The Indianapolis Colts have had a number of young pass rushers, who have flashed throughout training camp—with 3rd-year edge Ben Banogu being predominantly among them.
Now, some of that can be attributed to the Colts’ depleted offensive line, which has lacked the likes of Ryan Kelly and Quenton Nelson in recent weeks because of injuries—and has even worse depth along the outside in projected starting left tackle Eric Fisher’s continued absence (who’s still rehabbing from a late-season torn Achilles, but is ramping up activity).
However, Banogu flashed again during Saturday’s preseason Week 2 win against the Minnesota Vikings—and this time, it wasn’t against teammates Sam Tevi or Will Holden anymore, who’ve frequently been turned into turnstiles at Colts camp:
As they say in Minnesota:— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) August 23, 2021
"ope, lemme scooch past ya real quick" pic.twitter.com/086u6cALnR
It’s safe to say that up until this latest training camp, the former Colts’ 2019 second round pick has so far been largely a disappointment for Indianapolis.
Banogu was often regarded as developmentally raw coming out of TCU, and sometimes, pass rushers take a little longer to develop. However, it was being a healthy scratch during the stretch late last season that was a cause for concern.
It’s not just that Banogu was on the bench, it’s that the team didn’t think he added enough value to even make him active on game days—and that was with depleted defensive line depth often at times last year because of injuries and the COVID-19 protocol.
His being declared inactive comes down to consistent practice habits, routinely adding value, and it also boils down to a willingness (and the required edge necessary) to make an impact on special teams (i.e, if you’re the backup’s backup, you better be able to effectively chase and bring down a kick returner on kickoffs).
Instead though, Banogu has worked harder, and with him, has brought newfound energy and a fresh perspective—and as Ted Lasso so eloquently stated, the memory of a goldfish:
Asked Ben Banogu a few times about 2020 — he was often a healthy scratch and rarely saw the field — and what he learned. No interest in talking about last year.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) May 24, 2021
"It's a new year and I'm ready to work with the guys."
Big training camp coming up for him in a crowded DL room.
Perhaps, he’s like another former TCU pass rusher that was an early round draft pick, Jerry Hughes, the Colts’ 2010 first round pick, who just needed more time to finally break out (after three dormant seasons in Indianapolis)—albeit ultimately for the Buffalo Bills instead of the Horseshoe (in what’s now been universally regarded as a bad trade for ex-linebacker Kelvin Sheppard in hindsight).
Hughes has 56.0 career sacks and is still pass rushing at a pretty high level for the AFC contending Bills, while Sheppard has been out of football since 2018 and lasted just one sole season in Indianapolis—but, I digress. Sorry, for the painful reminder!
The point being that you can’t completely write off a young pass rusher—especially a raw but toolsy one, just because of a few initial underwhelming first seasons.
Right now, we’re finally starting to see Banogu, the former 2x First-Team All-Big 12 edge, who’s very athletically gifted, begin to put it together consistently on the field:
Frank Reich on @Colts DE Ben Banogu: "Ben has always shown flashes, but this is the most consistently we’ve seen from Ben. Encouraged by that. He just seems to be in a really good place mentally. A confident, strong mindset. Really playing hard and really playing smart."— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) August 22, 2021
Ben Banogu’s been a disruptor at camp for three straight weeks. Got him with two sacks already today.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) August 19, 2021
Exactly what he needed entering Year 3.
His tantalizing physical tools are beginning to routinely translate to the field—and with it, bringing added value and production as a still developing pass rusher.
He’s finally starting to tap into his top-tier athletic talent and potential, while his confidence is increasingly growing.
With other young edge rushers like Kwity Paye, Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis, and hopefully soon, Dayo Odeyingbo to debut, Banogu brings potentially another impact pass rusher into the fold—which could make the Colts defensive end rotation incredibly disruptive and deep depth-wise during 2021—for what could be one of the league’s top defenses.
Is Ben Banogu’s breakout finally coming?