Colts have high hopes for deep, beefed-up defensive line

INDIANAPOLIS -- Manhandled. Bullied. At times you could even say, punked.

Those are some ways to describe what has often happened to the Indianapolis Colts' defensive line during coach Chuck Pagano’s first five seasons. And it's hard to win in the NFL if you can't control the line of scrimmage.

Pagano now believes those days are about to become a thing of the past after an offseason of adding beef up front.

The Colts added mammoth defensive linemen Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods to go with fellow new additions Margus Hunt and Grover Stewart. That group joins holdovers Henry Anderson, David Parry and T.Y. McGill.

"We've got as good of a room right now as we've ever had since we've been here," Pagano said. "A lot of good football players in there -- great competition."

Winning in the trenches, on both sides of the ball, was one of the first things new general manager Chris Ballard talked about when he was hired last winter. Woods, Hankins and Anderson have worked with the first unit the bulk of the time during training camp. Woods and Hankins are space eaters, as they combine for 655 pounds and can command double teams, which will open up lanes for linebackers to get into the backfield.

"We could be pretty good," Hankins said. "I think we can be the best in our division. We just have to continue to work at it and get better every day. We have some guys like T.Y. and [Parry] that can come in and get the job done too. We are going to see how things play out."

The depth on the defensive line played a significant factor in why the Colts released veteran defensive lineman Kendall Langford, who began his career by playing in 135 straight games but was let go Wednesday with a failed physical designation due in part to an knee problem that started in training camp in 2016. The Colts also could afford to release him because they have a lot of confidence in the players they currently have on the defensive line.

Still, the decision was a tough one for Pagano.

"When you have to waive and move on from a football player and a man and a pro and a teammate like Kendall, I mean, it stings," he said. "It's the worst part of the job. There's no great time for it; there's no great message. I know how grateful we are for his contributions. ... Love Kendall. He's a great pro, he's a great teammate, a great father and all that stuff. We're going to miss him. He'll be fine and he'll move on. He'll be well. He'll be alright."