The Indianapolis Colts are now sitting at 5-3 following a tough loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. While there will be plenty to talk about in terms of negatives, which believe me I will get into later this week, I want to take a moment to talk about a certain star player on this defense.
Grover Stewart is having an incredible season for the Colts. He had a strong campaign in 2019 but this year he looks like one of the best run defending defensive tackles in the NFL. The best part about it is that he has stepped up in the biggest games of the year. In the three games the Colts have played against top ten rushing offenses (Cleveland, Minnesota, Baltimore), Stewart has tallied 11 tackles, 7 run stops, and 2 tackles for a loss.
So today we are yet again going to talk about Stewart’s play this year while looking at how dominant he was against a really good Ravens’ rushing attack.
Finally Getting Recognition
Before we get into the film, I want to take a second to talk about how great it is to see him finally get the recognition he deserves. I have been touting Stewart as one of the top 1-Tech’s in the NFL since early last season, as you all know, but we are finally starting to see more and more media guys take notice of this star player. I just wanted to thread some tweets here from media guys finally taking notice of Stewart this year:
In my opinion, the Colts defensive front is the best thing going on in the NFL that doesn't garner any headlines— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) November 2, 2020
DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart are playing out of their minds... Denico Autry is a heavyyyy DE that is a pain to block. Darius Leonard flying around... Fun group
If DT Grover Stewart gets to free agency in a few months, I think Dallas would be advised....even if most people have never heard of the big man.— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) November 1, 2020
I don't know how much money Grover Stewart is going to make in free agency next Spring, but it should be a lot. He's been one of the best shaded noses in the league this season.— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) October 16, 2020
I'm going through his game against Cleveland right now and man...he's an absolute force vs the run.
Film Dominance vs Baltimore
It is hard to win up front against the Ravens’ offensive line. It is even harder to get stops and tackles against the Ravens’ skill players. Stewart was able to do both on Sunday though as he logged 4 tackles, 2 run stops, 2 tackles for a loss, and a pass deflection on the day.
Stewart is an absolute freak on the interior who is nearly impossible to block in one on one situations. This puts opposing offenses in a tough spot because if they choose to double him on the interior, it would give a one on one match-up to DeForest Buckner or leave a linebacker like Darius Leonard unblocked. The Ravens try to roll the dice on this play and leave just the left guard to block Stewart and the third and short. Stewart is able to fire off the ball and drive the guard right into Lamar Jackson’s lap for the tackle for a loss.
I have no clue how he does it but Grover Stewart impresses more and more every single game. Pay. This. Man. pic.twitter.com/zoD5aGprZm— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) November 9, 2020
While a lot of his dominance did show up in this box score, the greatness of Stewart is what he does on every play that doesn’t. This next play is a great example. He delays off the snap as he expects a screen pass coming based on the formation and the way Jackson is dropping in the pocket. As soon as the pass is thrown, he gets out in front of the running back in space. He takes on a lead blocker while also forcing the play inside where the rest of the defense can make the play.
Grover ID's the screen play, takes on a lead block in space, and forces the play back inside to the help. Not bad for a 300+ pound nose tackle pic.twitter.com/zHbXjcbXqG— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) November 9, 2020
Another screen play where Stewart is not fooled whatsoever. He gets past the two interior linemen who block him to start the play and gets penetration into the backfield. As Denico Autry begins to close in on Jackson, Stewart slows his rush and stays near the tight end waiting in the backfield on the mid screen. As soon as the ball is throw, he is able to jump and front and knock the ball away for a pass deflection on the play.
Grover yet again reads the screen, this time being a tight end mid screen. Able to take away the option as Jackson throws the pass pic.twitter.com/BSNxW0DJMX— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) November 9, 2020
The Colts held the top rushing team in the NFL to just 2.9 yards per carry on Sunday. Plays like this are the main reason why. Look at how many lineman are forced to block the duo of DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart on the interior here. Four linemen to block just two guys. With those two drawing all the attention, Bobby Okereke and Al-Quadin Muhammad are able to get into the backfield and get the stop on the play.
This is how you have a great run defense. Four of the Ravens' five linemen are forced to block Grover and DeForest Buckner here. They eat up all the blocks while the rest of the defense converges. pic.twitter.com/cv2LONpIHo— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) November 9, 2020
This next play is incredible by Stewart when you really break it down. He shifts out to the three technique prior to the play. Off the snap, he is able to contact the guard and prevent him from climbing to the second level while also getting quick penetration and forcing the run to cut back. So essentially, he kept Darius Leonard clean by stalling his blocker while also disrupting the run and forcing it right back to the help defense. If Leonard were to have made this tackle in the hole, it would have been a loss on the play primarily due to the play of Stewart.
Grover getting instant penetration while also delaying the climbing guard. On this play he is able to get into the backfield, force the play back inside, and free up Darius Leonard from being blocked. Only a three yard gain on this play but should have been a loss pic.twitter.com/x8ILEIlKDy— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) November 9, 2020
Final play from this game but it is absolutely absurd how well Stewart moves for a player of his size. We know he can bull rush opponents but this swim move is completely unfair. This is something that he has been working on the last few years and we have seen him hit it now in a game each of the last two weeks (sent a potential All-Pro center in Frank Ragnow to the turf last week). If he starts hitting this consistently and mixing it in with his powerful bull rush, I truly have no clue how linemen block him one on one going forward.
It's getting a bit out of hand now. Grover Stewart is unreal. Elite athlete along with having superhuman strength pic.twitter.com/KouH1OLYuI— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) November 9, 2020
The Ravens game was a frustrating loss for the Colts and I am not trying to overlook it by talking about a positive after the loss. Trust me the negative film pieces will be out this week too. I wanted to take today to highlight something pretty great about this team.
The top three rush defenses in the NFL going into last week were the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Indianapolis Colts. The Ravens ran for 5.6 yards per carry and 265 yards against the Steelers. Against the Colts, they ran for 2.9 yards per carry and 110 yards.
While there aren’t many positives to take from a bad loss like this, one thing we can hang our hat on is that the Colts have a really good defense and an elite run defense. At the heart of that run defense is big Grover Stewart. The crazy thing is that with each big match-up against a top team, he seems to be getting better.
I don’t know what the future holds for this team or how this upcoming offseason will play out but the one thing I do know is that the Colts need to pay Grover Stewart this offseason. As long as him, DeForest Buckner, and Darius Leonard are healthy, the Colts will have an elite run defense and set themselves up to have a really good defense overall. Stewart is a huge part of this defense and needs to be in the future plans.