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The Colts failure to address the nose tackle position could prove costly

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There has been some debate on whether the Colts needed to add nose tackle in the off-season. I think they definitely should have.

Divisional Round - Indianapolis Colts v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

0-Tech DTs comparison

Colts 0-Tech Snaps Sacks TFLs QB Hits Safeties/FFs/FRs Disruptive Score
Colts 0-Tech Snaps Sacks TFLs QB Hits Safeties/FFs/FRs Disruptive Score
Al Woods 458 0 1 2 0 0,7
Grover Stewart 437 0 2 0 0 0,5
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0-Tech on Top 10 defenses Snaps Sacks TFLs QB Hits Safeties/FFs/FRs Disruptive Score
Brandon Williams (BAL) 579 1 3 1 0 0,9
Star Lotulelei (BUF) 551 0 1 0 0 0,2
Eddie Goldman (CHI) 601 3 5 3 2 2,2
Linval Joseph (MIN) 724 1 4 4 2 1,5
Marcel Dareus (JAC) 570 1 2 2 2 1,2
Javon Hargrave (PIT) 460 6,5 6 8 0 4,5
Maliek Collins (DAL) 538 3 5 8 1 3,2
Austin Johnson (TEN) 399 1 1 1 0 0,8
Darius Philon (LAC) 665 4 7 9 1 3,2
A'Shawn Robinson (DET) 492 1 3 4 2 2,0
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Averages Snaps Sacks TFLs QB Hits Safeties/FFs/FRs Disruptive Score
Colts 0-Tech 447,5 0 1,5 1 0 0,6
0-Tech on Top 10 defense 557,9 2,15 3,7 4 1 2,0

(*) The “Disruptive Score” is a number I created using the equation (Sacks+TFLs+QB Hits+ FF,FR,SFTY) over (Snap Count/100).

(*2) Some of the guys on the chart did not play 0-Tech exclusively, but did so on most of the snaps.

The 0-tech defensive tackle is the guy that lines up in front, or closest to, the center on the defensive line. The Colts are now worryingly thin at 0-tech defensive tackles, specially after losing Al Woods in free-agency to the Seahawks, who signed him on a cheap one-year contract.

I explored the option of Jihad Ward possibly transitioning to that position in a previous article. Ward scored an amazing 8.25 Disruptive Score, albeit on a very limited 165 snaps. The only true 0-tech left on the Colts roster is Grover Stewart, who has started just one game in his first two seasons.

Looking at the 0-tech on the top teams, nearly all of them posted a score above Stewart’s 0.5 except for Bills’ DT Star Lotulelei, who was surrounded by top-tier talent on Buffalo’s defense, and played right next to legend Kyle Williams. The conclusion from the chart is that in order to have a top defense in the NFL today, you need a guy that can disrupt opponents’ offenses from the inside.

Gone are the days where the main job of the 0-tech was to eat up blocks in order to leave their teammates in better positions to make plays. Now, they also have to be able to make the play themselves. Guys like Eddie Goldman or Javon Hargrave were among the best in the league at generating pressure from the inside, and both the Steelers and the Bears were among the stingiest defenses.

The NFL is clearly a pass-first league, so teams have to be able to generate pressure both from the edges and from the inside. Denico Autry and Margus Hunt, who will most likely play the 3-tech position (next to the 0-tech on the inside), were really good at getting to the opposing quarterback from the inside, racking up a combined 14 sacks.

With new addition Justin Houston also drawing attention on the edge, the Colts pass-rushing capabilities look to be much better than the previous season. Still, the conclusion remains that if the Colts want to make the leap from good to great on defense then they will most likely need a 0-tech defensive tackle that can shed blocks and get into the backfield.

The Colts had plenty of possibilities this off-season to address the lack of depth at the 0-tech position, but they haven’t advantage of any of them. They could have signed Darius Philon, who ended up with the Cardinals on a cheap 2-year, $10 million contract, or perhaps Ndamukong Suh, who is still a free-agent.

After not addressing the position in free-agency, the Colts had a good chance to do so in the Draft, as this class was very deep in defensive linemen. But, yet again, the Colts looked over the 0-tech position.

I'm not second-guessing Chris Ballard, he has more than earned the benefit of the doubt, but the data indicates that top defenses included a 0-tech defensive tackle capable of generating negative plays and getting himself into the backfield. There is a difference of 1.4 in the Disruptive Score and now the Colts have only one true 0-tech left on the roster.

It is clear that Matt Eberflus and Chris Ballard are focused more on speed and athleticism as they build a new Colts roster. This might result in a move away from more conventional sets, reducing the role of a 0-tech tackle. Still, the Colts definitely have room to improve at the position.

Poll

Do you think the Colts are set at the 0-tech position?

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  • 29%
    Yes
    (374 votes)
  • 70%
    No
    (882 votes)
1256 votes total Vote Now