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Film Room: Kemoko Turay slowly working back to form for the Colts

Turay is starting to come along for Indy

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

While DeForest Buckner has been outstanding all season long and players like Justin Houston and Denico Autry have sold sack numbers, something has just seemed off about the Colts’ pass rush this season. The sacks come in spurts and the lack of consistency to generate pressure has been a major concern. The one true area that they have been lacking has been speed off the edge as the Colts’ defensive ends have just not threatened opposing tackles to the outside.

Flashback to week 11 and exciting young pass rusher Kemoko Turay looked to change that. In five weeks however he has yet to manage a sack for the team. While that may seem discouraging, there is a silver lining in that. The Colts have been managing his workload coming off of a gruesome ankle injury last year and as a result he only played a total of 23 snaps in his first three games. That number has jumped up in the last two games though and he hit a season high of 33 snaps on Sunday, which is more than double of his previous season high.

So Turay seems to be slowly coming back to form health wise and his impact is starting to be felt on the field as well. Today we are going to look at his performance from this past Sunday and see that even though he didn’t register a sack, he still had a positive impact for this defense.

Film Room

The difference in speed between Turay and other defensive end such as Justin Houston or Al-Quadin Muhammad just stands out immediately. He is lined up against Laremy Tunsil on this play, and for most of his snaps, who is one of the better offensive tackles in the NFL. Even Tunsil has some difficulty here containing the speed of Turay. Turay is able to get his long arm into the chest plate of Tunsil and turn up field quickly. This forces quarterback Deshaun Watson to step up into the arms of DeForest Buckner for the sack and subsequent fumble.

While this sack is mainly due to the beautifully designed simulated blitz by Matt Eberflus, I would again like to look at how Turay threatens the outside and collapses the pocket. The explosion out of his stance has just gotten better and better each week and his hands are extremely active. He nearly comes away with his first sack of the season on this play but seems to get a tad over excited when Watson gets in his grasp. I doubt he misses his next opportunity.

In one of his few snaps against a tackle other than Tunsil in this game, Turay was able to easily beat Roderick Johnson for the pressure. Part of the reason for this pressure is because Watson started drifting deep in the pocket way too early but look at the hands at work by Turay. He breaks the hands of the tackle multiple times before transitioning to the long arm to make his way to the quarterback. Impressive stuff from the young pass rusher.

With Buckner not at 100% in this game, there were a few rushes where Turay was the lone impact rusher on the field. Here is a perfect example on what may have been his best rush of the game in my opinion. He comes downhill and quickly breaks the hands of Tunsil before the tackle can even engage him. From there, he gets inside and turns the corner with his patented long arm. If there was more interior pressure he may have gotten a sack on this play but instead he is forced to swat at the ball as Tunsil is able to regain his ground on the rush. This is an impact rush though that forced Watson off of his spot, even if it was a negative play for the defense overall.

The long arm worked for Turay in this game and Watson felt a lot of pressure from the outside on his drops. Not to take away from Buckner’s three sack performance but on all of his sacks he didn’t necessarily beat his man straight up on the rush. He was able to get off his block only after Watson started to bail from the pocket and made three huge tackles on the elusive quarter back for his sacks. Why was Watson continually stepping up in the pocket? One of the main reasons was because Turay was threatening the edge with speed all game long.

I slowed down this last clip to showcase the hands of Turay in this game. Look at his quick swipe before he engages Tunsil on the edge. This was his go-to move last year and it worked a good bit in this game as well. The next step for him to truly be back to his dominant form from early last year is building back his counters that he was able to use effectively. I think with more playing time, we will start to see more of an impact from this speedy edge rusher.

Final Thoughts

Kemoko Turay is still a bit a way from where he was early last year but his performance on Sunday was really promising. For this first time this season he looked explosive and fast out of his stance and he was starting to build up confidence in his rushes again.

If he can start bending the edge and working his counters again, this defense can truly be scary in the playoffs. They have talent at all three levels but with a speedy edge rusher they could be legit good in all phases of the defenses.

While this game wasn’t anything to go crazy about for Turay it certainly was a great sign. Hopefully going forward we get to see him continually get these numbers in terms of snaps and we start seeing even more of an impact from him.