PFF released its Top 5 graded Indianapolis Colts players from the team’s 27-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the preseason opener this past weekend:
Highest graded Colts against Buffalo (min. 10 snaps)— PFF IND Colts (@PFF_Colts) August 14, 2022
1️⃣ Bobby Okereke: 90.4
2️⃣ Nick Cross: 89.2
3️⃣ Julian Blackmon: 87.5
4️⃣ Dallis Flowers: 86.3
5️⃣ Ben Banogu: 86.1 pic.twitter.com/ptTtEBomyI
Obviously, this is encouraging from a number of reasons if you’re a Colts fan—and especially a big proponent of the team’s potentially ascending defense. That is, into a Top 5 NFL unit overall under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and following the big offseason additions of Stephon Gilmore and Yannick Ngakoue.
We know the Colts have a number of star-studded veterans. Not only the newbies, Gilmore and Ngakoue, but also Shaquille Leonard, DeForest Buckner, and Kenny Moore II.
However, younger players such as Bobby Okereke, Nick Cross, and Julian Blackmon all have special talent, and the legitimate opportunity to develop into NFL stars in their own right. Yes, it’s just preseason, but the early signs are encouraging that at least one of these players may be able to take their game to another level this season (although to be fair, Cross is just a rookie so some expectations should be tempered on his end).
Then there’s Dallis Flowers, a rookie UDFA who’s flashed in training camp at times, as well as former 2019 second round pick Ben Banogu, who’s always been athletically gifted but whose been unable to make much of an impact in his three prior career seasons to-date.
Banogu had a sack in the preseason opener—to go along with 3 tackles (2 solo).
Flowers could provide the Colts additional reliable depth at cornerback (*and another special teams returnman), while any Banogu breakout would arm the defensive line rotation with another speed rush specialist behind Ngakoue at the LEO—which is a position that more naturally suits Banogu compared to prior Indy defensive schemes.
Yes, it’s one game.
Yes, it’s only preseason.
However, it’s always a positive sign to see young players make an impact early on.