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Player Profile: LB Roquan Smith would bring speed to the Colts defense

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The new-look Colts defense will emphasize speed and athleticism Roquan Smith has both in spades

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Smith could Play an Important Role in the Colts Defensive Transformation

New Colts head coach Frank Reich and his defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus have emphasized the importance of speed in the new 4-3 defensive scheme. Perhaps no position will be more important for this new emphasis than linebacker.

The previous defense asked the outside linebackers to be edge setters and pass rushers. It asked the inside linebackers to be run stoppers and to make a ton of tackles. This defense will still rely on the linebackers to make tackles but it will also ask them to cover a greater area of the field. They will need to be able to cover short zones against the pass and get to the sidelines to make tackles on stretch plays to the outside. The current group of linebackers in Indianapolis are not particularly adept in these areas.

While Roquan Smith is slightly undersized to play middle linebacker in the Colts new defensive scheme, he could easily get a little bigger under an NFL strength and training program. He could also stay lighter and project to be the starting weak side linebacker. Players in this role tend to be roamers. They will cover a lot of ground laterally and will drop back into coverage on slot receivers, running backs, or tight ends in some instances. It takes a special kind of athlete to fill this role well.

What makes Smith special isn’t his physical attributes. He overcomes his size limitations by having terrific instincts, excellent timing, and a nose for the football. He recognizes plays very early and uses that extra time to track down ball carriers are get a good jump on receivers well down the field. It is rare for a linebacker to run stride for stride with athletic receivers and break up passes in the end zone. It is even more rare for that same player to wreak havoc on rushing plays, tallying 14 tackles for a loss as a Junior, and use his instincts to know when he can get after the quarterback, leading to 6.5 sacks in 2017.

If Ballard chooses Smith, he will get immediate contributions. Together, the combination of Najee Goode and Roquan Smith would be nice start to in the transition from power to speed for the Colts new defense.