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Film Room: Colts add defensive tackle Sheldon Day to improve run defense/depth

Day is the perfect rotational defensive tackle for the Colts

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts have made yet another move in free agency, signing depth defensive tackle Sheldon Day to a one year contract. While Day may not be a big name, impact player on the defensive line, he adds solid depth to a team that desperately needed it last season. He finished last season with the 49ers with 15 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 quarterback hits, and 1 sack as a rotational defensive tackle.

Today’s film room won’t be as extensive as the DeForest Buckner or Philip Rivers ones, as Day didn’t take near as many snaps as they did. However, in this film room I will be focusing heavily on his run defense and how that ability will make him a key rotational piece for the Colts in 2020.

Film Room

Day is really quick and explosive off the line of scrimmage. Here he beats the guard— who is slow off the snap— to the hole and gets the tackle for loss. Notice the sweet swim move on the center before he makes his way to the backfield.

Another example of the pop that Day has in his hands. Here he gets a good shot inside on the guard and uses those quick hands to stalemate at the point of attack. He then drives inside a bit before redirecting and making the tackle for a short gain up the middle.

The ability to redirect offensive linemen and move them at will is such an uncanny trait for defensive tackles. Here, Day controls the block at the point of attack and never loses his leverage. He is able to move the guard where he wants before quickly discarding him to make the tackle near the line of scrimmage.

Going up against one of the best guards in the NFL in Brandon Scherff, Day is still able to hold his ground. Here he fights through an early inside chip and continues to work his hands against the Pro Bowl guard. He then fights through the block as the running back approaches and is able to make the tackle again near the line of scrimmage.

Athleticism is huge in the Colts’ defense and Day is a really good athlete for a player near 300 pounds. Here he showcases those violent hands yet again by knocking the center back with a good shot to his chest. He then gets lateral and rushes down the line to make the stop on the outside sweep play. Plays like this, where he showcases his excellent hands along with his athleticism, make me optimistic for his role with the team.

Day explodes off the snap on this play and gets his hands inside immediately. This allows him to get instant penetration into the backfield so he can make a play. He slow plays after this initial burst in order to read the play and then quickly discards the block to make the tackle in the hole for yet another short gain. As you can tell in these clips, Day’s strengths are his hands and quickness off the line which allow him to be a plus run defender in limited snaps.

I cheated a bit with these last two clips as they aren’t run defense examples of his play. Here Day is able to slant down and beat the guard inside with his first step. From there, he hooks his arm on the inside hip of the guard to seal off his rush. He gets vertical and takes a short and effective route to the quarterback for his only sack of the season. While Day isn’t a plus pass rusher, he isn’t a liability there with his base traits of good hands and burst off the line.

Final clip showcases Day’s awareness and effort level which is huge for the defense that Ballard has constructed. He reads the screen from the beginning of the play and works his way over there. Even as Dalvin Cook runs away from him, Day is able to maintain his chase and make the tackle for a loss on the play.

Final Thoughts:

The Colts struggled with defensive line depth last season as they had to claim several players off of waivers to sure up an obvious weakness. While Grover Stewart was very good as the starting 1-Tech down the stretch, it was apparent that Chris Ballard had to add a new player to be his backup this off-season.

Sheldon Day isn’t a perfect player but his baseline traits are really good. He has violent and quick hands and a nice first step, which allows him to play bigger than what he is. He likely won’t start over Stewart next season but he is a nice player to have as depth. Seeing how he is an Indy native who played college football at Notre Dame as well, this fit is just perfect on paper.

Overall, Day solidifies the interior defensive line depth while adding some quickness to the group. The interior rotation appears set with Stewart/Day at 1-Tech and Buckner/Autry at 3-Tech. That is a vastly improved interior defensive line from where the group was a year ago. Solid signing to solidify the group.