to injury, turnover
By BARATO BRITT
The defending Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts endured a roller coaster ride on the defensive end last season.
Regarded late in the regular season as historically bad against the run, the D transformed into a championship caliber unit seemingly overnight.
The question entering their title defense is simply which squad they will most resemble this year. Having lost a number of last year’s starters and, most recently losing defensive tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland to a season-ending knee injury, the answer to that question may be neither.
With McFarland out, the Colts find themselves in a familiar position as last preseason. The nine-year veteran was brought in as replacement to Corey Simon, whose short stint with the Colts officially ended this preseason.
While the Colts look to address this issue from within this year, defensive end Dwight Freeney will no doubt be looked upon to earn every penny of his record-setting $72 million contract. Freeney, for one, is looking forward to the challenge.
“I actually expect us to play how we played in the playoffs,” he said. “You go into any season you want to play the best you can play. I think we’re going to put things together, we have some guys coming back, the system is still in place.”
Despite the adjustments that are being made up front, it is the secondary that has undergone the most significant transformation this preseason. Gone are mainstays Nick Harper and Jason David; in their place are projected starters Marlin Jackson and Kelvin Hayden, who each shined in the postseason and Super Bowl XLI.
The two are keenly aware of the greater expectations, and in fact, are relishing the opportunity to prove the postseason’s defensive success was no fluke. And, with All Pro safety Bob Sanders and second year man Antoine Bethea on support, opposing receivers should have their hands full this season.
“I’m approaching (starting) as it’s my responsibility,” Jackson said. “I’m up to the task; I’m just preparing myself everyday in practice, knowing that when I get into a game situation, I’ll be ready. I don’t feel any pressure at all really, I played a lot in the playoffs last year, and I know I can produce.”
“The main thing is you want to be precise in everything you do, because as the starter, you’re the guy,” Hayden added. “You have to step up and make plays and be consistent, that’s what I’m looking to do.”