According to The Athletic’s Arif Hasan (subscription), three Indianapolis Colts were named to The Athletic’s Midseason NFL Players of the Year: tight end Mo Alie-Cox, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, and safety Julian Blackmon—with offensive guard Quenton Nelson earning a ‘runner-up’ nod:
TEs George Kittle, 49ers; Travis Kelce, Chiefs; Mo Alie-Cox, Colts
At the other end of the spectrum is Mo Alie-Cox, who’s playing like the best run blocker in the NFL at the position. A talented receiver, Alie-Cox is truly versatile and he allows the Colts to change in and out of plays at the line while still presenting defenses with a big threat. His contributions to the Colts’ outside running game shouldn’t go unnoticed.
OGs: Michael Onwenu, Patriots; Ali Marpet, Buccaneers; Zack Martin, Cowboys; Joel Bitonio, Browns
Runners-up: Quenton Nelson, Colts; Laken Tomlinson, 49ers
DIs: Aaron Donald, Rams; Tyson Alualu, Steelers; Stephon Tuitt, Steelers; DeForest Buckner, Colts
DeForest Buckner gave the Colts defensive line a sorely needed shot in the arm. Of all the consistent pressure producers along the interior, he might be the most reliable run-stopper as well. His length allows him to hold the block until the last moment and tackle the runner or bat the ball in the air.
S: Julian Blackmon, Colts; Jessie Bates III, Bengals; Bobby McCain, Dolphins; Jordan Poyer, Bills
Julian Blackmon is on pace for a DROY candidacy after a game-sealing pick, multiple key pass breakups and a remarkable ability to deter deep throws. At the same time, he hasn’t allowed any yards after the few catches he’s given up, pioneering one of the most surprising defenses of 2020.
Colts tight end Mo Alie-Cox has 14 receptions for 231 receiving yards (16.5 ypr. avg.) and 2 touchdown receptions in 6 games (2 starts). The 6’5”, 267 pound big bodied former basketball hoopster has shown a lot of growth in his game this season. He was always a highly regarded in-line blocker, but he’s developed as a pass catcher when called upon.
Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), he’s still their best graded tight end with a +91.6 overall grade despite battling a knee injury and facing more limited playing time over the past few weeks.
Meanwhile, All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner has been as great as advertised for the Colts defense, recording 29 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss, 10 QB hits, and 24 total QB pressures during all 7 starts.
Buckner is currently PFF’s 7th best graded defensive tackle with a +82.3 overall grade—highlighted by a +85.3 pass rushing grade.
Lastly, rookie Julian Blackmon has been a revelation as a rookie in the backend of the Colts secondary at starting safety—having been thrust into immediate meaningful action to replace injured starter Malik Hooker.
Less than a year removed from a torn ACL suffered last December, Blackmon has flashed a ballhawking style, impressive centerfield range, and a knack for finding the football (plus he’s laid out a few big hits). He has 14 tackles, 6 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions during his first 6 NFL games (5 starts) for the Colts defense.
The dynamic playmaker is PFF’s 25th best graded safety with a +67.2 grade overall and just a few weeks ago, was among their highest graded rookies overall.
As a shameless plug, I recommend purchasing a subscription to The Athletic—if you already haven’t, their Colts writers (Stephen Holder, Zak Keefer, and Bob Kravitz) do a great job, and it’s engaging, solid all-around sports coverage (like Arif Hasan here).