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Film Room: DeForest Buckner has been the Superstar the Colts needed... and more

Buckner has been well worth the heavy investment so far this year

NFL: OCT 04 Colts at Bears Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts made one of the splashiest moves of the entire NFL offseason when they traded the 13th overall pick in the draft for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. The Colts then followed that up by paying the All-Pro big time with a four year 84 million dollar contract extension. Now that we are four games into the new season, how does the return on that investment look so far? I’d say pretty great.

In today’s film room we will look at the dominance of Buckner through the first four weeks and why he was worth every bit of the heavy investment the Colts made this offseason.


Statistical Output

Before we look at the film, I always like to add statistical context to back up what I am saying. The stats provided here are from Pro Football Focus so if anything seems slightly off, that is where these numbers are coming from. Overall Buckner ranks as their 2nd highest graded interior defender with a grade of 90.7. Here is how he stacks up among other interior defenders in many key stats so far this year:

Sacks: 2 (T-2nd)

QB Hits: 6 (T-2nd)

Hurries: 7 (T-12th)

PRP (stat that looks at disruption through Hits, Hurries, and Sacks): 7.7 (5th)

Stops: 10 (T-3rd)

In nearly every major category, Buckner has been one of the top interior defenders in the NFL through four games this year.


Film Room

Buckner was mainly brought in to rush the passer but he has been stout in run defense this year as well. He is a gigantic human on the inside (6’7” 300 pounds) and is much bigger and longer than most three techniques in the league. This size combined with his elite athleticism makes him hard to maneuver on run downs. When he is able to diagnose a play, he typically beats the lineman to the spot. Here the Jaguars attempt to use the right tackle to cut off Buckner on the zone run but he is unable to get to the spot in time as Buckner gets the tackle for a loss.


What is remarkable about Buckner is despite being an All-Pro and a bonafide superstar in this league, he is still one of the most active players on every play. His hustle for a defensive tackle is remarkable and he makes so many plays as a result. The Jets try to run a weakside sweep on this play and Buckner is able to shed his block and run down the running back on the edge for a quick tackle.


Then there’s the power in the run game as well. He is athletic and can run around blocks but the way he utilizes his power on the move is something else. While I have Grover Stewart highlighted on this play, look at Buckner next to him. He moves down the line and is double teamed by the right guard and right tackle. As the running back commits to a hole, he tosses the guard to the ground and delivers a big hit. Buckner is simply a cheat code in the run game as he is too big and strong to outmuscle and too athletic to run away from.


Getting to the passing game and this is where the fun begins. Coming into the year, I wrote a few times about Buckner’s elite chop/swim move. I personally think it is up there as one of the best pass rush moves in the entire NFL. Well we have seen it quite a bit this year from him and we are going to go through some examples of it having great success just four games into the season.

1.) Buckner sets up the inside move on the left guard before swiping outside and getting around with the swim move. He unfortunately trips on the left tackle as he closes in on the quarterback before he can get yet another sack on the season.

2.) Same game and Buckner uses the exact same move on the center. He utilizes this move to get skinny on the interior and slide past guards and centers. This is so effective because as these linemen brace for a bull rush, he is able to easily glide around them to create space and get pressures and sacks.

3.) The move truly is a cheat code. Buckner is a 300 pound interior player who is essentially sliding past interior offensive linemen. He makes the left guard just look silly on this play en route to his second sack of this game. Buckner sets this move up all game long and when he finally hits it, it’s game over for the interior linemen.


While that is his go-to move as a pass rusher, he has added a few things to his repertoire and has a few moves that he uses to set up what he wants to do. His bull rush is the basis of it all. If he is winning with his bull rush early and getting depth into the backfield, he knows he can hit the chop/swim later as linemen will brace for the power the rest of the game. Here he collapses the pocket from the inside and doesn’t give the QB a chance to step into the throw.


He also has a pretty solid swipe move that he has been working on. This move is effective because of the hip flexibility of Buckner. He starts up high and sells the bull rush before quickly coming with his right hand to swipe the hands of the lineman. He then gets skinny and corners up the side for the separation. This play is a bit of a miscommunication by the offensive line but it showcases Buckner’s quickness and hands well on the move.


Lastly, I couldn’t go through this entire article without talking about the best pass rush rep we have seen from a player so far in the 2020 season. Late in the game against the Vikings, Buckner used a hump move that the great Reggie White himself would be proud of. His powerful club sent the right guard flying to the ground as Buckner was able to hit the quarterback on the play. This play right here just shows the dominance that Buckner is capable of.


Conclusions

There was a lot of talk after the trade for DeForest Buckner this offseason by major media elements saying the Colts overpaid in this deal. A lot of questions were raised about the importance and impact that a defensive tackle could have on a defense. Well four games into this season and we are seeing it.

The Colts are currently the number one ranked defense in the NFL, coming off a stretch at the end of last season that was simply atrocious on that side of the ball. Buckner has changed everything up front and has added a new level of dominance to the Colts’ front four.

Was he still maybe an overpay? I guess the argument can be made. At the end of the day though, the Colts got an elite talent who is making a huge impact early in the year. The scariest thing is that I think he can do more too. He has been fairly unlucky on some of his rushes and doesn’t have as many sacks or impact plays as he should. I fully expect the sack numbers to increase throughout the year for him.

Overall, I think we can all see that Buckner was a homerun acquisition for this team. He has completely changed this defense and has maintained his dominant, superstar ways away from San Francisco. Buckner is legit and he is going to be here for a long time.