Colts’ All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner was a force to be reckoned with last season. The former first-round pick brought an entirely different set of elements to the team’s pass-rushing room, which lacked consistency prior to Buckner’s arrival.
For all of the inconsistencies surrounding Indy’s edge rush towards the back half of the 2020 season, Buckner just seemed to make one play after another.
Whether it was in the running game or in a key, pass-rushing situation, as an offensive lineman, you didn’t want the 6’7” defensive tackle, who can move as swiftly as some starting NFL linebackers, staring you down.
Just ask the Minnesota Vikings’ backup right guard Dru Samia, whom Buckner tossed like a rag doll in last season's Week 2 matchup, how that ultimately worked out.
Buckner practically lived in the backfield of opposing quarterbacks last season as he garnered 9.5 sacks, 58 combined tackles (37 solo), 10 TFLs, a safety and 26 QB hits in 15 games played.
We found out on Wednesday afternoon that Buckner had “broke the 4th MCP joint in his right hand before the opener last year, played through it all season and earned 1st-team All-Pro,” according to Zak Keefer, a writer for The Athletic.
Wow: DeForest Buckner broke the 4th MCP joint in his right hand before the opener last year, played through it all season and earned 1st-team All-Pro. "Wasn't able to grab all year," he said. "Didn't have full strength. As a D-linemen, you need your hands. Those are your weapons"— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) September 8, 2021
As impressive as that is, Ballard thinks Buckner has barely scratched the surface when discussing the impact he can have for Indy’s pass rush this season.
“I mean, last year was pretty freaking impressive,” Ballard said. “I think the sky’s the limit. I think he’s got Defensive Player of the Year capabilities.”
When asked if Buckner was one of the main voices in the Colts’ locker room, Ballard said, “I think we’ve got a bunch of voices, but Buck’s is heard.” “Buck’s is strong. It’s a strong voice, especially on defense.”
There’s a reason the Colts named Buckner as one of their five team captains going into the season. The All-Pro does more than just make bigtime plays on the field, he leads by example inside the locker room and off the field, too.
“It means a lot, man,” Buckner said when asked about his feelings toward being named one of the team captains. “I came in and had a goal last year to really come in and gain the guys’ trust and their respect. Over the past year, I felt like I’ve been able to do that.”
Without question, the Colts’ defense — particularly their pass-rushing unit — will have a fair amount of expectations to live up to.
Buckner, now 100% healthy, is certainly going to play a predominant role in trying to help Indy’s defense become one of the league’s more consistent and elite units this season.