INDIANAPOLIS — Most fans and media look to Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark or Dwight Freeney when it comes to the success of the Indianapolis Colts during the postseason.
But this year, the performances of five players who have performed under the national radar could prove vital to the Colts’ immediate future.
Here’s a look at five Indianapolis players that you should know more about while watching the playoffs. Three of them are rookies — cornerback Jerraud Powers, wide receiver Austin Collie and punter/kickoff specialist Pat McAfee — along with weak side linebacker Clint Session and defensive tackle Daniel Muir. Powers has taken over at right cornerback with veteran Marlin Jackson sidelined for the rest of the season with a knee injury. While he nursed a sore hamstring late in the season, the rookie from Auburn is sixth on the team in tackles with 63, has one interception, broken up nine passes, has forced one fumble and recovered a fumble.
“I think [Powers] has a real unique quality because he is a guy that is mature beyond his years in every aspect. He is a very settled individual, very focused. He’s conscientious and obviously skilled physically. But a guy that is always thinking and always seems to be in the right place at the right time,” said Colts coach Jim Caldwell.
“He followed the classic example of an individual that keeps getting better week-in and week-out. He’s had a little bit of a setback here as of late [with the hamstring injury] but he’ll be back. And we anticipate he’ll play even better than he’s played previously.”
As for Collie, all the former Brigham Young standout has done this year is haul in 60 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s the most receptions and touchdown catches by a first-year receiver in the NFL this season. He ranks third on the team in receiving behind veterans Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark.
The 60 catches during the regular-season is the fourth-best total for a first-year receiver in Colts history behind Bill Brooks’ 65 in 1986, Marvin Harrison’s 64 in 1996 and Edgerrin James’ 62 in 1999. That’s not bad company to join. His 676 yards receiving is the fifth best by a rookie (Brooks, 1,131, 1986; Harrison, 836, 1996; Andre Rison, 820, 1989; John Mackey, 726, 1963).
“Collie has really come in and filled a void that we had, just in terms of someone being able to play and play effectively in the slot. It was a position we weren’t quite certain of how it would end up. We knew we would have a pretty good player there, but to have a rookie perform the way he has performed is pretty unique. I think that’s because of how he works at it, he studies, he loves it and he’s been able to adapt,” Caldwell said.
“He keeps getting better. I think early in the season whenever we talked about him I’d always add a little caveat, ‘But, he has to keep getting better.’ He’s continued to do so. He catches the ball. He’s been good in terms of his run support blocking. All around, he’s been a good, solid player, and he keeps getting better. That is key.”
Perhaps the rookie with the biggest shoes to fill, literally, was McAfee. He’s averaged 44.3 yards overall and 38 yards net on 64 punts this season. He has placed 20 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
But in replacing longtime Indianapolis punter Hunter Smith, the first-year player from West Virginia not only has had to punt but he’s also taken over Smith’s role as the team’s holder for placekickers Adam Vinatieri and Matt Stover.
“He has demonstrated he can punt the ball real well. He is also mature enough to handle other duties. He has been kicking the ball off well. He increased the number significantly in terms of touchbacks we had this year. That makes a huge difference,” the Colts coach said.
“All in all, I think he’s done a real nice job. We knew he could do it. He’s fairly versatile in a number of areas.”
McAfee has 21 touchbacks so far this year, helping to bolster the Colts’ kickoff coverage units’ overall improvement this season.
“McAfee has been tremendous. He’s handling two duties for us [punting and holding on field goals and extra points]. That is very difficult for a guy in his first year to do what he has been able to do. You look at our numbers in terms of kickoffs for example, our numbers are a lot different than they were previously. He’s had a lot of touchbacks. That certainly does indeed help our defense. It makes a team have to drive 80 yards to score. The more often you can do that, make them go the long haul, it’s going to help you get them stopped. He’s helped a tremendous amount there,” Caldwell said.
“His punting has been very good, solid. He’s certainly made a lot of big plays, placing the ball inside the 20-yard line on numerous occasions. He’s a guy that doesn’t get nervous. He loves what he is doing, and he continues to get better week-in and week-out. I think that is key. Neither one of those guys [McAfee and Collie] or Powers hit the proverbial wall, the rookie wall as we often times say. They continue to get better.”
Session and Muir, meanwhile, are two slightly older players who have each settled into their jobs with equal success.
A third-year linebacker from the University of Pittsburgh, Session made a successful transition from strong-side to weakside linebacker during the offseason.
He’s third on the team in tackles with 101 (82 solo) and has two interceptions (including one that he returned for a game-deciding touchdown against Houston) along with two passes broken up and a forced fumble.
“Clint is a guy that has played really well for us this year. He often gives us a spark on defense by the way that he plays,” Caldwell said. “He’s very athletic, he has a way of making big plays for us and he’s a hitter. He’s been an impact player for us on defense all season long.”
Session was developing into a pretty good strong side linebacker early in his NFL career. But the move to the weak side has allowed the 6-foot, 235-pounder to use all of his skills. He’s certainly proven that this season.
“He’s made strides. He’s always had and demonstrated that pop and natural hitting leverage. He’s always displayed a great love for contact. And certainly he has begun to really get a good feel for our defensive scheme,” the Colts coach said.
“And he’s growing within [the scheme]. There’s been situations in games where he’s had 10 or 11 tackles. And I still think that his upside is pretty huge. So I still think that you can continue to see him improve year after year after year. He’s developed into a pretty fine football player.”
Muir may be the most surprising player to make the list. The former Kent State defensive lineman was claimed off waivers from the Green Bay Packers near the end of training camp last year.
He saw limited playing time in 2008, appearing in six games as a backup and was inactive for 10 games. But he’s been a key performer on the Colts’ defensive line this season, starting 10 games at either right or left defensive tackle.
Muir is seventh on the team in tackles with 52 while recording one sack. He has teamed with another waiver-wire pickup, former Tennessee Titans practice squad tackle Antonio Johnson, to give the Colts some needed bulk in the middle of the defensive line.
“Dan Muir has certainly developed within our scheme. Last year when he came [to Indianapolis], he was kind of feeling his way and learning. But he made a real commitment during the offseason really restructuring his body. Got in great condition and found a niche. He improved his running and he’s been a real factor in our defensive line,” Caldwell said.
“There’s been games when he’s had eight tackles, seven tackles. That tells you something about how active he is. But also his play has helped our linebacking corps as well, kind of keeping them free. But Dan’s been one of those guys that works hard, is committed and he’s productive.”
While Manning and Wayne get most of the attention, five players have Colts in prime spot to make Super Bowl run
INDIANAPOLIS — Most fans and media look to Peyton Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark or Dwight Freeney when it comes to the success of the Indianapolis Colts during the postseason.
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A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts received high marks for the impact players the team added through the NFL draft.
Of the 10 players selected, five ended up either starting or seeing extensive playing time (quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Vick Ballard) during the Colts’ 11-5 season.
While this year’s class may not rival that group in terms of name recognition and flash, it may produce just as many major contributors once the 2013 season gets underway.
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Colts in wait-and-see mode for tonight’s NFL draft
As the 2013 NFL draft gets underway tonight at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the Indianapolis Colts are continuing their wait-and-see stance in regard to the first-round pick.
The draft begins at 8 p.m. — televised by the NFL Network and ESPN — with the Kansas City Chiefs making the night’s first selection. Teams will have 10 minutes to make their decisions during the first round. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.
There will be only one round tonight. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, beginning at 6:30 p.m. with seven minutes allotted per pick in the second round and five minutes allowed in the third. The final four rounds are slated to begin at noon Saturday with four minutes between selections.
As it stands now, Indianapolis does not have a second-round pick. It was traded to Miami last fall in exchange for veteran cornerback Vontae Davis. But second-year general manager Ryan Grigson has nut ruled out the possibility of trading down from the first round if the Colts aren’t satisfied with the players available.
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Add one more player to the list of veteran free agents signed by the Indianapolis Colts this offseason.
Former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey agreed to a a deal with the Colts late Monday evening. Bey, who played collegiately at Maryland, was the seventh player selected in the first round of the 2009 National Football League draft.
Colts sign nose tackle
Another day, more player signings for the Indianapolis Colts.
Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin agreed to terms with the Colts on Tuesday evening and officially signed with the team Wednesday. Franklin (6-1, 315) is a 10-year NFL veteran with stops in Baltimore (2003-06), San Francisco (2007-10), New Orleans (2011) and San Diego (2012).
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While the Colts haven’t yet added that big-name wide receiver that team owner Jim Irsay hinted at in tweets over the weekend, Indianapolis has addressed one area on offense.
Former Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck had agreed Monday night to be the Colts’ primary back-up to second-year starter Andrew Luck. He officially signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the team Tuesday morning.
“We are very pleased to announce the signing of Matt Hasselbeck,” general manager Ryan Grigson said in a prepared statement. “His body of work, intangibles, and extensive league experience speak for themselves. Those factors, plus his familiarity with our offensive scheme, will make him a great asset to our team and its vision as we move forward.”
Colts likely done signing free agents, for now
With the possible exception of adding a few lesser-priced players, the Indianapolis Colts’ big-time foray into the veteran free-agent marketplace is pretty much done.
Landry, Jean Francois join Colts defensive unit
After adding five veteran free agent players to the Indianapolis Colts roster on Tuesday, general manager Ryan Grigson plucked two more plums late Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.
New York Jets safety LaRon Landry and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois both signed contracts with the Colts. Landry, a strong safety who appears to be a bigger version of former Indianapolis Pro Bowler Bob Sanders, and the versatile Jean-Francois are expected to make immediate impacts on the Colts’ defensive unit.
Colts introduce free-agent signees
What the Indianapolis Colts accomplished last season — posting an 11-5 record and earning an AFC wild-card berth with a young team plus having that kind of success without its head coach on the sidelines for 12 games — didn’t go unnoticed by players around the NFL.
That was especially true for the five veteran free agents who were added to the Colts’ roster Tuesday. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus (Detroit), cornerback Greg Toler (Arizona), outside linebacker Erik Walden (Green Bay), offensive guard Donald Thomas (New England) and linebacker Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta) admitted as much Wednesday.
“I felt like this would be the best fit for me at this point in my career. I really liked what I saw was happening with the program here and the way things have taken shape. I feel like we have a really great team here and it’s on the rise. I really wanted to be a part of that,” Thomas said during a teleconference interview with the Colts’ media.
Colts sign five free agents, filling needs at offensive line, cornerback
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Jeff Saturday retires as a Colt
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The 14-year veteran center in the NFL put an official stamp on a career Thursday that began in Baltimore in 1998 and ended in Green Bay in 2012. But it was those 13 seasons in between — from 1999 to 2011 in which he played for Indianapolis — when Saturday earned his greatest rewards.
Saturday thrilled to retire as a Colt
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Indianapolis franchises punter McAfee
A week ago, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said it was a priority that the team retain the services of punter Pat McAfee.
McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who’s contract is due to expire March 12, was designated as the Colts’ franchise player Friday. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team’s special-teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed,” Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. “We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks.
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Colts' Pagano back to full work schedule at combine
Back and ready to go.
That’s the attitude Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano is taking during the National Football Scouting Combine, which completed its second day of operations Friday at Lucas Oil Stadium. During a wide-ranging press conference at the combine, Pagano confirmed that he is back to a full work regimen after missing 12 games last fall as he battled a rare form of leukemia.
After undergoing cancer treatments that featured heavy doses of chemotherapy, the second-year head coach was able to return to the sidelines for Indianapolis’ final regular-season home game against Houston and for the team’s AFC wild-card matchup with eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
Colts looking forward to different approach to draft in 2013
A year ago, the Indianapolis Colts had the first overall pick in the 2012 National Football League draft.
It was a foregone conclusion that the Colts would select former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the selection. While Indianapolis front office and player personnel officials certainly had to do their due diligence in preparing for the draft, the Colts find themselves this year in a bit different situation.
The team will have the 24th overall pick in the first round, which is a double-edged sword. Indianapolis picks lower in the round due to a successful season. But the pool of available can’t-miss talent isn’t quite as plentiful as drafting earlier in the round.
Former Pro Bowl selection Freeney won't return to Colts
The news coming out of the Indianapolis Colts headquarters Friday afternoon was not totally unexpected. Team officials have confirmed that two veteran players – former Pro Bowl defensive end/outside linebacker Dwight Freeney and wide receiver Austin Collie — will not be returning for the 2013 season.
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Quarterback Andrew Luck running the Pistol offense? Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton lining up in the Wildcat?
Colts moving on to the off season
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Baltimore ends Indy’s playoff run early
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