After Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson were given contract extensions many thought they wouldn't get from owner Jim Irsay, Pagano reached back to his old Ravens staff to replace defensive coordinator Gregg Manusky after that unit ranked in the lower third of the NFL for the third time in four years. He hired Baltimore linebackers coach Ted Monachino to guide the base 3-4, only to find it ranked 30th a quarter of the way through this season, allowing 31 points per game.

Part of the reason has been a banged-up secondary, which features two assets in former Illini cornerback Vontae Davis (a Pro Bowl alternate last season after four interceptions and 16 passes defensed) and 35-year-old strong safety Mike Adams, who made a second straight Pro Bowl after five picks and three forced fumbles a year ago. Journeyman Patrick Robinson starts opposite Davis with veterans Darius Butler (who has the team's lone interception thus far) and Antonio Cromartie filling nickel and backup roles at corner. There's youth teaming with Adams at free safety, with second-year man Clayton Geathers starting and second-round rookie T.J. Green (4.34 speed) pushing him.

At linebacker, though, the decision to let Jerrell Freeman sign with the Bears and the signs of Robert Mathis' best days being behind him have added to the defensive pain. The 35-year-old Mathis (with 118 career sacks, 20th all-time) has yet to take an opposing quarterback down after tearing his ACL last year. D'Qwell Jackson turns 33 in December after piling up 150 tackles working in tandem with Freeman last season. Ex-Raider Sio Moore has stepped in and leads the team in tackles thus far. But who knows where the pass rush would be without former Packer Erik Walden? His career high is six sacks, but right now he owns four of the defense's seven, working off the strong side. Backup Trent Cole was recently placed on IR with a back injury. Former Bolingbrook star Antonio Morrison, one of the Colts' fourth-round picks, is still working to add weight and strength (235 pounds).

 

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Up front, defensive end Kendall Langford is coming off a career-high seven-sack campaign. Nose tackle David Parry started every game as a rookie last season, while the other outside spot is held down by Zach Kerr, with fourth-round rookie Hassan Ridgeway trying to push him and 2015 third-rounder Henry Anderson rounding back to health after tearing an ACL midway through last season.

Special teams

At 43 years old, Adam Vinatieri just keeps on kickin'. Now in his 21st season, he's gone 8-for-8 on field goals thus far, making him — get this — 63-of-66 the past two-plus seasons, including a streak of 35 straight. The coverage teams allowed three return touchdowns a year ago but rank in the top half so far in 2016. Quan Bray is one of the league's top kickoff returners, ranking third with a 25.8-yard average (after 27.11 a year ago), but his punt return average is only 6.2 yards.