After the most exciting Colts’ NFL Draft in recent memory, and what was a pedestrian free agency period, we can now start to analyze the state of the Colts’ defensive depth chart and special teams unit. Keep in mind we are still missing the final wave of free agency signings, something general manager Chris Ballard has exploited a lot in the past.
Defensive End: Kwity Paye, Dayo Odeyingbo, Tyquan Lewis, Samson Ebukam, Titus Leo (R)
I loved the addition of Ebukam to this group, as I believe he will be a much better contributor to the defensive success of the team than Yannick Ngakoue. Ebukam is a stout run defender that is no slouch in the pass-rushing department either. Kwity Paye has improved each of his first two seasons, but I am expecting much more from him as he enters his third NFL season. Dayo Odeyingbo looked like a star at times last year, so the challenge for him will be to find some sort of consistency in order to impact games at a much larger scale. Titus Leo is a 7th round pick who was impressive facing lesser competition, he will most likely need some time to adapt to the NFL.
Defensive Tackle: DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Adetomiwa Adebawore (R), Taven Bryan, Eric Johnson
Starting duo is going to be Buckner and Stewart. D-Buck provides the interior pass-rush, while Stewart gobbles up ball carries and absorbs double teams. Both are Pro Bowl caliber players and among the best talents in the Colts’ roster. Adebawore is an athletic freak who will probably need some time before he is productive. Taven Bryan is a solid rotational piece who should see somewhat between 200-300 snaps barring any injuries. Other than that, I would like to see the Colts add some more big bodies before the season starts.
Linebacker: Shaquille Leonard, E.J. Speed, Zaire Franklin, JoJo Domann, Grant Stuard
This group depends entirely on Shaq’s willingness to play, and his ability to remain on the field. Now I am not making any statements, but he has been dealing with a ton of ailments and spine issues are always complicated, which is why I would not rule out a sudden retirement. Leonard is an All-Pro caliber player and team captain when healthy, so his status is massive for the group. E.J. Speed had a solid season and was spectacular in run defense last season. Zaire Franklin led the team in tackles and will most likely fill in the spot left by Bobby Okereke. JoJo Domann and Grant Stuard have played mostly special teams.
Cornerbacks: Kenny Moore II, Isaiah Rodgers Sr., Dallis Flowers, Juluis Brents, Darius Rush
Perhaps the thinnest position in the entire Colts’ roster, the cornerback group is as weak as it gets. Kenny Moore II has not been good ever since that 20-23 loss at home against the Raiders, Isaiah Rodgers Sr. was outplayed by Brendan Facyson for parts of the 2022 season, Dallis Flowers is mostly a special teams guy, and Brents and Rush are rookies. The Colts could use at least two veterans here.
Safeties: Rodney Thomas II, Julian Blackmon, Nick Cross, Trevor Denbow, Daniel Scott
I can’t wait to see the Colts safeties in action next season. Rodney Thomas II surprised me, and he ended up playing a ton of snaps for a 7th round pick. Julian Blackmon has struggled with injuries and will now be fighting for a starting spot, but he showed flashes whenever he was healthy. Nick Cross was drafted more as a developmental prospect, so it was not surprising
Kicker: Matt Gay
Biggest contract given to a kicker in free agency ever... that basically sums it up. Gay should be the Colts most reliable kicker since Adam Vinatieri (apart from his final season). Big step up from Rodrigro “Noodle Leg” Blankenship, and should give rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson a nice safety blanket.
Punter: Rigoberto Sanchez
Matt Haack did not work, and even though he was near the bottom of reasons the Colts 2022 season went as bad as it did, he was as bad as a punter can be, and had some horrible games down the stretch. Now back from injury, Rigo should take back the starting spot without a problem.
LS: Luke Rhodes
Solid, dependable, the fact that most casual fans would not even recognize him speaks well about how good he is at his job.