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Colts Defense is Looking to Create an Identity

Cleveland Browns v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We don’t need to run through the Indianapolis Colts offseason additions for the 100th time in order to begin talking about what they have on the defensive side of the ball. However, we are going to talk about them.

The Colts defense is getting some very interesting results just three games into the season. Everyone saw the whoopin’ they took in Los Angeles, and we’ve had to sit and watch back-to-back double digit games turn into 3-point games in each direction the last two weeks.

But, quietly the Colts are putting forth some impressive numbers in a few areas in need of massive improvement. On the other hand, they’re also dropping some nasty stats that, if cleaned up, could get the team pretty close to where they want to be on that side of the ball.

For example, the Colts have been down right disgusting under Chuck Pagano against the run finishing no better than 19th in the league in yards per carry, and no better than 18th in rush yards allowed per game since 2012. So far this year, the Colts are 6th in the league (among teams with 3 games played) allowing 3.3 yards per carry, and 8th in the league (with 3 games) allowing 85.7 rush yards per game.

Now, I understand all of that can change, but last year through three weeks they were giving up over 95 yards per game and over 4.6 yards per carry. Improvement is nice, and the front four have been doing a great job thus far.

Similarly, the Colts have been slap-your-momma ugly in coverage as well under Pagano with the exception of the 2014 season in which the team was 15th in yards allowed per attempt and 12th in passing yards allowed per game. With that said, the rest of the passing defense statistics that season weren’t all that impressive.

This season the Colts have been a little up and down in coverage to say the least. And once again, we see some interesting areas of their game, and some concerning facets just the same.

Thus far the Colts have given up a stingy 55.8% completion rate (4th in NFL) on 113 attempts (6th most in NFL), putting them in very good company near the best coverage units in the league. They’ve also given up 4 touchdowns (T-11) and have forced 4 interceptions (T-3) which puts them in a nice spot as well.

But, as you can imagine there’s another side to this coverage unit.

The Colts have given up 20 pass plays of 20 yards or more (32nd), are allowing 7.9 yards per pass attempt (24th), 283.7 pass yards per game (29th) and are allowing a 35.4% first down percentage (18th) as well.

Talk about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from this group in coverage.

When we look at the pass rush, we see some growth with getting in the quarterback’s face — and the completion rate is an indicator of this — but with only 6 sacks (T-20) through three games there’s an obvious understanding that the team needs to finish more.

So, who exactly is this defense? What will they be this year? Will they turn it out, or will they get turned upside down and mirror what we’ve seen from Pagano-coached defenses of recent years?

Will they be a legitimate force against the run throughout the year? Maybe they can indeed put a stop to allowing the big plays and continue to battle at the catch point as the season progresses.

Injuries need to be mended, though, and playmakers need their lights to turn on.

While we should reserve any joy in stats through three weeks of the season, some of these areas in which the team is succeeding is exactly why I was a little more excited than I probably should have been this offseason. At any rate, we’re seeing more talent and some of those that haven’t proven themselves quite yet appear to have intriguing potential for the future.

With that, John Simon, Nate Hairston, Margus Hunt, Malik Hooker and Rashaan Melvin are just a few of the guys on this defense who have been pretty impressive thus far and guys like Quincy Wilson, Jabaal Sheard, Johnathan Hankins and Jeremiah George are a few that I can’t wait to watch more of to see what sort of impact they can have.