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Colts are willing to risk a youth movement on the defensive line

Kendall Langford has seen his share of NFL battles, but the defensive linemen surrounding him are very young and inexperienced. Joe Robbins/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis Colts' three starting defensive linemen have combined for 90 career starts.

That’s the good news.

The bad news?

All 90 starts belong to defensive end Kendall Langford. The other two starters -- nose tackle David Parry and defensive tackle Henry Anderson -- have yet to play in an NFL regular season game.

The Colts are having a youth movement up front.

It’s a risk they're willing to take because defensive tackle Arthur Jones (ankle) is out for the season and Montori Hughes and Josh Chapman, who started at nose tackle last season, weren’t good enough to make the team’s 53-man roster.

“The other guys played better,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. “We knew there was competition across the board at every position. That’s where the roster was at. Those guys performed. We had to make tough decisions, not only at defensive line, but other positions. We let go of some really good football players. We hope the best for those guys, and we hope that they have another opportunity. We said all along that we were going to give guys an opportunity, give guys a chance and those guys took advantage of the opportunity. We wish those guys well, but it’s time to move on.”

To take things a little further, Langford is the only player on the entire defensive line who has started an NFL game. The other five linemen have played a total of 12 NFL games.

“The youth, it’s a young and athletic group, which is usually a pretty good combination,” Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. “I think they’re very athletic, and they’ve got a pretty broad skillset, all six of those guys. They’ve all put good tape out there. They all popped in their own ways. We’ve got to coach them up and hopefully we hit the ground running here because there’s some new life and some new blood in there.”

There won’t be a grace period for the young players on the defensive line. The expectations are for the Colts to be better up front. They have no choice but to be. Owner Jim Irsay won’t accept another season of struggles up front when it comes to stopping the run. The Colts were 18th in the league in defending the run last season.

“The two rookies know they’ve got to grow up fast," Langford said.

A sign of things to come at nose tackle happened when Parry started getting some of Chapman’s snaps with the first unit early in the preseason and then he started the finale against Cincinnati. Anderson was going to get snaps somewhere on the defensive line even if Jones were healthy. Now he’ll be starting alongside of his college teammate Parry.

“I think you guys along with ourselves, got a glimpse of what these guys are capable of,” Pagano said. “I love the mixture of veteran guys like Langford coming in to go with the youth in David Parry and Henry Anderson and the rest of the guys. Zach Kerr, I mean, we’ve got guys that can play. We got guys that fit our scheme. Again, we got a glimpse in the preseason of what these guys can do. Sometimes what you don’t know won’t hurt you. These guys are going to go and they’re going to play hard and they’re going to play tough and they’re going to play damn smart. Feel great about that group.”