A changing of the guard. That’s what fans of the Indianapolis Colts can look forward to when the NFL draft commences tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Indianapolis is in full rebuilding mode. That fact was brought into sharp focus last month when the team released five veteran players, four who have been key ingredients in the Colts’ recent run of success.
Gone is four-time NFL Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning, who was released last month and subsequently signed with Denver. Filling that huge gap for Indianapolis will be former Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who will be the first player selected in the draft.
Luck is considered to be the best prospect at his position in close to 30 years — even better than the much-decorated and much-heralded Manning, who was the top pick by the Colts in the 1998 draft.
Indianapolis also parted ways with tight end Dallas Clark, tight end Jacob Tamme, cornerback Jacob Lacey, running back Joseph Addai, linebacker Gary Brackett, safety Melvin Bullitt and quarterback Curtis Painter.
Now it’s up to general manager Ryan Grigson and coach Chuck Pagano — both in their first months of work with the Colts — to chart the course for the immediate future of the franchise.
“[My goal is] to get football players who love to play the game. Guys you don’t have to worry about when you’re not watching them. Guys that have talent,” Grigson said last week as he previewed the draft.
“You can’t just pick one type of player. You have to sprinkle different types in all over the place. At the end of the day, they all need to love to play the game and have some level of talent that will help you win eventually.”
It’s safe to say that Indianapolis needs help across the board, but specifically at wide receiver, cornerback and on the defensive line. But it doesn’t stop there.
Don’t be surprised if Grigson and Pagano look to beef up the roster along the offensive line, at linebacker and at strong safety. But drafting simply for need is not good enough. Coming off a 2-14 season in 2011, though, the Colts are looking for help across the board.
“You never want to pass on a really good football player. Somebody that was easy for you to do when you went in to watch the film the first time, the second time, the third time, the 10th time. You usually know the guys you like pretty quickly,” the Indianapolis general manager said.
“If you’re building a team that you want to have sustained success, you want the best players. It doesn’t do you any good to draft a guy that’s just a guy, when you compare him to someone else at another position where you maybe have a little depth that’s just markedly better talent-wise. It’s tough sometimes, but you have to be disciplined. The teams that draft really well, I think, are disciplined in following their [draft] board and not reaching due to need.”
• Wide receiver — The Colts re-signed veteran Reggie Wayne and that’s the good news. Austin Collie is back as a slot receiver. But Indianapolis lost Pierre Garcon (Washington) to free agency. Getting a big, physical receiver who can stretch the defense would seem to be among the team’s top priorities in the draft this year.
• Cornerback — Indianapolis has been hit hard by injuries at cornerback the last two seasons. Third-year veteran Jerraud Powers, hurt in 2010 and 2011, has proven to be the team’s best overall cornerback. Finding a dependable and physical play-making cover corner would help stabilize the secondary.
• Defensive line — With the Colts expected to move into a 3-4 defensive scheme and away from the team’s 4-3 alignment, finding a 3-4 nose tackle is paramount. Free-agent addition Brandon McKinney and returning veteran Antonio Johnson can play there.
• Tight end — With Clark and Tamme gone, Indianapolis needs to find a pass-catching tight end. Free-agent addition Kyle Miller has been filling that role during the team’s voluntary mini-camp. Miller, though, doesn’t have a lot of NFL experience.
Once Luck is selected, the Colts and St. Louis Rams (who also had a 2-14 season last year) will trade off the first pick in rounds two through seven. After the Rams make the second-round selection, Indianapolis will have to decide what it wants to do.
Could Grigson and Pagano opt to trade up, in order to take a coveted tight end like Stanford’s Coby Fleener, or will they decide to move down a few spots?
“I’m always inclined to do anything if it involves us securing a better player or a player I really wanted or a player that we feel could help us. To trade, maneuver and do those things just for the sake of maneuvering is not in my makeup,” Grigson said.
“I like to really keep a laser focus on the board and see who is coming off. You let the draft come to you and let that board speak to me.”
Pagano says that the Colts sit in a good position.
“There is speculation all of the time [about possible trades]. Obviously, we are sitting in a spot in all of the rounds where if there is somebody there that somebody else covets, we have some [draft picks],” the Indianapolis coach pointed out Wednesday.
“Being at the top of the rounds is a great spot to be in. It is not one you want to be in the future, but certainly this year it is a great spot for us. Our guys are armed and ready to field any calls that you get.”
A changing of the guard. That’s what fans of the Indianapolis Colts can look forward to when the NFL draft commences tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
- Pro Sports
Colts hoping for more high marks on draft picks
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.
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.
Colts sign Matt Hasselbeck to back up Luck
The Indianapolis Colts’ roster moves just keep coming.
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 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.
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.
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.
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One thing is for certain. Meyers Leonard of the Portland Trail Blazers doesn’t need 40 minutes to incite a crowd with a posterizing slam dunk or a big shot block.
At just 20 years of age, the former Robinson, Ill., standout who took his talents to Champaign for two years is getting his feet wet at the highest level of basketball.
Close to 300 fans, many of whom watched Leonard take the Maroons to the 2010 IHSA Class 2A state championship, rode on charter buses to watch him battle the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis last week.
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Do-or-die Bills next for Colts
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Colts healthy entering key road game
If all goes well during today’s short walk-through practice, it appears the Indianapolis Colts will be in pretty good health heading into Sunday’s nationally televised (4:25 p.m., CBS Sports) road game with the New England Patriots.
Colts, Patriots renew rivalry for 10th straight year
Once again, Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., it’s the Indianapolis Colts playing the New England Patriots.
Times have changed
A lot has changed for the Indianapolis Colts since a 22-17 home loss to Jacksonville on Sept. 23.
For starters, that’s the only game the 1-7 Jaguars have won this season. Indianapolis, meanwhile, has posted wins in four of its last five games and is rolling along with a 5-3 record.
Many Colts point to that loss in the third week of the season. Indianapolis led 14-3 at the half and were ahead 14-13 after three quarters of play.
In fact, the Colts led 17-16 with 0:45 remaining in the game. That’s when Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert connected with speedy wide receiver Cecil Shorts III on an 80-yard pass play that resulted in the final margin of victory.
Colts not carried away with success
The Indianapolis Colts have surprised many fans and media around the NFL by getting off to a 4-3 start this season.
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Strictly from an aesthetic point of view, the Indianapolis Colts’ 17-13 National Football League win over the Cleveland Browns wasn’t very attractive.
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Pagano gives Colts 4 days off
With a bye this weekend, the Indianapolis Colts went through a short week of practice before taking a long four-day weekend.
Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano put the Colts through workouts Tuesday and Wednesday before allowing the team to scatter across the country.
Players are due back Sunday evening as Pagano and his coaching staff hope to hit the ground running heading into Indianapolis’ Oct. 7 home game with Green Bay.
Tentative agreement reached on NFL referees' contract
The NFL and the referees’ union reached a tentative contract agreement at midnight today, ending an impasse that began in June when the league locked out the officials and used replacements instead.
“Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night” for the Cleveland-Baltimore game, Commissioner Roger Goodell said after a day of marathon negotiations.
With Goodell at the table, the sides concluded two days of talks with the announcement of a tentative eight-year deal, which must be ratified by 51 percent of the union’s 121 members. They plan to vote Friday.
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Wide receiver Avery starting to feel at home with Colts
Count Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians as two of Donnie Avery’s biggest supporters.
The Colts’ wide receiver, who has struggled with knee issues the last two seasons after being the first receiver selected in the 2008 NFL draft, opened a lot of eyes in last Sunday’s 23-20 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
Avery hauled in nine passes for 111 yards in the victory, his first big performance since joining the team as an unrestricted free agent last March.
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