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New Colts linebackers bring different dimension in remake of defense

INDIANAPOLIS -- "Physical," "tough" and "nastiness."

Those were some of the words used by new Indianapolis Colts linebackers John Simon and Barkevious Mingo during their introductory conference calls Monday.

They also represent the message Colts general manager Chris Ballard is relaying to free agents the team is pursuing. Ballard also wants to have as much competition for playing time as possible.

“They’re trying to create a culture where competition is in every position,” Mingo.

Enter Simon, Mingo and Jabaal Sheard at linebacker. Trent Cole, Robert Mathis, D’Qwell Jackson and Erik Walden have exited.

The Colts are no longer relying on just having experienced players on defense, they want players who are athletic enough to stop the run, get to the quarterback and drop back into coverage.

“I know they’re making some changes,” Simon said. “I know they’re trying to bring in tough, physical players. We are going to go out there and play tough and physical.”

Simon was used primarily as a strong-side linebacker to set the edge against the run during his four seasons with the Houston Texans. He’ll likely get the first shot at replacing Walden, a free agent the Colts don’t intend to re-sign, as starting linebacker next season. Simon had 51 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 11 games last season.

Simon noted that he no longer has to run around trying to chase down quarterback Andrew Luck twice a season during AFC South meetings. “I think I brought a little bit of that to the Houston defense," Simon said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to install that here and get rolling."

Mingo signed with Indianapolis after talking to former Colt Trevor Bates while the two were with the Patriots last season. “I just felt it was the right fit,” said Mingo.

This will be an opportunity for Mingo to redeem himself. Despite being the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, Mingo, who considers himself a pass-rushing linebacker, is on his third team and has started only 17 of the 62 games he’s appeared in during his career. He did not record a sack in the past two seasons.

“Just I guess I didn’t take advantage of all the opportunities that were given,” he said. “Now I’m in a position to play a position and learn the defense and get everything going in the right direction. I feel like the Colts are the spot to get that done in.”