he thought, had the explosiveness to be a playmaker.

Investing in Ebron would require some research. Reich called a number of his friends who knew Ebron well, including Jim Caldwell, for whom he had worked when Caldwell was the head coach of the Colts and Reich was an assistant. Caldwell had been Ebron’s head coach in Detroit, and he spoke more of his potential than his disappointments. “I got nothing but positive feedback about the kind of person he is,” Reich says.

Before Ebron could visit another team, the Colts signed him to a two-year, $13 million contract. Replacing Honolulu blue with royal blue, Ebron moved about 300 miles to another Midwest town.

“It’s a place where we didn’t know anyone,” he says. “We were going to start from ground zero and build our way up with this state, these people, this team. … Indy is so peaceful, so relaxing and nice to live in. My family loves it here. The people are appreciative and so accepting of who I [am] and [they] allow me to be me.”

He also felt at home in the Colts’ system. “This offense allows me to get the matchups I want—or that we want—to make plays,” Ebron says. “The [Lions] offense was more given towards our wide receivers. That’s how [Matthew] Stafford liked it. I feel here it’s more about the tight end.”

Part of Reich’s vision was to have Ebron do what he does best. That means playing maybe half the snaps, with an emphasis on third downs and the red zone. The Colts don’t need Ebron on the field all the time because they have a Pro Bowl tight end in Jack Doyle, who is a better blocker.

“I don’t want [Ebron] to block 30 times a game,” Reich says. “I don’t think that’s his strength. It’s hard to have elite athletic ability and run the way he runs and also be an above average blocker. If you put Eric in the run game too many times, that’s bad coaching. You will wear him down, take away his energy from the pass game. But I’d like to ask him to block five or seven times a game and know I’m going to get a good effort and know he’s going to do his job. He’s shown a willingness to do that.”

That arrangement is cool with Ebron. In part because of Doyle’s presence, expectations for Ebron have been more manageable than they were in Detroit. “The pressure is not all on him,” Colts quarterback Andrew Luck says. “We’ve got a great group of tight ends. And I don’t think he’s putting undo pressure on himself.”

There were times, Ebron is certain, when Stafford became frustrated with him. Luck has not been. Luck and Ebron had a connection from the start. Luck went to Stratford High School in Houston with Ebron’s wife’s sister. Ebron sits behind him in meetings so they can compare notes, and so Ebron can laugh at Luck’s corny jokes. When Luck warms up before practice, Ebron volunteers to run routes for him.

Doyle and Luck have been together for five years, so Doyle is Luck’s guy. But when Doyle had to sit out with a hip injury, Luck was forced to throw to Ebron more, and subsequently learned to trust him more. In those five games, Ebron scored four touchdowns. “Eric stepped up, and has earned more and more trust with Andrew,” Reich says.

Ebron should hold a property title to the red zone. At 6’4″, 260 pounds, and with 4.60-second speed in the 40-yard dash, he gets off the line easily and gets on defensive backs quicker than expected. And then he uses his size and athleticism to give them lessons in humility.

With nine receiving touchdowns, Ebron is tied for second in the league. He also has a rushing touchdown.

He only wishes he had drafted himself on his fantasy football team. His best friend drafted him before Ebron could take himself, forcing Ebron to take Rob Gronkowski. When Ebron played his best friend, Ebron lost in part because Ebron put up 22 fantasy points in a game against the Patriots while Gronkowski put up seven.

“To be one of the best in fantasy is cool,” he says. “The more people who cheer for you and know you, the better. As long as I’m helping my team win and getting people their points, I’m guess I’m doing my job.”

In the second quarter of the season opener, Ebron caught his first touchdown pass of the season in the right corner of the end zone. He followed with a celebration in which he fell to his knees like a downed Fortnite character, then was “revived” by T.Y. Hilton and Nyheim Hines. And then, the “Hype” dance.

It was as if he spread the ashes of the old Ebron right there in the end zone at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the new Ebron emerged.

After another touchdown catch in an October game against the Raiders, Ebron did a strut straight out of a Victoria Secret fashion show, swinging his arms and swaying his hips.

“It was to let people know when you are walking down the walkway and looking good, it’s amazing,” he says. “I’m letting them know I am who I am. I am an amazing athlete, person. I am the baddest of what I do. Yeah, I’ll let you know. I’m in a class of my own at my position now.”

The new Ebron is having enough fun to make up for the fun he missed the previous four years.

“He’s a fun-loving person,” Reich says. “And I love that. I love that about him. I don’t want him to change.”

Ebron radiates energy. Even when he was living in the shadows in Detroit, Ebron still was an energy giver. The Colts are more receptive to it than the Lions were, however.

“They allow me to be me here,” he says. “I can be the goofball, tell the jokes. When it’s business, I handle my business, and the more I do that, the more fun I have.”

Ebron still is full of youthful spirit, but now he’s a husband and father who has experienced failure. Once, he was all Call of Duty. Now, he’s all changing diapers and washing baby bottles. He and Gabriela are expecting their second child in January.

He has perspective he could not have imagined when he showed up in Allen Park, Michigan, on May 9, 2014, stood at a podium and announced, “It’s just insane to be the 10th overall pick in the draft. That’s forever written in stone that you have that label.”

These days, Ebron handles the truth better than he used to handle some of Stafford’s passes. He acknowledges his missteps and takes responsibility for them.

But regrets? Not really.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t change anything,” he says. “When you go through life, everything is about lessons. It’s about learning. … I know now you might have a drop. You might blow an assignment. Things happen, but you have to roll with it and keep pushing. Everything that happened was meant to happen. … It’s led to where I am now.”

And where he is now often is in an opponent’s end zone.

Kenny Moore Jersey

For most of the season, the Kansas City Chiefs have positioned themselves as Super Bowl

contenders. The offense grinds up opponents, scoring a league-leading 3.1 points per drive,

and quarterback Patrick Mahomes inserted himself in the MVP debate after becoming the

second player in NFL history with 50 touchdown passes and 5,000 passing yards in a single

season. Mahomes is the sixth player to pass for more than 5,000 yards in a season, joining

Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Dan Marino and Matthew Stafford.

The defense, on the other hand, hasn’t been near championship caliber. In the red zone the

Chiefs are allowing opponents to score a touchdown more than 72 percent of the…

A year ago, Andrew Luck was at home, struggling with an injured shoulder that cost him the

entire season.

On Saturday he wrote the best chapter yet of his storybook comeback season, throwing for

222 yards and two touchdowns. The Colts raced to a three-touchdown lead and cruised to a

21-7 win over the Texans in the wild-card round of the AFC playoffs.

Luck put on a show in a stadium where he attended games throughout childhood and played in

them since high school, passing for 191 yards and two touchdowns before halftime to help

the Colts (11-6) build a 21-0 lead.

He denied feeling “at home” at NRG Stadium but admitted to having warm feelings for the

city where he grew…

INDIANAPOLIS — Those watching the Indianapolis Colts’ defense this season have seen a revitalized unit, filled with young playmakers ready to step up to the challenge.

Through three games the squad boasts the most tackles for a loss in the NFL (22), the fourth most sacks in the league (10) and have allowed the fourth-fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards among all 32 NFL teams.

Credit for the strong start needs to be spread across the entire defense, from new coordinator Matt Eberflus to rookie standout Darius Leonard, and no small acknowledgment needs to be given to second-year cornerback Kenny Moore II.

The 23-year-old has been as reliable as anyone in the defensive backfield, and didn’t wait long to show he belonged on the starting unit just moments into the season’s commencement.

As Colts fans packed Lucas Oil Stadium to see their new and improved team take on the Cincinnati Bengals to kick off the 2018 regular season, Moore II was planning his own stellar welcome back party.

Not even a drive into the game he would step in front of an Andy Dalton pass and came just steps away from walking into the end zone to score the first points of the Colts’ season.

Moore II hasn’t stopped there.

According to Pro Football Focus, Moore II allowed a 0.0 passer rating on passes thrown into his coverage in the opener against the Bengals, and his 43.8 opposing passer rating overall in three games so far this season ranks eighth among all NFL cornerbacks.

Moore II’s tight coverage has had a positive effect on the entire defense, too, as the defensive front has had more time to get to the quarterback.

“Kenny (Moore II) is just, he’s just so tough,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said of his defensive standout. “This guy is mentally tough. He just grinds it out. He takes every rep in practice, he just works hard.”

The Valdosta, Ga., native was late to the game in terms of getting his football career started and wound up only getting one season of high school football under his belt before making the jump to college football at Division II Valdosta State, an opportunity Moore II remains very thankful for.

“David Dean (then head coach at Valdosta State), who is now at West Georgia Southern, took a leap of faith on me and thought something of me when I was coming out of high school,” Moore II said. “We were both local and I was just so fortunate that he believed in me.”

Moore II took that belief and ran with it in his four years of college football, proving that his talent could outshine his experience — or lack thereof. He registered 11 interceptions in 46 career games, including grabbing five as a senior.

Even with a high level of production, teams still pointed to Moore II’s size at 5-foot-9 and a talent gap between the NFL and that of the Division II program that Moore II suited up for in college.

But while draft day came and went without Moore II hearing his name called, opportunity was not far around the corner.

Moore II was reached out to by one Bill Belichick, and got his first professional chance in the Northeast last summer in the New England Patriots’ training camp.

While things didn’t quite work out with the defending Super Bowl champions, it did land Moore II’s tape on the desk of Colts general manager Chris Ballard, and just as soon as New England released him during the final round of roster cuts, he would be claimed by the team he now leads.

Just another step in his journey.

“The transition from there (New England) to here was extremely fast and it was a learning point where I got to play on special teams all year and then got my chance on defense,” Moore II said. “I really tried to increase the trust they had in me within the system and within the organization. To be here from where I was a year ago, I knew it was in the cards, but I didn’t know I would be starting right now. I told myself just to continue to work hard, and leave it up to God and the people that run this organization.”

Like many times before, Moore II took an opportunity and capitalized on it.

Moore finished the 2016 season with the third highest playmaker index (19.4) among all rookie defensive backs, which is determined by the percentage of targets that resulted in a pass breakup or interception, according to PFF. The undrafted Moore II was only bested in the ranking by 2017 first-round picks Marshon Lattimore and Tre’Davious White.

The hard work is proving to pay off as a new regime of decision-makers took over this offseason and Moore II not only had the tape, but the intangibles to fit the build for a new defensive system.

“I really didn’t know much about him, I’ll be honest, when I first took the job,” Eberflus said of Moore II. “Then I started researching all the guys that were on the roster and once I saw that, I certainly liked his quickness and his ability to play inside or out. Going forward, what I now know about him personally as a man is that he is a fighter, a competitor and he is a guy that really shows what our system is about in terms of those types of things.”

Both Reich and Eberflus have referred to Moore II as a perfect fit for the system they are hoping to advance on defense, knowing they have a player that is ready for anything thrown in front of him.

“He represents everything we want in our team,” said Reich.

“He is a gritty, tough, scrappy corner and that’s exactly what we are looking for really in all of our defensive backs and our defensive players,” said Eberflus.

But even as the Colts’ defense continues to build on each success, Moore II is not dwelling on the positives or the negatives; he is focused on getting better.

“We are just doing what we are coached to do,” Moore II said. “There is no magician’s hat that we are looking through. We are going into each practice to build our confidence for Sundays.”

For most of the season, the Kansas City Chiefs have positioned themselves as Super Bowl contenders. The offense grinds up opponents, scoring a league-leading 3.1 points per drive, and quarterback Patrick Mahomes inserted himself in the MVP debate after becoming the second player in NFL history with 50 touchdown passes and 5,000 passing yards in a single season. Mahomes is the sixth player to pass for more than 5,000 yards in a season, joining Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Dan Marino and Matthew Stafford.

The defense, on the other hand, hasn’t been near championship caliber. In the red zone the Chiefs are allowing opponents to score a touchdown more than 72 percent of the…

The Indianapolis Colts secondary has been an area of weakness this season, particularly at cornerback. Nate Hairston and Quincy Wilson have struggled in their sophomore seasons. The team has rotated the bottom of the depth chart with guys such as Lenzy Pipkins, Arthur Maulet, and Chris Milton. Each of these players has done little this year as well.

The two standouts have been Pierre Desir— a player who has bounced around the league a few times— and Kenny Moore II. Moore’s development into the team’s top corner has been an interesting story to follow.

Moore had a very strong off-season that left an impression on the coaching staff, and that has clearly translated to the regular season. The former UDFA has tallied 33 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 4 pass deflections. Through just seven games, his numbers have all nearly exceeded his production in 2017.

We’ll take a look at Moore’s season to see what makes him the Indy’s top corner and see if the film supports his strong statistical production.

Colts corners must excel in zone coverage to fit in a Tampa 2 defense that is designed to prevent big plays. Moore has stood out in this area and has been rewarded with considerably playing time. He has lined up in zone coverage 52.6% of the time— according to the Quant Edge— showing that the coaches trust him in zone coverage.

In this first rep, Moore is lined up in the slot and jams the inside receiver before getting into his zone. He recognizes the running back coming out of the backfield and reads quarterback Andy Dalton’s body language. He accelerates to the running back and is able to make a big interception early in the game. While Moore got lucky the quarterback got hit on the play, it was a solid read and break on the ball to be in position for the interception.

In our next clip, Moore reads the quarterback’s body language to make an interception. He is again lined up in the slot before he drops into his zone. He quickly locks on to the quarterback’s eyes and shifts to the middle as the quarterback stares down his receiver. He accelerates to the ball when it is thrown for another impressive interception. The ability to read, react, and break on the ball is a big part of what makes Moore so good in zone coverage.

This next image shows my favorite play from Moore this season. He sits back in in zone and reads the tight end drag route, exploding downhill as soon as the quarterback throws the ball. A willingness to come downhill and separate ball from receiver is vital in zone coverage and Moore does that here, de-cleating the tight end and forcing the incomplete pass in the process. This mentality is quite rare for a corner of Moore’s size.

Moore has lined up most often in the slot. This isn’t because he is the best athlete or the best suited to cover slot receivers. Moore is the team’s slot corner because he is the best run defender of the Colts’ cornerback group. Yes, even at 5’9” 190 pounds. He is physical in his run fits and gets downfield in a hurry in pursuit.

In this clip, Moore diagnoses run early in the play and comes down from his slot position, into the backfield. Moore hits the running back and slows him in the hole. Anthony Walker is able to clean up the play for a minimal gain. The next rep is similar. Moore recognizes run immediately and is able to shoot the gap to make the play. He beats the block from slot receiver Jamison Crowder and trips up Adrian Peterson in the backfield.

Zone corners must be able to make tackles in space in one-on-one situations for the scheme to work. Moore is an excellent tackler, as he takes smart angles and has discipline in space.

In our first clip, the Redskins try some trickery on 3rd and short. They toss the ball to their elusive elusive scat Chris Thompson, who is particularly good at making plays like this in space. Unfortunately for Thompson, Moore recognizes the play immediately and tracks Thompson down by taking an excellent angle. Once he closes the gap, he is able to make the tackle in the backfield.

Our next clips shows another great angle by Moore. He is lined up as the outside corner. Running back LeSean McCoy bounces the ball outside to Moore’s side of the field. Moore quickly tracks McCoy and flies downhill to make the tackle.

Moore does need to work on breaking down when tackling but his aggression, discipline, and use of good pursuit angles makes his tackling a strength.

Analysts have commonly acknowledged that Colts’ cornerbacks struggle in man coverage. While that is the case for most corners — particularly in press man — Moore does perform fairly well in off man coverage. He is comfortable when he has the chance to sit back and read the receiver and is quick to react to the receiver’s route. He is not perfect, but he is a very passable in off man coverage.

An example of Moore’s ability in off man coverage is found in our first clip. Moore is tasked with covering receiver A.J. Green in the redzone. He quickly diagnose thats Green is coming across the formation. Knowing that he has safety help toward the back of the endzone, Moore takes inside position to make the throw harder for Dalton. He gets his hands up at the last second to knock the ball away, saving a potential touchdown.

In our next clip, Moore is in off man against the slot on a fly route. Moore provides a few yards of cushion at the snap and uses that additional time to maneuver himself into the right position when the ball is thrown. Despite the ball being overthrown, this is a nice play.

As with most Colts cornerbacks, Moore struggles in press man coverage. He is not comfortable jamming receivers at the line and is ineffective using his hands. He has a tendency to get impatient in press man coverage and that will lead him out of position. He is also simply not physical enough or fast enough to make up for any of his deficiencies. Good press man corners are typically either strong physically or have elite speed to be effective in this role.

This first clip shows some of Moore’s weaknesses. He does not get his hands up at the line, giving Paul Richardson a free release. This allow Richardson to easily sell his inside route and gain an early advantage. Without contact to slow his opponent down, Moore feels forced to bite on the inside release. Once Richardson has a step on Moore, he doesn’t have the speed to make up ground and gives up a big play.

The next clip is another example of a failure to engage his opponent at the line of scrimmage. Receiver Kelvin Benjamin is running a deep hook route to get a first down. Moore needs to disrupt the timing of the play. Even the worst of receivers in the NFL can get separation with a free release in press man coverage.

Moore’s second mistake is allowing so much space through the route. He needs to trust his safety help and know that his receiver isn’t a speed threat. This completion could have easily been prevented by Moore.

Our last clip show Moore (top of the screen) losing at the line of scrimmage. He simply cannot retreat off the line in press coverage. This may be a designed press bail play, to confuse the quarterback, but Moore gives way too much of a cushion. I’d like to see him play the route tighter against a slower receiver.

Moore has emerged as the Colts’ top cornerback in 2018. His value is aided by an ability to rotate from the slot to outside on any given play. This versatility and his leadership in the secondary is visible in his film.

Moore has developed into an excellent run defender and solid tackles, particularly from the slot. He has shown the ability to read quarterbacks, accelerate quickly to the ball, and the toughness to crash downfield to breakup intended receivers from an incoming pass. He has even shown the ability to play solid in off man coverage. There are traits that translate well to Matt Eberflus’ Tampa 2 scheme.

While he is limited in press man coverage and has some areas where he needs to improve, Moore looks like a player who will be a part of Chris Ballard’s longer-term plans moving forward. It would be wise for the Colts to add a couple of corners in the off-season, but Moore is making a strong case to be a long-term starter in the slot.

Anthony Walker Jersey

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Anthony Walker enjoyed a solid bounce-back season from his rookie campaign that was littered with injuries to quietly become a heavy contributor in the middle of the defense.

While Darius Leonard gets most of the credit in the linebacker room (rightfully so), Walker was no slouch either. He provided constant help in the run game while serving as a running mate with the aforementioned All-Pro.

In 15 games (14 starts), Walker compiled 105 tackles (69 solo), 10 tackles for loss, four passes defended, one interception and 1.0 sack.

The Northwestern product entered his second season with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. As a fifth-round pick in 2017, Walker solidified his role as the MIKE linebacker in a defensive scheme that rarely used three linebackers.

In 15 games (14 starts), Walker compiled 105 tackles (69 solo), 10 tackles for loss, four passes defended, one interception and 1.0 sack.

The Northwestern product entered his second season with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. As a fifth-round pick in 2017, Walker solidified his role as the MIKE linebacker in a defensive scheme that rarely used three linebackers.

Walker was solid against the run, but there are some areas in coverage he could stand to improve. Being disciplined in his zone assignments are something he will likely be looking to improve upon for Year 3.

The Colts have a strong linebacker duo in Leonard and Walker. The latter proved in 2018 to be a strong running mate and a building block in a young defense that truly outperformed all expectations.

The Colts might be looking to add some depth to the linebacker corps this offseason, but Walker’s role has clearly been defined after a strong 2018 season.

PHOENIX — Each week, Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

This week’s Mailbag comes to you from Phoenix, this year’s home of the annual NFL owners meetings. Be sure to check back with Colts.com for continuing coverage from team owner Jim Irsay, general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich.

Let’s jump right into this week’s questions:

» Paul O. (Franklin, Tenn.): “It seems to be popular to think the Colts have been passive in free agency, but to me it has been pretty satisfying. We have signed or tendered quite a few of our own. Outside free agents have been limited in number, but should help in key positions. My question would be do you have any feel for any other of our own free agents we are trying to sign? Thanks so much for your commitment to share info with the fans. We all appreciate it.”

Walker: Thank you for participation, Paul! So as far as the Colts’ free agents that remain unsigned, wide receiver Dontrelle Inman really remains the only one that has been directly referenced by Chris Ballard in recent days and weeks. On Thursday, Ballard said in an appearance on 1070 The Fan that the team is “still working through some details” on a possible return for Inman, so stay tuned there. As for the rest of the list (you can see the 2019 Colts Free Agent Tracker by clicking here), there are a few names that certainly were key leaders, spot starters and pieces of depth on the 2018 Colts squad — linebacker Najee Goode, safety Mike Mitchell and defensive tackle Al Woods, in particular, come to mind — so as the free agency frenzy continues to die down a bit, let’s see if Indy finds the types of deal it’s looking for to perhaps bring some of those guys back in 2019.

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» David P. (Indianapolis): “Serious question: Considering how much we love football here in Indy and the AAF seeming like the G- League version of the NFL, do you think the Irsay’s would invest in a team to bring here? I think it would give us a direct line of players to bring into the organization if needed.”

Walker: Thanks David — and I’m a fan of serious questions. Up front, I’ll admit that I’ve heard no internal chatter about the AAF, so I can’t say for sure whether or not a team in Indianapolis has ever been considered as a possibility. What I can say, however, is that it seems as if the AAF is initially trying to bring its teams to cities/markets/regions that don’t already have an NFL franchise (with the exception of the Atlanta Legends). But I, too, am intrigued by the partnership between the NFL and the AAF that has formed already, as well as the possibilities in such a partnership down the road, particularly when it comes to the development of prospects. Having Bill Polian as an AAF league founder can’t hurt, either.

» Bryan H. (Owensboro, Ky.): “So, first time writer here. I really enjoy reading the mailbag week in and week out. First off, I love the move by Ballard picking up Houston. My question is, do you think he mainly brought him in for his veteran experience to help develop some of our young pass rushers like Lewis and Turray? Also, with that pickup do you think we should spend our first pick on another DE or should we still search early for a #2 WR. I don’t I think Funchess is the answer, and a little skeptical on Dion Cain coming back from a major injury. Thanks!”

Walker: Appreciate it, Bryan, and please, keep ‘em coming. There’s no question that Justin Houston’s veteran leadership should be a huge advantage for the rest of the team’s younger pass rushers. That being said, however, Houston has been brought in primarily for one reason: to get to the quarterback. And, if he can stay healthy, there’s little doubt that he’ll be able to do just that. And, to be honest, I don’t think the signings of either Devin Funchess or Justin Houston really affect the Colts’ plans in the draft. Funchess was signed to a reported one-year deal, while Houston was signed to a reported two-year contract; neither, at this time, seem like long-term answers at the wide receiver or defensive end positions (which, of course, could all change if either are given a more long-term deal). So I would imagine the Colts will still be more than willing to take advantage of the deep groups at both positions in this year’s draft, even with their earlier picks.

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» Dave C. (New Castle, Ind.): “In order to maximize Justin Houston’s effectiveness, given his age and health, I am sure the Staff will structure his pre-season, practice and game time. How do you balance the need to be in “football shape”, adjust to hour defensive scheme and players and contribute during the season with the need to be fresh and available come December and January? Certainly a 30 year old has different issues than a 23 year old. This acquisition will be a great addition to our defense IF we can keep him healthy. Thoughts?”

Walker: I mean, Justin Houston’s only 30 years old. I think some people are acting like he’s in his late-30s and he’ll play some sort of third down-only role (not saying you’re in that camp, Dave). Has Houston had his share of injuries? Yes. But as of late, there hasn’t been anything too serious that would make me believe he’s incapable of being depended on for the entire season. He played 15 games two seasons ago, and last year he missed four games early with a hamstring injury. We all know how nagging those hamstring issues can be — just ask Anthony Castonzo and Marlon Mack last year. In his 12 games in 2018, Houston still had nine sacks, and Pro Football Focus assigned him his highest overall grade in years. In fact, Houston was getting better as the season wore on. But a few factors, I believe, will help Houston stay as healthy as he can: first off, the Colts will give him a specific conditioning and nutrition plan that should maximize what he can get out of his body. Secondly, the team’s defensive scheme calls for plenty of rotation, particularly up front, so Houston should be relatively fresh whenever he’s out on the field. And, finally, Houston is a veteran; by now, he knows how to get the best out of himself. I’m bullish on the possibilities for this defense with Justin Houston flying off the edge.

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» Jim M. (San Francisco): “Do the Colts want to assemble personnel who can play 3-4 and 4-3 defenses? They have DE Justin Houston now, as well as DE Sheard, and both are really 3-4 linebackers. If you need bigger linebackers for a 3-4, then they might draft another linebacker for that purpose, possibly capable of playing either 3-4 or 4-3. Your mock drafts regularly mention the option of Clemson DT Lawrence, a 340-pounder for the middle of the defensive line (and basically a 3-4 nose tackle if they choose). Are Ridgeway and Stewart experienced in the 3-4? Some of the other mock drafts discuss the option of drafting one of the 225-230 pound wide receivers. I wondered how well WR Funchess blocks, and if the Colts ever line up with big wide receivers like that when they rest Hilton. If they line up with 6 offensive linemen, or with 2 tight ends, they could have 9 decent blockers, and Mack, out there with Luck.”

Walker: Jim, the Colts switched from the 3-4 to the 4-3 last season. So any personnel decisions that have been made the last couple years on that side of the ball have been solely focused on how a player can best be utilized in a 4-3. There are, of course, some carryovers from when Indy utilized the 3-4, but that’s because those players were versatile enough to excel in both schemes.

Dexter Lawrence seems to project as a terrific run-stuffing option in the interior of the defensive line, and it seems like he can line up at both the one- and the three-tech spots and be just fine. He’s one of many outstanding defensive linemen that could very much be available when the Colts go on the clock with the 26th-overall pick.

And I’m also interested to see how Frank Reich shakes things up with his formations this season. Because T.Y. Hilton missed a good chunk of time in 2018, Reich had to think on the fly quite a bit and get pretty creative at times, and the Colts were still able to move the ball. One thing’s for certain, however: if you’re going to be on the field as a receiver with the Colts, you will be expected to carry your weight as a blocker. Ryan Grant, Zach Pascal, Dontrelle Inman and Chester Rogers were particularly solid in this area last year, and Reich and Nick Sirianni will demand the same, if not even better, in 2019.

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» David J. (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada): “Thanks for reading my question Andrew This is the first question I have ever submited I have been a colts fan since I was born even though may family liked other teams. Here is my question: If the colts were to draft a wide receiver and they had any choice of who they could draft, who would they draft. Also I think it would be a smart decision to draft a wide receiver because they also have TY Hilton, Devin Funchess, Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle, Imagine trying to guard them as a defense.”

Walker: Thanks for the question, David — gotta get the rest of the family on the Colts’ bandwagon! Just like defensive linemen, the Colts should have their pick of all sorts of solid wide receiver options when they go on the clock with the No. 26-overall pick. Those currently being projected to be picked by the Colts in various mock drafts include D.K. Metcalf, N’Keal Harry and A.J. Brown, while Marquise Brown, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Emanuel Hall and Kelvin Harmon could also be available. My best bet is that the team will select a wide receiver with at least one of their nine selections. One thing’s for sure: the more weapons available for Andrew Luck, the more impossible this offense will be to defend.

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» Javier M. (Jacksonville, Fla.): “Hello Andrew! I’m writing to you all the way from Jacksonville, Florida. By the way, I can’t wait to see the Colts play against Nick Foles this coming year. It’ll be the first NFL football game that I’ll hopefully be attending. Anyways, my question: Now that we picked up a great pass rusher in Justin Houston, a wide receiver in Devin Funchess, and re-signed more than a handful of our own Colts, what position do you think will Ballard address in the draft after all of these free agency movesmoves? I’m thinking he will go with another rusher. He did mention that there can never be enough trench players. What are your thoughts?”

Walker: Jacksonville? Thanks for holding it down in enemy territory, Javier! Hope to see you there. I think it’s a safe bet to assume the defensive and offensive lines will continue to be a priority for Chris Ballard and his staff in the upcoming draft. As I mentioned earlier, the outside free agents brought in by the team should certainly help in the short-term, but due to their contracts — as well as the contracts of others at their positions — I just feel like the team still needs more long-term answers at both wide receiver and along both lines. And while the offensive line seems set now with all five starters set to return in 2019, you can’t forget about the fact that Ballard has said constantly that he wants nine or 10 starting-caliber players in those spots. The Colts are certainly close in this regard, but a draft pick or two that can get some time to develop might help make that goal a reality even quicker.

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» Noah A. (Dakar, Sénégal): “Hello! After reading so many well-answered responses I have finally worked up the nerve to send in a question. It was reported that the Colts were interested in former Ravens’, now Jets’ ILB, C.J. Mosley. Trusting in Ballard & Co. (as all Colts fans should), I wasn’t surprised to see we didn’t match the Jets’ offer. My question is what are your thoughts of Anthony Walker’s potential to grow into a franchise ILB? He certainly put up admirable numbers in his second season (105 combined tackles)! Darius Leonard deserves all the praise in the world, but I feel that Walker hasn’t gotten enough, yet. Thanks!”

Walker: Noah, always feel free to send in a question any time you think of one (or two, or three). I’m not so sure how serious the Colts were pursuing C.J. Mosley (he’s a heck of a player), but I don’t think there’s any doubts about the potential that lies within Anthony Walker at the linebacker position. Really, after an injury-plagued rookie season in 2017, 2018 was the first full-time opportunity for Walker to show what he could do with a starting job, and, boy, did he match up well with Darius Leonard. Honestly, I got a little tired of hearing about this great linebacker duo out in Dallas when the one in Indianapolis was just as good, if not better (and proved it in their head-to-head matchup). So we’ll see if Walker (no relation) can take an even bigger step up in 2019.

» Joe A. (North Vernon, Ind.): “Andrew! Dude! I just listened to your one on one interview with Clayton Geathers. Very nicely done. You’re becoming quite the multimedia personality!”

Walker: Thanks Joe! That’s so nice of you to say. Please let me know how to best get you our arranged payment for submitting this to the Mailbag.

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» Barbara C. (Crawfordsville, Ind.): “Hello , thank you for doing the mailbag for us fans Really appreciate it so much Are the Colts going to keep Inman?”I thought he was a good addition for us plus he’s a bigger bodied receiver, which is what I thought we were wanting Also, who do we have to take over for Al Woods, if we aren’t planning on keeping him? Thanks so much Have. beautiful day”

Walker: Thanks for the questions, Barbara! I addressed Dontrelle Inman’s situation above, but for a refresher, Chris Ballard said late last week that the team is still working through some possibilities to bring Inman back in 2019, so stay tuned. As for Al Woods, if he indeed heads elsewhere in free agency, it will be hard to replace the leadership he brought on board. On the field, Woods really had transitioned into more of a backup/depth role the second half of last season, as Margus Hunt appeared to get a majority of the starters’ reps inside on the defensive line. So I look for Hunt, Tyquan Lewis, Hassan Ridgeway and Grover Stewart, among others, to all get legit cracks at the reps left behind by Woods if he doesn’t re-sign with the Colts. You have a beautiful day, too.

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» Gilbert M. (Salt Lake City, Utah): “I am a Vietnam Veteran (USMC 1965 to 1968, Phu Bai). My Question: Please explain the impact on a team with the three Free Agency policies: Unrestricted FA; versus Restricted FA; versus Exclusive Rights FAs? How does a team get awarded from the NFL Supplemental Draft Picks? Using Trades or Free Agency, how do the Colts acquire extra Draft Picks, especially the 2nd RD, or 3rd RD, or 4th Round. THANKS.”

Skai Moore Jersey

Skai Moore had an impressive story, going from being undrafted to starting for the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1. But now, the former South Carolina linebacker may be looking for a new job.

On Friday, Moore was released by the Colts after playing in each of the first three games of the season. The former Gamecock started the season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals and had two total tackles in three games.

Moore signed with the Colts in May, after not being selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. He was second on the team with 16 tackles during the preseason.

Over his four seasons at South Carolina, Moore collected 353 tackles and four interceptions. He led the Gamecocks in tackles each of those four years.

There is a chance Moore joins the Colts’ practice squad, if he clears waivers.

While the Indianapolis Colts selected three linebackers in the 2018 NFL Draft, one of the more intriguing additions to the unit comes in the form of undrafted free agent Skai Moore.

A product of South Carolina, the former Gamecock wasn’t selected in the draft despite the fact that some pegged him to be a late-round prospect. With the Colts signing him after the draft, they may have gotten some solid value.

Adding depth and competition to the front seven is Chris Ballard’s goal as he lays the foundation for the rebuild and Moore should be able to provide that while also being a solid fit for the new defense.

As the Colts switch their alignment to a 4-3, they will also be implementing a Tampa 2 scheme, which will heavily feature looks in zone coverage. While Moore can hold his own in man coverage despite his limitations, he should be able to find more success when dropping into a zone as a Will linebacker.

Moore also brings a high football intelligence and great instincts to the middle of the field.

He might be a little undersized at 6-foot-2 and 226 pounds. His 4.73 40-yard dash time also leaves a bit more to be desired, but his production at South Carolina shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Moore recorded 14 interceptions at a consistent pace throughout his four years with the Gamecocks as a starter and he isn’t afraid to get to the ball carrier as he recorded no less than 93 tackles over his final three seasons.

Ballard would likely also want Moore to grab special teams snaps as his hard-hitting mentality could be a perfect way for him to see the field early on in his career should he stay on the roster.

There are limitations to Moore’s game, which likely led him to slide in the draft, but in a linebacking corps that doesn’t have any set starters, Moore could be an intriguing fit for the Colts.

INDIANAPOLIS — Just because the regular season has begun doesn’t mean that competition for starting spots is over.

One of the primary focuses of training camps around the NFL are position battles. While they are largely settled in the summer heat in August, players don’t just turn off a switch when the regular season arrives and become complacent to be a backup.

Indianapolis Colts second-year linebacker Anthony Walker was the first-team MIKE linebacker throughout the offseason program, OTAs, minicamps and when training camp began. However, a groin injury derailed his summer, keeping him out of the entire preseason and almost all of training camp.

Undrafted rookie free agent Skai Moore took the majority of the first-team reps at MIKE in Walker’s absence and played quite well both in practice and the preseason. His sideline-to-sideline range that he showed collegiately at South Carolina and ability to stay around the ball in coverage translated to the practice field as he transitioned to the NFL.

However, as the NFL regular season has returned for 2018, so has Walker, who was able to log enough practice time last week to play in the Colts’ opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Moore earned the start — having taken the bulk of the first-team reps through the summer — but the coaching staff rotated Moore and Walker throughout the game, each receiving multiple drives.

What’s ironic about this storyline? Any sense of a friendly competition is nothing new to Walker and Moore, who were rivals on the gridiron back in high school in Florida (Walker, for the record, conceded Moore was better based off the fact Moore’s team beat his team to advance in the state tournament).

Now teammates at the highest level, however, Walker and Moore are enjoying the chance to grow their games together.

“They’ve got me and Anthony rotating right now,” Moore told Colts.com this week. “We’re feeding off each other, so it’s a good deal so far.”

By game’s end last Sunday, Moore saw 27 defensive snaps and Walker was in for 23 as well as 16 special teams plays.

“Yeah, I was excited just to be out there with my teammates,” Walker said this week. “You know, I missed the whole preseason; hadn’t played a game since December of last year. So, just to be back out there with the pads on, I was happy for that. But Me and Skai, we were able to do a solid job at the MIKE spot. We both definitely have to get better, but it was a solid job by both of us.”

For Moore, receiving reps in live game action helps move his development along. You can see certain things in practice, and then totally different things against a preseason opponent, but nothing compares to getting reps during an actual in-season game.

Walker is also still developing after being able to only see extensive action in two games last year as a rookie, largely due to a hamstring injury. He started the final two games of the season and tallied 22 tackles (one for loss) by season’s end.

Walker is now getting the game reps to match the mental reps he’s taken all summer. When he was drafted, one of his biggest “pros” was the fact that he was a coach’s son and acted as a quarterback on the field for the defense. Being the MIKE linebacker, you are in charge of making the on-field calls for the defense and making sure everybody is where they’re supposed to be.

“Being the MIKE, whether you’re in or out, you have to know everything that’s going on; the ins and outs of the defense,” Walker said. “So, when you are in, you’re able to just make the calls that need to be called for the defense and all that.

“The mental reps were big for me this offseason, (since) I didn’t get much reps in camp,” he continued. “Just the mental reps, and when I was able to get back out there I didn’t feel like I was too off from everything.”

Going forward, we will just have to see how the coaches proceed with Moore and Walker’s in-game reps. Are these reps for Walker just to help him get back into game shape after several weeks on the sideline? Or may we see him reclaim his starting MIKE spot?

One thing for certain is it doesn’t hurt to have two sharp, young talented players calling the shots in the middle of the defense throughout the game.

ARLINGTON, Texas — The NFL welcomed 256 new players this weekend, but none were one of the best linebackers in South Carolina history.

Skai Moore was not selected in the NFL Draft and will pursue a free-agent opportunity with Indianapolis. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound fifth-year senior was a playmaker throughout his college career but professional teams may have been put off by his lack of size as a potential NFL linebacker.

Moore has never played defensive back, which his size seems to dictate as the best bet for playing at the next level. In the size-first world of the NFL, teams ignored the constant winning presence Moore brought to every game he played.

Moore became just the 15th player in NCAA Division I history to lead his team in tackles for four straight seasons and was a first-team All-SEC selection as a senior. He tied the school record with 14 interceptions, an eye-popping number for a linebacker, and finished second in school history with 213 solo tackles.

Moore returned from redshirting the entire 2016 season after neck surgery and fought T.J. Brunson for the tackles lead most of the season. He overcame Brunson and finished with 353 for his career, which ranks sixth in the record books.

It’s all about filling needs in the NFL, especially in the later rounds, and that could have been why Moore was left undrafted. Yet that’s not the end of the road — many players have gone on to great success in the NFL despite being undrafted, most notably former Gamecock Terry Cousin, who played 12 seasons despite not hearing his name called on draft day.

World champion Philadelphia drafted 6-8, 346-pound Jordan Mailata, an Australian rugby player who has never played a minute of American football. Chris Lammons (Atlanta), Cory Helms (New Orleans), Taylor Stallworth (New Orleans), Dante Sawyer (Kansas City), Alan Knott (San Francisco) and Jamarcus King (Oakland) were confirmed as signing free-agent deals as of Saturday night.

First-round selection Hayden Hurst was the only Gamecock drafted.

Denico Autry Jersey

Looking to find a solution to the pass rush questions they faced this offseason, the Indianapolis Colts went out and signed veteran Justin Houston during free agency.

One of the bigger signings the Colts have made in Chris Ballard’s three offseasons as general manager, part of the plan is for Houston to help develop the young defensive linemen, whether that be through conversations or simply leading by example.

While he wouldn’t be considered one of the younger guys on the defensive line, Denico Autry has enjoyed picking the brain of the veteran edge rusher.

“I was like we got another piece to the puzzle. A great guy coming in,” Autry told reporters Tuesday on the Houston signing. “It’s going to be deep. I was thinking about that the other day. We got Justin Houston in and he brings a lot. Just walking around the locker room with him alone, just talking to him, he helps out a lot.”

Autry himself was a free-agent addition during the 2018 offseason and wound up thriving in the attacking defensive front. He led the Colts with a career-high 9.0 sacks on the season working primarily as a three-technique, though defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus slid him out to the edge at times as well.

The 28-year-old was only able to play in 12 games during his first season with the Colts. With some new additions to the pass rush along with some hopeful development with younger players, Autry could find himself in a situation where he surpasses his career-high of sacks in a single season.

There are still some questions about the pass rush that won’t be answered until the pads come on, but the addition of Houston should help the entire unit be more consistent and productive.

The signing will also have an impact, whether directly or indirectly, on the improvement of the pass rushers such as Autry.

One of the bigger free agency moves the Colts made in 2018 was bringing in defensive tackle Denico Autry, who proved he was a versatile and productive piece when healthy.

The veteran defensive lineman worked all over the Colts front, playing the three-technique and even kicking out to defensive end at times.

During his first season with the Colts, Autry played 12 games and recorded 37 tackles (28 solo), 13 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits and 9.0 sacks, all of which were career-highs.

Autry struggled with some injuries during the first half, but was a big piece of the defense in the second half as he didn’t miss a game over the final nine regular-season contests.

Autry was brought in to be a pass rush specialist, and he proved to be just that leading the team in sacks. He recorded 6.0 sacks over the last five games of the regular season working from both the interior and on the edge.

The 28-year-old found ways to win with quickness on the interior, beating guards and centers to their spot as soon as the ball was snapped. His strong play earned him consideration for the Pro Bowl, which he wound up being a reserve. It doesn’t count as a selection, but it shows he got some recognition for his strong play.

The Indianapolis Colts and defensive end Denico Autry reportedly reached an agreement Wednesday on a three-year, $17.8 million contract.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported details of the free-agent signing. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle noted the deal includes $6.5 million in guaranteed money.

Autry signed with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State in 2014. He steadily developed into a reliable piece of the team’s defensive line rotation over the past four seasons.

The 27-year-old North Carolina native registered 100 combined tackles, 12 passes defended and 10.5 sacks across 56 appearances for the Raiders. His 36 tackles and five sacks last season were both career highs.

Autry, who will likely play defensive tackle in the Colts’ 4-3 formation, graded as the league’s No. 56 interior defender in 2017, per Pro Football Focus.

In December, former Raiders teammate Justin Ellis praised the unheralded lineman’s raw strength and scheme flexibility after working with him all season, according to Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle.

“I always demonstrate the O-lineman for him during the week,” Ellis said. “I can feel how strong he is and he’s not even, like, against me. We know Denico’s a good pass-rusher, inside and outside. I just thought he did the things that we know he can do.”

Autry should slide into a starting role for Indianapolis as part of a rotation with Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods at tackle. He could also see some snaps on the edge on rushing downs.

Colts defensive lineman Denico Autry has been fined $13,369 for unsportsmanlike conduct during last week’s playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.

Autry celebrated a fourth-down takedown of Patrick Mahomes with two pelvic thrusts, directed toward an official no less. The sack dance came with Indianapolis trailing 24-7 midway through the third quarter. Autry, like McCringleberry before him, apparently just couldn’t help himself.

  1. Rams cornerback Marcus Peters was fined $10,026 for unnecessary roughness against Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper during L.A.’s win, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported
  2. Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers was fined $20,054 for roughing Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in New England’s 41-28 win, Pelissero reported.

INDIANAPOLIS — As Chris Ballard began envisioning the pieces needed to build the Indianapolis Colts’ new 4-3 defensive scheme, he knew having players with versatility up front would be critical.

While the team would eventually want established starters at all four defensive line positions, adding players with the ability to play both inside and on the edge — and having the ability to play both spots with quickness and power — was going to be a major component to the Colts’ general manager’s offseason roster-building plan.

So on March 15, one day after the start of the league’s free agency period, Ballard didn’t wait long to add a player with all of those attributes, making Denico Autry the Colts’ first outside signing of the offseason.

Since that time, Autry has been ingrained as a theoretical starter along the Colts’ defensive line during offseason practices, working in as the No. 1 defensive tackle at the three-technique spot.

He’s displayed the traits the Colts’ scouts saw in Autry when doing their homework on the free-agent-to-be earlier this year.

“Just hard-nosed, effort, run all over the field. I can get in any position and play,” Autry said when asked what Ballard told him he liked about his game. “So, I’ve got to bring something to the table. So, that’s what they like about me.”

Autry — who turns 28 next month — gives the Colts a player entering the prime of his career who has displayed flashes of solid play with at-times limited opportunities.

He was signed by the Oakland Raiders in May 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State, and has spent the last four seasons in Oakland developing his craft on defense while also turning into a leader on special teams.

Last season, despite starting just three games, Autry was able to collect a career-best 36 tackles, five sacks and seven passes defensed. In four seasons, he has combined to play in 56 games with 18 starts, collecting 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 12 passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and causing one safety.