The defensive tackle position has been an intriguing group in Indianapolis since the arrival of Chris Ballard. He brought in a bunch of bargain bin free agents along the interior of the defensive line last offseason, and they helped form the league’s 10th-ranked run defense, which was one of the few strengths for the 4-12 Colts in 2017.
Ballard cut the most accomplished one of his 2017 free agent pickups this offseason in Johnathan Hankins but a couple of those defensive tackles are still on the roster, including Al Woods. Woods was just about as good as Hankins in run defense last season, and he was a major reason for their success in that area.
While Woods doesn’t put up super impressive box score stats, the 6’ 4” 330-pound lineman is nearly impossible to move in the trenches and often blows up running plays before they can ever get started.
Unfortunately, Woods doesn’t provide much of a pass rush from the nose tackle position and that is essential in today’s passing league. Woods only has 4.5 career sacks in 97 games, and he’s unable to generate much pressure on the quarterback.
Run-stuffing nose tackles still have a place in today’s NFL, but Chris Ballard just showed that he doesn’t put much value on that position when he cut Johnathan Hankins.
Al Woods’ two-year contract expires after this season, and it’s extremely unlikely that Ballard would want to re-sign a 31-year-old nose tackle that doesn’t provide a pass rush. However, Woods should still be a valuable piece of the run defense this season and his run-stuffing ability will help protect a young linebacking corps from seeing offensive linemen at the second level of the defense.