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INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Ballard knows every team has a hole.
For his, that hole is at the linebacker position.
It’s a group with 10 players and only 1 (Antonio Morrison) has started more than 5 games in his NFL career. Only 1 (Darius Leonard) was drafted in the first three rounds of the draft, with no major free agent signings among that group either.
“We have a bunch of unproven players,” Ballard says of the linebacker group.
“It’s our job to find answers for it, whether it’s through free agency, the draft, or after cut down time, or adding a veteran at some point during the season.”
Ballard is a fan of Anthony Walker and Najee Goode, the two guys who received the most starting reps during the spring time.
At the other linebacker spot (SAM), Antonio Morrison seemed to be overtaken by little known Tyrell Adams near the end of the spring. But Morrison is still a guy that Ballard likes for his heart and toughness.
One player we didn’t see in the spring was Leonard.
The second-round pick from South Carolina State is healthy now and should slide into the starting lineup, as long as the mental taxing of this simpler defense is not too immense.
Once the full pads come on for the Colts this weekend, head coach Frank Reich sees things starting to become clearer at linebacker for new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus at linebacker.
“Really, at the linebacker position when you’re in OTAs and you don’t have pads on and it’s not live, it really is a rep chart,” Reich says. “It’s hard to tell. I really think it will play itself out once we get the pads on. I think you’ll see the depth chart start to come into focus once we get the pads on.
“There are some guys who when they get the pads on, they just rise up. And we are just waiting to see who that is going to be. Especially on defense that happens a lot because there are just some guys who have that instinct. I think that’s going to play itself out in the first couple weeks of camp.”
But Ballard believes that, despite the lack of veteran experience at linebacker, there are fits for what the Colts want in this defense, which is predicated more on speed, especially on the second level.
“We have guys that have the athletic traits to play in the scheme,” Ballard says of the linebackers.
“Let’s see if they can do it.”