FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots have had a lot of roster turnover over the last two seasons, and some players have fared better than others with their new clubs.
But two Patriots cast-offs appear to be fitting in well on the Indianapolis Colts’ defense.
Defensive end Jabaal Sheard and cornerback Kenny Moore will return to Gillette Stadium for the first time in a different uniform Thursday night when their Colts take on New England in Week 5.
Sheard is a full season removed from his Patriots tenure; he signed a three-year contract with Indy in March 2017 after two seasons in New England, one of which resulted in a Super Bowl title.
Now, first-year Colts head coach Frank Reich is leaning on the 29-year-old to be a leader during the team’s rebuilding process.
“We love Jabaal,” Reich said Tuesday in a conference call. “He’s been a leader on the practice field. He’s been an emotional leader. He’s playing at a high level, playing with great intensity. He just brings the kind of toughness — we talk a lot about toughness — he’s really provided all that for us.”
Sheard has two sacks through Indy’s first four contests and is averaging 56 snaps per game on a Colts defense that actually looked decent before allowing 34 points to the Houston Texans in a Week 4 overtime loss.
Moore’s impact in Indy is perhaps more surprising. The 23-year-old went undrafted out of Valdosta State in 2017 and failed to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster. The Colts claimed him the following day, and while he played sparingly last season, Moore has carved out a role as Indy’s primary slot cornerback in 2018, averaging 60 snaps per game to date.
“He’s just an extremely tough player, physically and mentally,” Reich said of Moore. “He works incredibly hard at practice, the guy’s a true pro. Dependable, everything you want in a football player.”
Sheard, Moore and the Colts’ defense faces a tall task Thursday, however: New England is coming off its best offensive performance of the season and returns a key weapon in wide receiver Julian Edelman.