When looking at this Colts’ defensive line, there is a lot to get excited about. You have the new addition of superstar DT DeForest Buckner to go along with the steady play of the veteran Justin Houston. There is also the promising upside of Ben Banogu and Kemoko Turay. Even when looking at the depth there are some intriguing pieces in Denico Autry, Sheldon Day, and Grover Stewart. The player I want to look at today though just may be the most underrated player out of that entire group.
Al-Quadin Muhammad is entering his third year with the Colts after putting together two solid seasons after being claimed off waivers in 2018. Muhammad has tallied 56 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, 11 QB hits, 3 sacks, and 1 forced fumble in his two seasons. Today, we are going to look at some of his film from this past year and look at why he is a key piece to the Colts’ rotation at defensive end.
While Muhammad is mostly known for his run defense with the Colts, he has flashed some impressive pass rush ability at times over the past two years. This clip from the Chargers game last year was a thing of beauty. I love how he utilizes the long arm to get the tackle to over extend and reach for him on the outside. This set-up by Muhammad allows him to rip underneath the overextended arms and corner his way to the quarterback for the sack. Again, he is mostly a run stuffer with this team but every so often he flashes some impressive pass rush moves like this long arm here.
When I interviewed Muhammad this offseason, he told me that he believes he is one of the best run defending defensive ends in the NFL. While I think that is a tad generous, I love players being confident so I would never shoot him down for thinking that he is a legit run defender. This play against the Titans highlights how good he is against the run. He does an excellent job of shooting up field and getting outside contain on the outside stretch run. Once he forces the run back inside, he is able to effortlessly shed the block from the left tackle and make the play at the line of scrimmage.
Muhammad has this uncanny ability to read screens better than any defensive lineman I’ve personally studied. He always seems to know when the screen is coming and he makes a ton of plays in the backfield. Here against the Falcons, he isn’t fooled at all by all the action going on in the backfield. He stays square to the running back who is setting up for the screen and is able to make a play for the tackle for a loss. I had to have counted 4-5 other plays like this from last year that he made on quick passes or screen plays.
Crossing the face of an offensive guard from the defensive end position is very tough to do but Muhammad makes it look easy on this play. He gets a good, quick jump out of his stance and already has an advantage over the guard from the jump. He then utilizes his hands to rip past the guard and beat the running back to the spot for the tackle for a loss on the play.
The hand usage by Muhammad on this next clip is way too good to leave out of this article. While he does get driven back a bit initially, he does a great job of re-anchoring his body and establishing position on the left tackle. From there, he hits the tackle with an excellent swim move which allows him to fill the run lane and make the tackle for a short gain.
Muhammad’s speed and quickness out of his stance allow him to make plays like this in the run game as well. With the stretch play going to the opposite side of the field, he crashes down the line to take away any backside angles the running back may have. As he crashes down in a hurry, the Jaguars running back attempts to cut back up the middle, where Muhammad is there waiting to make a play. This is made purely by his athleticism while crashing down the line.
Getting back to rushing the passer, Muhammad really does have some of the more impressive flashes on the team. This play was one of my personal favorites from this past season. He initially gets knocked off his spot by the tackle but this doesn’t alter his plan of attack. He is able to quickly readjust and bull rush the off balance left tackle into the face of the quarterback, forcing the incomplete pass. This is a beautiful rep to teach players how to adjust on the fly and change your plan of attack to still get the win on a given rep.
Muhammad had a huge game against the Panthers late in the season, notching two sacks and a few other noteworthy plays. This next clip is the first of his sacks on the day as he beats the left tackle inside. The Colts run stunts on most of their blitz packages as a way to create confusion up front and get pressure on the quarterback. This time it works to perfection as the left tackle loses Muhammad up the middle as he is able to break free for the sack on the play.
This last clip is a really fun one to end off on as it was Muhammad’s highlight play of the season. Facing off against rookie LT Dennis Daley, Muhammad clearly had the edge in this match-up. He starts in the wide nine stance where he can crash down using his speed from the outside. He cleanly converts speed to power and is able to roll through the much weaker left tackle. Muhammad keeps his momentum going forward and flies into the quarterback for the very quick sack. Just an overpowering move that led to this sack.
Al-Quadin Muhammad is a key piece to this defensive line who shouldn’t be overlooked going into this next season. He is a very good run defender and a big reason why the Colts were one of the top run defending teams in the NFL last season. He also does a lot of things that the box score doesn’t notice but does impact the game in a positive way.
I’m not saying the Muhammad is a stud or should play over the young guys in Banogu or Turay but don’t underrate this guy’s impact on the field. He’s a good base defender and flashes in the pass game quite a bit. It wouldn’t shock me at all if he gets a lot of Jabaal Sheard’s snaps at strong side defensive end with the vacancy there now opened up. Overall though, we should all recognize this key player’s role on the team and appreciate the work he puts in to help this defense be successful.