Add another name to the relatively short list of prospective National Football League players who have made a big impression on team owners, coaches, scouts and player personnel executives during the scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill, Georgia offensive guard/tackle Cordy Glenn and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III were the first three members of the select group after posting eye-opening numbers during on-field drills at the combine over the weekend.
Memphis nose tackle/defensive tackle Dontari Poe became the latest entry Monday after displaying a rare combination of size (6-foot-3, 346 pounds), speed (he was unofficially timed at 4.87 in the 40 and had an official best time of 4.98), strength (bench pressed 220 pounds a combine-best 44 times) and athletic skills (he had a vertical jump of 30 inches).
Now here’s the problem. The Indianapolis Colts are shifting their defensive alignment to a 3-4 scheme from the 4-3 system that they’ve run since 1992. Since most of the defensive players currently on the team’s roster were not brought in to play in a 3-4 set, the Colts are going to have to gradually build the defense over time.
Indianapolis is expected to use what new coach Chuck Pagano has characterized as a “hybrid” 3-4 scheme, meaning that he will use the players that he has on hand and still use a 4-3 alignment on early downs. But in order to fully realize the potential of a 3-4 defense, the Colts have to find a quality nose tackle.
Pagano had Pro Bowler Haloti Ngata when he was the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator during the 2011 season. Along with defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, they need to find somebody who can fill that nose tackle role with the Colts.
Poe would seem to be the perfect fit for what Pagano and Manusky want to do. Big, strong, mobile. He can cover sideline to sideline and be that big inside run stopper who could also rush the quarterback on occasion. And most importantly, he has experience playing as a true defensive tackle and could play in a 4-3 scheme as well.
There have been comparisons made to both Ngata and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Casey Hampton. The Steelers are also a big 3-4 defensive team, much like Baltimore.
“I see myself as someone who can rush the passer a lot more than people think. I am used to playing nose tackle and the 3-technique (nose tackle) and I’ve played some 5-technique (defensive tackle). I’m pretty comfortable anywhere on the defensive line,” Poe said over the weekend. “I think I’m explosive, very explosive. That’s probably my biggest strength. Most people think just because I’m big I do nothing but power rush you, things like that.(But) I try to use my quickness to my advantage.”
Poe’s versatility is a big plus for teams interested in his services.
“Really, I’m used to both (types of defensive alignments). We played both in college. Either or would probably be good for me. I’m comfortable playing either or. It’s really not a big deal,” he said. “Most people kind of see me as a 3-4 nose tackle, which is cool with me because I like that position as well. I like to think that I’m versatile and I can play multiple positions.”
Now the big question, especially after Monday’s breakout performance at the combine, is will Poe be available when the Colts have the second pick in the second round? He may be one of the first group of defensive linemen off the board and could conceivably be taken in the middle to lower half of the first round.
Castillo to Indy?
San Diego Chargers defensive end Luis Castillo may be a viable option for the Colts as a veteran free agent. He was drafted 28th overall in 2005 and has started 79 games for the Chargers.
Castillo, who played collegiately at Northwestern, is expected to be released by San Diego soon. His former defensive coordinator with the Chargers, Manusky, is now with Indianapolis.
The defensive lineman fractured his leg in the 2011 regular-season opener and missed the rest of the season. He is due a $1 million roster bonus next month and a $3.9 million base salary next season, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
How about Redding?
Baltimore Ravens defensive end Cory Redding is another name that has popped up as a prospective Indianapolis addition. Redding is an unrestricted free agent who played for Pagano last season.
There are several Baltimore players in addition to Redding who are also free agents who could help the Colts, including inside linebackers Brendon Ayanbadejo, Jameel McClain and Dannell Ellerbee, outside linebacker Jarret Johnson, cornerback Lardarius Webb and safety Tom Zbikowski.
Griffin talks to Colts
Before leaving Indianapolis, Griffin talked to Indianapolis officials about being the team’s potential No. 1 draft pick.
While most observers still figure that the Colts will select Stanford’s Andrew Luck with the pick, Griffin’s performance at the combine Sunday may have made it a tougher decision for the team’s hierarchy.
“At this moment, there’s no telling what’s going to happen. So I’m just trying to put my best foot forward. Whatever team that falls in love with me is the team that will pick me,” he told Indianapolis television station WTHR Monday.
As for meeting with the Colts, Griffin said that it went well.
“I interviewed with Indianapolis. Met with all those guys. They were awesome,” he said. “I felt good about it as I was walking out.”