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Grading the Colts roster ahead of 2020 NFL Draft and free agency: Defensive Tackle

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

A long off-season is upon us and while Chris Ballard and the Colts front office has plenty of time to work on rounding out the 2020 roster, Stampede Blue would like to take a pretty in-depth look at each position group and assign them letter grades.

The purpose of this exercise is to identify where the team stands at each position, based upon who is currently under contract. Re-signing in-house free agents could have a big impact on numerous grades but until that happens, we know what we know.

With that in mind, let’s dive in and discuss ways the team might move forward and share thoughts about what course of action makes the most sense.

Defensive Tackle: C-

Things didn’t come together as the Colts had hoped at the start of the season on the interior of the defensive line. Under-performers include Margus Hunt, Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis — who again struggled with injuries for much of the season. The only player whose needle appears to be squarely pointing up is nose tackle Grover Stewart who gathered 30 tackles, including 3 sacks, 5 tackles for a loss, 5 QB hits, and a pass defensed. He played in only 28% of the Colts defensive snaps in 2018 and played in 60% this season.

There is a chance that Autry could return to form and figure things out but the ship seems to have sailed on Hunt. Lewis is simply not well-suited to play meaningfully snaps on the interior. The Colts need at least one other strong to dominant inside force to complete a rotation with Stewart and Autry.

Under Contract: Denico Autry, Grover Stewart, Margus Hunt, Tyquan Lewis, Roderick Young

Possible Free Agent Options: Michael Brockers, Jordan Phillips, Michael Pierce, Shelby Harris, Danny Shelton, Zach Kerr, D.J. Reader, Trevon Coley (RFA)

Draft Prospects: Derrick Brown, Javon Kinlaw, Raekwon Davis, Neville Gallimore, Marvin Wilson, Larrell Murchison

Primary Need

The primary issues with this unit is a lack of proven depth and a dire need to improve interior pass rush pressure. I am still left amazed that the Colts are trying to force Tyquan Lewis to win as an interior pass rusher when he strikes me much more as a Jabaal Sheard replacement as a base down end in the 4-3 with the youthful legs and athleticism to more frequently impact the game as a pass rusher.

Denico Autry could make an excellent backup on passing downs, shifting over to Grover Stewart’s spot. If the team could land a promising player like Raekwon Davis or Neville Gallimore in the draft, it would go a long way to improving the defensive front and help players like Justin Houston, Kemoko Turay and Ben Banogu/Tyquan Lewis be more productive on the outside.