The Indianapolis Colts beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 29-26 in a divisional slug-fest this past Sunday to improve their record to 4-5 on the season. While this game was big in determining whether the Colts were potential contenders or pretenders, it also marked the much anticipated debut of second round rookie defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis.
The former Ohio State product has been sidelined with a foot injury that led to the Colts to place him on IR in August. He was very productive in his time at Ohio State, racking up 23.5 sacks in 4 years. Give that the Colts have seen their pass rush all but disappear over the last few weeks, this is a perfect time for Lewis to return.
Lewis was fairly up and down in his first game, which is to be expected. He did flash potential as a pass rusher, which has to make the Colts feel good about his performance. Let’s look at the film and see if Lewis lived up to the love he has been receiving from his coaches, and how he stacks up against a strong Colts rookie class.
The Colts did not hold back on getting Tyquan Lewis acclimated, as he played in over 70% of the defensive snaps. They deployed him in multiple ways, including lining up at both end spots, at three technique defensive tackle, and even dropping into coverage. While he showed some versatility, he was at his best rushing from the end in obvious passing situations.
Our first clip features the Jaguars throwing a quick screen. Lewis is unblocked but quickly realizes that the screen is coming to his side. He is able to turn and chase down the receiver to limit the gain on the play. This type of athleticism is what Lewis immediately brings to the team. He is able to limit what could have been a first down play to a three yard gain.
In our next clip, Lewis is lined up inside at defensive tackle on an obvious passing situation. He gets a good initial push with a bull rush that catches the guard off balance. He is not the biggest player — only 260 pounds— so I’m sure this type of rush surprised the guard. The guard is able to recover and re-anchor to keep Bortles clean. In time, it would be nice to see Lewis have a counter move or try to win speed on the inside but its not a bad snap.
In our next play, Lewis is lined up inside. He performs a twist outside with defensive end Carroll Phillips. He is able to get outside of the left tackle just as Blake Bortles escapes to the other side of the pocket. Lewis doesn’t give up and relentlessly pursues Bortles. He is able to chase him down for the tackle. Bortles is relatively fast so for Lewis to chase him down in space is pretty impressive.
In the next clip, Lewis is lined up as the rush end. He gets a good jump off of the snap and fights up field. He swats the left tackle’s hands and is able to disengage. He is a tad too stiff to turn the corner and get the sack but overall it is one of his better pass rushing reps of the day. If he learns to hook his arm at the end and bend a little bit— a move we see performed by Kemoko Turay every week— this is a sack every time.
This next clip shows something that I noticed all day on Sunday and could be the reason why the Colts registered 0 sacks. Lewis tries to swat the hands of the tackle but doesn’t succeed. He then stops his rush and focuses on outside contain to keep Bortles in the pocket. This was a common theme Sunday, as most rushers would stop their rush after their initial move to keep Bortles in the pocket. I believe the gameplan was to keep Bortles in the pocket and to make him beat them with his arm.
This next rep is perhaps the weirdest of the day for Lewis, as he drops into coverage on the tight end. The play is designed to have Lewis in coverage for a couple seconds as the blitzing slot corner makes the sack. Kenny Moore II misses the tackle, leading Lewis being in coverage longer than anticipated. He puts up a noble effort but overall there was no chance he was going to keep up with a tight end in the open field.
In the following clip, Lewis is lined up at rush end in a clear pass rushing situation. He starts upfield with a pretty nice bull rush. Again, we see Lewis stop at the top of his arc in order to contain Bortles. In future week’s I’d like to see Lewis finish the rep or counter back inside.
For the following play, Lewis goes back to the bull rush. He is fairly effective, as he drives the left tackle back into Bortles’ lap. He is able to get into the throwing lane but Bortles is still able to make a nice throw to the sidelines. Lewis could get his hands up sooner to make the throw harder but its still a positive rush.
The next clip showcases Lewis against the run. The Jaguars run a quick pitch to Lewis’ side of the field. He shoots up field after shedding the left tackle and nearly makes the play in the backfield. He gets just enough of T.J Yeldon to slow the play down and allows Darius Leonard to clean up the play. I’d like to see him shoot up field more in these situations.
The next rep shows Lewis’ best of the game. He explodes off the line, displaying great quickness. He stays low and is able to bend around the corner after swatting the hands of the left tackle. He gets to Bortles just as he is releasing the ball and nearly forces a fumble. This is the type of potential he has as a pass rusher. If he can combine his athleticism with his pretty solid hand usage more consistently going forward, the Colts will have a very good young pass rusher on their hands.
Our last clip is also the worst. Lewis is lined up against a much smaller tight end. You’d expect a tight end to be no match but Lewis is unable to generate any pressure here. I know that his assignment may still be to contain Bortles but I’d like to see him take advantage of a mismatch like this in pass rushing situations.
Overall, this was a very promising debut. Lewis flashed some of the pass rushing traits that Chris Ballard fell in love with during the pre-draft process. He is an exceptional athlete and the hand usage he flashed on Sunday was something that no other player— even Turay— has really shown this season on film.
I’d like to really see this coaching staff unleash Lewis next week against the Titans. He was held back a little bit this week by what appeared to be a strategy to focus on keeping Bortles in the pocket. The gameplan cannot be that against Marcus Mariota as he will carve the defense in that scheme. I think we could see a lot more of Lewis pinning his ears back and getting after Mariota this Sunday.
With the success of the 2018 class so far though and the strong play of fellow rookie Kemoko Turay, it’s very easy to be excited about Tyquan Lewis going forward.