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Colts’ breakout candidate part II: Kwity Paye, Dayo Odeyingbo, edge rushers

The Colts’ 2020 first and second round picks will look to finally establish themselves as the pass-rushers of the team.

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

With the 21st pick of the 2021 NFL Draft the Colts selected Michigan edge rusher Kwity Paye, and then with 54th pick they doubled down on the position and grabbed Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo. They were both considered to be raw prospects, needing a year or two to further their development, especially Dayo, who was recovering from an Achilles tear that limited his playing time during his rookie season. Paye has 27 starts to his name already, but he never managed to be productive for long periods of time, showing mostly flashes and a couple weeks of solid output before fading into the background or struggling with minor injuries.

Both players have shown they can be really productive edge defenders during their first two seasons, but never managed to do so consistently. It also did not help that Kwity suffered an ankle injury against the Denver Broncos right when he was playing his best early during last year, and constantly playing from behind with an offense that never got anything going is not a good thing for a defense, even so more for pass-rushers. After playing an average of 29% of the snaps during the first 9 games of the season, Dayo was on the field for 64% of the snaps the final 8 games, a massive increase. He took full advantage of the playing time, recording 3.5 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, and 7 quarterback hits in those final 8 games. So far, we never got to see the duo with both of them playing at full strength, so it would be great if they can finally put it together as they are both entering their supposed breakout year.

Samson Ebukam was brought in, but that likely gives the Colts the flexibilty to utilize Dayo on the inside on certain packages, and I expect Kwity/Dayo to be the edge rushers on clear passing downs. My expectations for Kwity this season are to remain healthy, keep steady quarterback pressure numbers, and prove that he can step up when the Colts really need a stop. For Dayo what I want to see is the versatility to play both inside and out, and also manage to disrupt opposing quarterbacks consistently. Numbers wise I know it is a lot to ask but I would love to see a double-digit sack season from Kwity, and Dayo to be in the top 25 in total quarterback pressures. If the duo manages to do so, then the Colts’ thin secondary would have a much easier job on their hands. If everything goes right (which is always a massive if in the NFL) then the team could have one of the most dominating defensive lines in the league, with 5 starting caliber players in Buckner, Stewart, Ebukam, Paye, and Odeyingbo, while also having some solid depth behind them in Tyquan Lewis, Taven Bryan, and Adetomiwa Adebawore. Again, I can’t stress enough just how bad the secondary will need the pass-rush to bring it next season, because if they fail then it could get really ugly really fast for Gus Bradley’s unit.