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Film Room: Colts defensive line stands out in win over the Vikings

The Colts’ DL stood tall all game against the Vikings

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the start of the season, there was a lot of hype and high expectations for this Colts defense. While the first game was marred with mistakes against the Jaguars, the Colts were able to quickly turn it around with a dominant performance against the Vikings. The biggest reason the Colts were able to turn it around so quickly? The defensive line. From top to bottom, this defensive line came to play on Sunday and simply dominated the Vikings’ offensive line in the trenches.

In today’s film room, we are going to look at all of the defensive linemen who contributed to the win on Sunday. This group played at such a high level that it was hard to narrow it down to just one or two players.

DeForest Buckner

Starting with the superstar on the line, Buckner had an outstanding bounce-back game from his solid, yet somewhat underwhelming debut in week one. He was all over the field as he totaled 4 tackles, 2 run stops, 2 QB hits, 1 hurry, and 2 sacks according to Pro Football Focus. He wreaked havoc all day long on the Vikings’ offensive line and looked like the superstar the Colts traded for in the offseason.

The first clip warrants a shout out to Justin Houston, who beat his man to the outside, but this play is made by Buckner. Using his patented chop/swim move, he is able to quickly maneuver around the guard and get into the backfield. His speed and timing on this move are simply unfair as the guard barely even gets a hand on him. Buckner is then able to corner really well and get the half sack on the play.

The next play to highlight was perhaps the best pass rush of Buckner’s career. While he has a wide arsenal of moves to use on Sundays, I don’t think I have ever seen him pull off this move. Buckner shoots up field and begins to swat his hands to get the guard to settle into his stance. Once he has the guard planted, Buckner comes back with a nasty hump move that would make Reggie White proud. The move sends the guard flying to the ground as Buckner comes just inches away from another sack in this game. There isn’t enough that can be said about this guy. He is simply an elite presence on the defensive line and played like it on Sunday.

Denico Autry

Autry has quietly strung together two really solid performances to start this young season. On Sunday, Autry totaled 1 tackle, 1 run stop, 3 hurries, and a pass deflection. He also had a couple other key plays in the backfield that set up other players for success.

Speaking of those type of plays, let’s look at the safety the Colts forced on Sunday. The Vikings try to pass out of their own end zone on third down early in this game. The Colts only send four but run a twist on the interior with Autry and Buckner. Buckner does a great job of taking up space on the interior and grabbing hold of the guard and center. As a result, Autry is able to twist around and nearly come up with the sack himself. His missed the tackle in the backfield but forces Kirk Cousins into Buckner’s lap for the sack and safety.

Autry has made the transition back to defensive end look pretty easy. With his strong hands and experience on the inside, his ability as a run defender has been really good out there. Here, he crashes down the line on the stretch play and gets the run stop at the line for a short gain. Props to Grover Stewart as well for controlling his man on the interior.

Grover Stewart

The most underrated performance on Sunday had to have been from Grover Stewart. After an underwhelming first week, Stewart bounced back in a big way against the Vikings. He totaled 2 tackles, 1 run stop, and 2 hurries on the day and was driving the Vikings center into the backfield constantly.

The power that Grover has was on full display this weekend. Here, on the outside run, he bullies former first round pick Garrett Bradbury deep into the backfield. This forces Dalvin Cook to take a wider angle than he normally would and creates an even bigger loss on the play. Grover also cleans up the play by assisting on the big tackle for a loss. (Side Note: The open roof sucks and it’s hard to see some of the players as evident on this clip).

Just a dominant performance all day long, even if the box score doesn’t properly reflect it. Here he gets a long arm into Bradbury’s chest. From there, he is able to hold his ground and keep his gap integrity on the interior. As the running back approaches the hole, he is able to quickly disengage from his block and make a tackle. This is a big play, too, as there was a good amount of space behind him on this run.

Taylor Stallworth

Speaking of surprises, Stallworth had an excellent game despite only logging six snaps on the day. In those six snaps, he tallied 2 tackles and a run stop. He was pivotal on the Colts’ opening defensive series in the red zone as he made two key tackles to keep the Vikings out of the end zone.

The power that Stallworth played with on Sunday really impressed me. Like Stewart, he was driving linemen off the ball and into the backfield. On this play, he drives the Vikings center 4-5 yards into the back field on the stretch play. This forces the running back again to take a wider angle to the sideline and allows the defense to close in faster for a shorter gain on the play.

Major props to Stallworth on this play. He initially is beaten on the interior as the center gets lower and gets his hands inside. Stallworth, however, is able to anchor well and is hardly moved off the line. He then uses his hands to adjust and shove the center aside for the tackle. Excellent play in the red zone that may have helped build momentum for this defense early on.

Tyquan Lewis

Finally, Tyquan Lewis had a great game as well on Sunday. Despite playing just 12 snaps, he recorded 2 tackles, a run stop, 2 hurries, and a sack on the day. Looks like the former second round pick is finally starting to make an impact for this team.

The Tyquan Lewis we saw on Sunday looked nothing like the player we have seen the first two years in the NFL. He looked explosive, healthy, and disruptive when he played. Look at how quickly he gets out of his stance here and beats the guard on the rush. Really quick and active hands along with nice cornering ability to dip around the interior and get the sack. The potential with Lewis is starting to show on Sundays finally.

With more reps, Lewis could be an extremely disruptive force off the bench. He has the juice and it was evident on Sunday. Here, he just gets a pressure, but again look at how quick he is able to get off the ball and up field towards the quarterback. With more playing time, plays like this will turn into sacks. Lewis was a player who I was skeptical about coming into the season but he looks completely different and ready to make a real impact in 2020.

Final Thoughts

The performance by the defensive line on Sunday was everything we could hope for coming into this season. The top players, DeForest Buckner, Denico Autry, and Justin Houston, were productive and disruptive all game long. The key, though, was the role players like Grover Stewart, Taylor Stallworth, and Tyquan Lewis making an impact on the game. Sunday showed that the Colts are really deep up front and that’s with one of their best pass rushers, Kemoko Turay, still missing time.

Overall this was a real encouraging performance from this group that hopefully carries over to this upcoming game against the Jets. If the depth can continue to make an impact and the stars can make those big plays, this defense can be really good this season.