Three years ago, the Colts traded their second-round draft pick for a big, athletic defensive tackle (Booger McFarland) that shored up the team’s rushing defense and ultimately helped them win the Super Bowl.
This past April, the Colts used their second-round pick to draft a big, athletic defensive tackle they are hoping will do the same.
Fili Moala, a 6’4” 300-pound tackle from the University of Southern California, established himself as one of the premier defensive tackles in college football last year and was named First Team All-Pac 10.
Now, the California native is trying to make just as big an impact with the Colts.
Only three days into training camp, it is too early to predict if Moala can repeat McFarland’s success, but the rookie has coaches excited about his potential.
“It is pretty early, but we can see some good things from him,” Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell said. “He moves well, he has good quickness, obviously he has size, and he’s coming along.”
Moala fits the mold of what Colts President Bill Polian said he was looking for this offseason in a defensive tackle: a player big enough to clog up the middle, but also athletic enough to run and change direction.
“Three thirty-five without athleticism is not what we’re after, to set the record straight,” Polian said.
Moala, a cousin of Baltimore Ravens tackle Haloti Ngata, spent the offseason in California making sure he did not come into training camp out of shape. So he trained at USC’s complex and took part in their offseason weight program.
Moala’s hard work paid off, and the rookie came into camp “a little light” at about 296 pounds.
“I wanted to come in at a healthy, solid 300,” he said. “I was training and running everyday (this summer) and making sure I got my wind so if I had to I could run.”
In his slimmed-down state, Moala said he thinks he will fit in “really well” with the team’s new defense.
“I move laterally, I can run, I’ve got speed, I’ve got strength, I’m powerful – all of those are good things that can kind of mesh into this defense,” he said. “Now it’s just about fine-tuning, talking to my coaches…and applying it to my game.”
Coach Caldwell said Defensive Line Coach John Teerlinck has been working hand-in-hand with Moala to get him “entrenched in what we do and how we do things.”
More than anything, Moala said his coaches are looking for “reliability and productivity” out of the team’s defensive tackles.
“They want to be able to trust us and know we’ll do our job, first and foremost, and do it at a high level and be productive as well,” he said. “Once you get a combination of those two things, (the coaches) are comfortable with you and trust you to be in there and take care of business.”