Darius Leonard didn’t shy away when asked about Indianapolis’ defensive potential for the upcoming 2021 season.
“I just feel like defensively, we’re getting better each day,” Leonard said. “I think we have a shot to be very good.”
Leonard even took his high praises a step further, stating, “If we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, make the mental mistakes we made last year, I think we could possibly be the number one defense in this league.”
Last season, the Colts’ defense ranked No. 11 in overall points allowed, and No. 8 overall in yards allowed. Additionally, Indy was second in the league in rushing yards allowed per game, ranking behind only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Colts’ biggest issue defensively was their lack of a consistent, elite pass rush from the edge. Justin Houston (8 sacks) and Denico Autry (7.5 sacks) were the leaders from that position, but both signed with new teams during the offseason.
Indy is hoping that rookie first-round pick Kwity Paye, who was one of their training camp standouts, and Tyquan Lewis, a fourth-year defensive end who played fairly well last season, can bring a bit more consistency and disruptiveness from their respective positions.
As the season progressed, so did Indy’s defense. And while they weren’t a top 5 unit, the defense made plays when it mattered most.
“All we need is a blade of grass,” Leonard said. “That’s the mindset. You give us a blade of grass, and we’re gonna defend that blade of grass.”
There’s a lot to like about what the Colts bring defensively, starting with No. 53, who just seems to always find a way to make that game-changing play when it’s needed.
Chemistry is such a large part of sustained success for any NFL defense, and that’s exactly what the Colts have. Let’s not forget about a few other defensive standouts who seldom get talked about.
DeForest Buckner set a team record for most sacks by an interior defensive lineman with 9.5, and was a First Team All-Pro selectee. Kenny Moore, who led the team with 4 interceptions, has continued to emerge as one of the league’s best, all-around corners.
Xavier Rhodes made his presence known in coverage, as well, by nabbing two interceptions, and both Julian Blackmon and Khari Willis, who made clutch plays of their own, form perhaps one of the NFL’s more underrated safety duos.
Many are expecting the Colts’ defense to take that next step, to be more than just a solid defense.
The Colts play some of the league’s best offenses in the first five weeks, including the Seahawks, Rams, Titans, Dolphins and Ravens. That five-game gauntlet, if anything, will provide a strong indication of how good their defense can be this season.