ANDERSON, Ind. -- Quality over quantity is no way to build a corps of cornerbacks.
But when you’re the Colts, who filled needs all over the board as a new regime took over, it had to happen somewhere. And that somewhere is at corner.
Beyond No. 1 Jerraud Powers, the team used every available avenue but the draft to help create a field to compete.
Justin King was a late arriving free agent, a former St. Louis draft pick.
Korey Lindsey was claimed off waivers from Arizona.
Powers has defended a group that’s been widely touted as a weak link, including by me.
“There is no doubt in my mind we’ll have a deep, confident group,” Powers said. “The more people you bring in, the more guys start to look around like, ‘Well this guy’s out to get my job. I’ve got to step my game up, or do this or do that.’
“Once you establish that sort of competition you kind of see who’s going to step up, who’s not, who’s going to play good, who’s going to go in the tank. I think that was kind of the mindset, that we’ve got to bring some competition to the cornerback group. And I think it’s helped so far.”
If I am scheming against the Colts, I’m going four- and five-wide and testing a nickel and dime corner until they prove they can stop me. Yes, they've added people and changed schemes. But a year ago, this team allowed a 71.2 completion percentage, the worst in league history. (Stat courtesy of Mike Chappell of the Indy Star.)
Powers, King and Vaughn all said they figure the same thing about offenses loading up to throw. The Colts believe they can answer effectively.
“It’s a passing league now, you accept that challenge of people saying put them in nickel, put them in sub, put them in dime,” Vaughn said. “That’s the challenge you want. If you’re afraid of the challenge, you shouldn’t even be out there. What do I think about it? We’ll be ready when they come.”
King is the second starter at this point, moving inside on nickel with Vaughn taking his place. But defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's recent endorsement of King sounded lukewarm at best, and it will not be surprising if the Colts continue to bring in other options as players come free around the league.
Powers reminded me he’s just 25, though he’s now the leader of the corners and ranks with safety Antoine Bethea as the leader of the secondary.
He’s been a good player since the Colts drafted him out of Auburn in the third round in 2009, though he’s missed games -- four last year with an elbow injury, eight in 2010, the AFC Championship Game.
While he lines up mostly on the right, if he stays healthy as is a singular player in the group the way I anticipate, he could follow an opponent’s best receiver.
“The leadership situation is one I’m embracing,” he said. “I’ve not really been a rah-rah guys since I’ve been here, but I think since we’re so young this year, I have to speak up more and do things like that and I have.
"Some people are trying to look at me like I am a 29-year old 10-year vet. I’m just going into my fourth year also, so I’m learning every day as well.”
“It’s more aggressive, more attacking,” Powers said of the scheme. “Coverage is coverage … This is a little more man. It’s not just going to be Dwight (Freeney) and Rob (Mathis) on the outside causing all the havoc on the quarterback. Everybody’s going to be getting pressure from the D-line to the secondary. It’s just fun. It really is a defense where you have a chance to make plays.”
To polish up man techniques he hasn’t used a lot in the last couple years, Powers checked in with his college coaches. Will Muschamp is the head coach at Florida now, and Travaris Robinson is his defensive backs coach with the Gators.
They reviewed things Powers worked on at Auburn to help him regain the footwork and press technique he used as part of the Tigers.
“I took it personally, when I came to training camp, that I was on board,” he said, “that my body and muscles were used to doing those things rather than sitting back in a zone and reacting on a quarterback.”