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Chuck Pagano: “I feel really good” about Colts’ defensive line

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

If you look across the Colts’ defense, odds are are that you will feel most comfortable with their defensive line group, at least more so than with the linebackers and the defensive backs.

It seems that Chuck Pagano feels the same way, too. He was asked yesterday which position group on the team has the furthest to go right now, and he didn’t really answer but did say that there are a lot of new guys on defense that he feels good about. But he did mention the defensive line in particular as an area that he likes. “Defensive line, I feel really good about,” he said.

There is indeed reason to feel good about the Colts’ defensive line. They signed Johnathan Hankins in free agency, should be getting Henry Anderson and Kendall Langford back healthy, and have good depth across the line too.

One of the things that the Colts and Chris Ballard want is to build a roster that is so competitive that some of the players they cut will wind up being signed by other teams. That’s something that Chuck Pagano thinks already might be the case with their defensive line.

“If they come back and everybody is healthy,” Pagano said, “we’re going to probably say goodbye to some guys that’ll end up getting picked up and probably be in a rotation or be starting somewhere. I think that’s where we’re at right now. That could happen. We’re going to have to say goodbye to some good players because there are a lot of good players there right now, some guys who have potential and have played good football.”

It would be great for the Colts if their defensive line could step up in 2017, as it would help out other areas of the defense too. For example, the Colts have a lot of questions at inside linebacker, but if those guys are able to play behind a good defensive line it should make their jobs a bit easier. Or if the defensive linemen are able to get after the quarterback a little bit, it should help the outside linebackers rushing the passer too. That ability to contribute to the pass rush is one of the things that excites Pagano about the defensive linemen.

“Yeah, especially if Kendall gets back and playing big sub and sub situations as an inside guy,” he said. “Henry has got pass rush. Big Hank has got some. We know T.Y. [McGill] is a mismatch on the inside against interior offensive linemen. When you say the defensive line, I’m talking about the way we’re set up, our three interior guys – our nose, our three [technique] and our five technique. I feel like we’re ahead of where we’ve ever been as far as guys being able to not only play well against the run but also give you some pass rush on passing downs.”

It’s nice to see Pagano mention T.Y. McGill too, as he can at times feel like a forgotten man up front but is a player who has already shown that he can get after the quarterback. That should help his chances of making the roster, and it seems that Pagano knows that McGill can contribute in that way. Between Langford, Anderson, Hankins, and McGill, the Colts should have the ability to create some pressure on opposing quarterbacks from the defensive line as well as from the outside linebacker position.

There remain question marks all over the defense, and there will be a lot of new faces. But at the very least, there’s reason for optimism about the Colts’ defensive line entering the 2017 season if everyone gets and stays healthy.