ANDERSON, IND. (AP) - Colts defensive tackle Fili Moala is finally starting to feel like himself.
He’s moving quicker, regaining his confidence and is even having fun playing football again.
It’s a welcome change for the second-year player who came to training camp in 2009 intending to make an impact in Indy’s revamped defense and wound up spending most of the season watching other rookies excel.
“I felt like I wasn’t pulling my own weight,” last year’s second-round pick said. “I had never felt like that in my life, and it was difficult to sit back and sort of feel like a bum.”
Yes, Moala was inactive for six of the Colts’ regular-season games and all three postseason games. His only start came in a meaningless regular-season finale at Buffalo, and the 303-pounder who was drafted in the second round to plug running lanes was buried on the depth chart.
First-round pick Donald Brown didn’t have it any easier. Injuries forced him to miss five regular-season games, and he finished the season with only 281 yards rushing, three TDs and 3.6 yards per carry. Not exactly what the fans or the players expected.
But the other rookie performances made things even worse for Indy’s top two draft picks.
Third-rounder Jerraud Powers and undrafted rookie Jacob Lacey combined to start 21 games. Fourth-rounder Austin Collie spent Thursday nights studying extra film with Peyton Manning and emerged as another legitimate threat in the Colts’ offense. Seventh-rounder Pat McAfee averaged 44.3 yards per punt and consistently booted kickoffs deeper than Indy had in recent years, and even sixth-round pick Curtis Painter saw prominent action in the Colts’ last two games.
The only other rookie to really struggle last season was defensive tackle Terrance Taylor, and he didn’t even make the roster.
Strangely, though, it was the Colts two most prominent draftees that had the toughest transitions. Moala never felt comfortable in Indy’s defense despite playing a similar style at Southern Cal, and Brown kept getting hurt.
“We did talk about that. I’d say ‘How do you feel?’ and he’d say ‘How do you feel?’ like that,” Moala said.
Teammates understood, too.
Throughout the season, Powers said, the rookies talked constantly. Each came with a different perspective and each offered different advice about how to cope with life in the NFL, but few could put themselves in the shoes of Brown and Moala.