In USAToday’s most recent rankings article — linked here — Doug Farrar broke down the 11 best interior defensive lineman in the NFL currently. The Colts’ DeForest Buckner comes in at number four, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering how dominant he was for Indy last season.
Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Cameron Heyward and Los Angeles Rams’ Aaron Donald are the only players who were ranked ahead of Buckner. Last season, the All-Pro defensive tackle wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks, garnering 9.5 sacks, 58 combined tackles, 37 solo tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles and 26 QB hits, according to profootballreference.com.
For reference, Buckner’s 26 QB hits ranked only third to Aaron Donald and Carl Lawson last season. Yes, you’d certainly want your stud interior defensive lineman to accumulate sacks and create turnovers as often as possible, but I’d also argue that mudding a pocket can be just as effective and important in attempting to change momentum of a game.
Looking back on the trade a little over a year later, the 27-year-old stud superstar was 100% worth the 13th overall selection in the 2020 draft. As many predicted, Buckner completely changed the way the Colts played on defense. Their entire unit was better as a whole because of Buckner’s elite play-making and disruptiveness towards opposing quarterbacks.
Between Buckner, Grover Stewart — a star who broke out for Indy last season, Tyquan Lewis — a former second-round pick who had 4 sacks last season and first-round pick Kwity Paye, the Colts could have one of the league’s best pass rushing units through the 2021 season.
It’s one thing to say it, and it’s something entirely different to go out and prove it game after game, which is what this group is going to have to do to be considered amongst the best units in the entire NFL this season. If you’re wanting to beat Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and others, then an elite, consistent pass rush is necessary.
Sure, pass rush has always been important. but it’s especially important in today’s offensive-centric NFL. Quarterbacks are far too athletic and mobile for a team’s pass rush to be lackluster.
Luckily for Indy, they have one of the league’s best interior defensive lineman leading the way in DeForest Buckner, who’s going to continue to be a game-changer on this defense for quite some time.