The Player: Bart Scott, Linebacker
The Fit: Indianapolis Colts
The Boost: 3-4 Experience
Lynne Sladky / AP
An experienced linebacker like Bart Scott would be loved by the Colts.
Scott is not a free agent, but a disgruntled veteran who is openly seeking a trade. Judging from the tone of comments coming out of Jets headquarters, he is likely to be available at a discount, and the Colts are in need of some cheap solutions.
When not watching Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay lob lightning bolts across the heavens at each other, new Colts coach Chuck Pagano is trying to change the Colts defense from the Dungy-2 system they have run since the dawn of time into a Ravens-style 3-4. Scott played for the Ravens when Pagano was the team’s defensive backs coach, and both of them know that a 3-4 inside linebacker needs to attack the line of scrimmage more often and more aggressively than a Cover-2 middle linebacker.
Scott also blitzed frequently last year, registering 4.5 sacks. That’s another key difference between Pagano’s brand of 3-4 and the Tony Dungy flavored 4-3: linebacker blitzes have been incredibly rare in Indianapolis for a decade. No Colts linebacker has recorded more than one sack in a season since David Thornton had two sacks in 2005. Sure, guys like Angerer and Conner aren’t going to get lost on the way to the quarterback and try to sack a down marker by mistake, but Pagano could use the help of a player with experience in his blitz concepts, techniques, and terminology. The asking price is likely to be a middle-round pick. The Colts can spare one.
The Player: Peyton Hillis, Running Back
The Fit: Washington Redskins
The Boost: Backfield Depth and Versatility.
Nick Wass / AP
Browns running back Peyton Hillis would be an asset in Washington.
Hillis played for Shanahan in Denver, and Shanahan knew what Hillis was: a multi-purpose power back who was at his best when sharing carries with a speedier threat. Josh McDaniels replaced Shanahan, benched Hillis, then traded him away during his daring Scorched Earth initiative. Hillis landed on Cleveland’s talent-poor roster as an unlikely featured back, then an unlikely Madden cover boy before falling prey to injuries and a case of own-hype belief in 2011.
Hillis averaged just 3.5 yards per attempt last season, and no one is going to suggest that he secretly had a good year. It’s just that his season wasn’t as bad as the raw numbers suggest. Hillis faced the Ravens and Steelers four times in the 10 games he played last year, so he carried the ball a disproportionate number of times against two of the top run defenses in football. More surprisingly, Hillis posted a Success Rate of 54 percent, ranking him fourth in the league in that category, according to Football Outsiders.
Success Rate is like batting average for running backs: productive rushes (four yards or more on first and 10, half the distance to the sticks on second down, conversions on third or fourth down) count as successes, everything else (even a 15-yard draw play on 3rd-and-16) does not. Hillis’ Success Rate is not just the result of easy short-yardage conversions, either. The Browns used Hillis 27 times in short yardage situations, and he was nothing special: 17-of-27, with tons of two-yard plunges on 2nd-and-1. In all other situations, he gained at least three yards on 90 of 134 rushes, a 67% rate. Those aren’t featured back numbers, but the Redskins have a featured back in Roy Helu. Hillis can eat up the carries that players like Ryan Torrain did nothing with last season.
The Redskins running back situation is muddled behind Helu. Tim Hightower is an unrestricted free agent who won’t be able to fully participate in on-field activities until June. Evan Royster was a revelation at the end of last season as a big-play threat, but it is not clear how he would perform in a more regular role. Shanahan loves to rotate his backs, and with youngsters like Helu and Royster needing all the practice reps they can get to reach their full potential, the coach could use a veteran who knows the system, doesn’t need many reps, blocks well, and can churn out 40 yards on nine or ten carries, plus a catch or two. The Redskins usually get grief when they clutter their bench with veterans. Hillis is a veteran who can provide much more than clutter.
Mike Tanier writes for NBCSports.com and Rotoworld.com and is a senior writer forFootball Outsiders.
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