The Colts’ defense last season was among the best units in football. Their biggest issue, though, was the lack of pass rush — particularly on the edge.
With the departures of veterans Justin Houston and Denico Autry, GM Chris Ballard made it a priority to go out and address the inconsistences at edge. He not only used the team’s first-round pick on defensive end Kwity Paye; Ballard doubled down and drafted Dayo Odeyingbo with their second-round pick, too.
With DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart, two of the better interior defensive lineman in the NFL currently, stopping the run and getting after the QB, it’ll be up to the rookie Paye and fourth-year defensive end Tyquan Lewis to help generate a consistent and elite rush from the edges.
Buckner had 9.5 sacks last season and was named First-team All-Pro. Stewart, meanwhile, had quite the breakout season, securing 53 total tackles and 7 TFLs. The former fifth-round pick also played a monumental role in helping the Colts’ run defense dominate its way to being the second-best unit in the NFL last season. Indy only gave up a total of 90.8 YPG, which is only eight yards more than what the Tampa Bay Bucs allowed, according to teamrankings.com.
Not all of the pressure falls entirely on the starting four, as Kemoko Turay, who’s had his fair share of flashes throughout each of the last two seasons, is coming back completely healthy and should provide a more of a speed-rush presence on third downs this season.
Let’s not forget about Al-Quadin Muhammad, who is a solid rotational piece as well. Muhammad had 23 total tackles and 2 sacks in a limited role last season. Perhaps he gets a few more looks this season, too.
Without question, the talent is there, but this young group is going to have to step up in a big way and be much more consistent. Can they go from being just ‘good’ to being one of the better, all-around pass-rushing units this season?
If they can, the Colts could go from just having a very good defense to having one of the more prominent units in the entire NFL this season.