It’s early in the season, but the Indianapolis Colts have much reason to worry after a 1-3 start and a poor showing in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tuesday afternoon, the team released veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie, as well as starting linebacker Sio Moore. Cromartie had been brought in after two-time Pro Bowler Vontae Davis suffered a severe ankle sprain in late August. Cromartie is undoubtedly at the tail end of his career, and his time in Indianapolis showed that.
On one drive during the Colts’ loss against the Jaguars in London, Cromartie had committed two penalties on the same possession. That drive resulted in a field goal for the Jags, in part because of Cromartie’s holding and pass interference penalties. He would also get burned by Allen Robinson inside the 5-yard line for an easy score:
Cromartie would eventually be removed from the game altogether in the second half, with Rashaan Melvin replacing him.
Moore had been acquired by the Colts in a 2015 trade with the Raiders, and was the starting inside linebacker for Chuck Pagano’s team. For the Colts to dump a pair of starters on a Tuesday during a game week seems very much like a desperation move. Cromartie makes more sense with Davis and Patrick Robinson healthy after Robinson missed Weeks 2 and 3 with a concussion, but there’s clearly a message being sent from the front office.
Cromartie and Moore didn’t necessarily have to be cut, especially when you consider the lack of talent that their defense possesses as it is. The return of Davis and Robinson are helpful, sure. And with Darius Butler expected to return soon after dealing with ankle and hamstring injuries the first month of the season, the team will be at full strength at the cornerback position. Cromartie’s age could also very much be a deciding factor in his removal from the team. He’s 32 now, and that’s not exactly young as a cornerback in the NFL. The Jets didn't cut him in February just because he was owed $8 million.
Yet, with what GM Ryan Grigson had to say after their loss to the Jaguars, via SB Nation’s Colts site Stampede Blue, it would certainly seem that the moves were made to set an example:
“... We've got to limit the mistakes, and there's a lot of guys on this team that feel, and our coach feels, that we've all got to be accountable, we all have to know what to do, we can't go out there and bust assignments! You can't go out there and bust an assignment! You've got to know where to be in coverage, you've got to know where to be on the field, you've got to know when your number is called and you have to go out there and produce in the role that's been set forth for you to perform in! You've got to be able to do it, this is the NFL! It's a job that your job description is to, your pre-requisite, is to play hard and know what to do, and if you're not doing that, well that's not going to help us get where we want to go."
The Colts will hope that message is received. They took that message a step further when they signed linebacker Trevor Bates from the practice squad to the active roster. Bates was drafted by the team in the seventh round of the NFL draft this past year out of Maine. His ability to play both inside and outside linebacker might have made the decision a little easier for the Colts.
Going into Week 5, the Colts rank 24th in the NFL in yards per game in the league, giving up 382.8 per game, and allow the third-most points per game in the NFL at 31.2 per contest.
The Colts are better against the run than they are the pass, which would also help better explain why Moore was cut. Despite him being their leading tackler through the first four games, he was just way too problematic in defending the pass, and missed too many tackles.
Moving forward, the team oddly doesn’t have a bye week after its London game. That leaves a short turnaround for this Sunday’s matchup against the Bears in Indianapolis. With all of the defensive woes, the toll it’s taken on Andrew Luck can’t be overlooked. Discussions of the team wasting Luck’s best years will only continue until things begin to improve on the defensive side of the ball.
They had just better hope that this is the first step in the right direction.