According to their defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus (via 1070 the Fan’s Kevin Bowen), the Indianapolis Colts are looking to utilize both veteran defensive tackle Denico Autry and 3rd-year defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis as defensive ends—at least situationally, in free agent Jabaal Sheard’s old role:
Eberflus mentions that Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis will get some looks at defensive end without Jabaal Sheard.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) May 11, 2020
It makes some sense too.
The Colts acquired All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner this offseason—who Eberflus also praised for his “high snap counts”—meaning there’s only going to be limited reps available behind Bucker as a backup 3-technique defensive tackle.
The 3-technique position is Autry and Lewis’ more natural position along the interior—although one could make the case that Lewis is better at defensive end entirely, where he showed some flashes as a rookie in 2018 before a forgettable second-year season.
That means the Colts will have to find other creative ways to get Autry and Lewis at times on the field—which could be in a familiar role now left vacant by departed veteran Jabaal Sheard—as a bigger run-stopping defensive end, who can hold the edge while still offering some pass rush push along the outside.
For perspective, Autry is a listed 6’5”, 285 pounds, while Lewis is 6’3”, 277 pounds.
Jabaal Sheard was a listed 6’3”, 268 pounds, while the Colts other more speed pass rush oriented defensive ends are: Justin Houston (6’3”, 270 pounds), Kemoko Turay (6’5”, 248 pounds), Ben Banogu (6’3”, 252 pounds), and Al-Quadin Muhammad (6’4”, 250 pounds).
The Colts could use Autry and Lewis occasionally on running downs, short yardage situations (especially along the goal line), and even if they’re getting gashed by the run on a particular Sunday afternoon to help stop the bleeding.
Autry had somewhat of a down season last year, but is just one year removed from 9.0 sacks in 2018, so it’s important that the Colts still find ways to get him on the field—while Lewis could use some additional limited reps purely for his own development.