In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft the Indianapolis Colts selected defensive lineman Grover Stewart out of Albany State.
It’s quite a jump from Albany State, a Division II school, to the NFL level, but the Colts seem excited about what Stewart brings to the team. As perhaps a bit of an indication of how the Colts intend to use him, the Indianapolis Star’s Stephen Holder mentioned today that Stewart has played nose tackle during rookie mini-camp this weekend.
Not sure whether I mentioned previously, but 4th rd pick Grover Stewart told me he's worked almost exclusively at nose tackle this weekend.— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) May 13, 2017
Now it’s certainly likely that the Colts will utilize Grover Stewart at multiple positions and move him around a bit, like they do with most of their defensive linemen. But it does give us an idea of what the Colts might want to do with him.
Currently they only have one player on the roster listed as a nose tackle (Al Woods), but Johnathan Hankins and David Parry will likely also be competing at the position too. Hankins will likely wind up starting at nose tackle, so that means that the others will be competing for a depth spot. What makes this discussion especially relevant is that if the Colts think of Stewart as a nose tackle or at least think of that as his best spot, then it might be even worse news for David Parry’s chances of making the roster. This past week Chris Ballard said that the decision on Parry will be based on his on-field performance, and it was thought that he might be competing with Woods for the backup nose tackle spot. But if you throw Grover Stewart into that conversation too, then Parry will face even more competition. Of course, the Colts could move all four of those players around the defensive line and therefore it probably won’t be just as simple as the NT depth chart, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.
The Colts, meanwhile, have been pretty impressed with Stewart, as Chuck Pagano told the media yesterday.
“He’s a really good athlete,” Pagano said. “He’s a big, big man and he’s a really good athlete. You guys got the best look that you’ve ever gotten [at rookie mini-camp] and I did it on purpose because I love you guys. I wanted you to get an up close shot of the offensive and defensive lines working against each other at two-on-two pass pro drill. I happened to get down there just in time to see the one shot where he made a nice move and beat one of the interior linemen and came scot-free on him on a pressure on a pass rush deal. Again, a big, big man that’s got really good feet and really good quickness for his size. So he’s going to be really good at the point in the run game, and then as much sub as we play, you’re sticking a guy in there versus 11 personnel – we’re 65 percent sub defense now. So to have a guy in there that not only can command a double team in the run game, he’s going to give you some pass rush in there instead of just pocket push. He’ll push the pocket, but I think you can get him matched up on some of these guards and he’s going to win a lot of those one-on-one matchups.”
His quickness helps him win those matchups.
“Yeah, quickness and power, he’s got both,” Pagano agreed. “If he wants to run you over and he decides to run you over and goes power, I think he probably can do that at 6-4, 6-5 and 335 [pounds] whatever he is. He’s a big man.”
Even though he’ll be making the jump from a smaller school to the NFL level, the Colts are confident in his abilities and how they’ll translate.
“He’s got the traits and he’s got the measurables,” Pagano said. “We love the football character side of it. He came with football smarts, good football intelligence, the measurables, good character, good work ethic. Again, there have been a bunch of small school guys. A guy [Robert Mathis] that just retired here that’s going to be a first ballot hall of famer, in my opinion. He was taken in the fifth round and is the all-time sack leader in Colts history. I think he played at a small school too.”
Mathis did indeed play at a smaller school, as he attended Alabama A&M, so that’s the easy comparison for Pagano to make. If Stewart could go on to have even half of the impact that Mathis had then he’d have a very good NFL career, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Right now, the Colts are working with him at nose tackle and have been impressed, and he’ll be an interesting prospect to keep an eye on as we go through the offseason and into training camp and the preseason.