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DeForest Buckner Should Be a Serious NFL DPOY Contender—As the Colts’ Dud on Defense Cemented It

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Tennessee Titans Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner proved his worth again on Sunday—except without even actually playing this time around.

Having been unavailable because he was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the Colts’ big offseason defensive acquisition was sorely missed against the Tennessee Titans—as the Indianapolis defense resembled nothing like the elite collective unit that fans have been accustomed to seeing largely all season.

The Colts defense was destroyed by another All-Pro, running back Derrick Henry, who rushed for 178 rushing yards on 27 carries (6.6 ypc. avg.) and 3 rushing touchdowns.

The game felt over at halftime, as ‘King Henry’ was gashing the Colts, who had no answer—especially along their defensive front:

On the afternoon, the Colts defense ultimately surrendered 45 total points—as the unit couldn’t stop either Tennessee’s air or ground game—in what was an abysmal performance.

This past offseason, the Colts parted with a first round pick to acquire Buckner—while then awarding him with a lucrative 4-year, $84 million contract extension shortly thereafter.

After Sunday, honestly, it felt like it should’ve been a lot more:

The former 7th overall pick of the San Francisco 49ers has been as great as advertised for the Colts in their much improved defensive interior—helping anchor what has been one of the league’s most improved defenses this season.

At 6’7”, 295 pounds, Buckner is a natural fit as a three-technique in the Colts defensive scheme and utilizes his strength, athleticism, quick feet/closing speed, and freakishly long arms (34 3/8”) to disrupt opposing offenses against both the run and passing game—as an overall, well-rounded elite interior defender:

Buckner has 40 tackles (23 solo tackles), 4 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, 13 QB hits, and 32 total QB pressures during 10 starts for the Colts defense in his debut campaign in Indianapolis.

Per PFF, Buckner is their 5th highest graded interior defender with a +89.6 grade overall.

While Buckner had been in some national media NFL Defensive Player of the Year conversations earlier in the season, the Colts’ total defensive collapse on Sunday in his absence should’ve cemented him belonging in any and all serious discussions going forward:

Perhaps most importantly, the Colts (now 7-4) need him back on the field as soon as possible—fighting tooth-and-nail for an AFC playoff berth in the last remaining stretch of the NFL’s regular season.