Indianapolis Colts Midseason Grades: Defense


The Indianapolis Colts are finishing up the Bye Week sitting at 6-3. They owe a lot to impressive defensive performances in those six wins.

The other side of the coin is that the defense has completely underperformed in those three losses. The Colts also don’t have what we would call a “quality win” (luckily, this isn’t college football).

The biggest issue with the defense is that it is easy to exploit, as we saw the Steelers do a few weeks ago. The secondary excels in press, man coverage which gives a lackluster pass rush more time to get to the opposing quarterback.

During the five game win streak, the defense shined. But a lot of that had to do with the schedule. The AFC South team’s coupled with an injured Bengals team and a mediocre Ravens squad. The quarterbacks from those last two teams are highly overrated and around average at best.

Editors Note: Football Outsiders uses advanced stats to rate players and teams, DVOA is value per play while DYAR is total value. Pro Football Focus grades players on a plus/minus scale with 0.0 being average. 

Defensive Line: C+ 

The defensive line has accounted for just nine of the team’s 24 sacks. While a 3-4 scheme leads to the linebackers getting the bulk of the sacks, the line hasn’t produced all that much. They are struggling to collapse the pocket and against the run.

Only Cory Redding (+7.9) and Ricky Jean-Francois (+1.7) have positive grades on the defensive line. RJF has particularly struggled to rush the passer as well.

The line rates 19th against the run, per DVOA. Traditional stats have them as ninth, allowing just 98 yards rushing per game. Part of that is due to opposing teams having to play catch up or the Steelers exploiting weaknesses and feeding the hot hand.

The Colts do rank eighth in pressure, but much of that has to do with aggressive blitz schemes and lockdown coverage by the secondary.

Outside Linebackers: B-

Bjoern Werner, after struggling for the first few weeks, finally managed to start stringing sacks together and leads the team with four on the season. He has the third highest pass rush grade on the team at +1.8 and a +0.6 overall.

Most surprising is that rookie Jonathan Newsome has made the most of his limited snaps and has a +2.6 overall this year and is second at rushing the passer with a +2.0 (just behind Redding’s impressive +8.1).

Erik Walden has at times played well, but overall continues to disappoint. It wasn’t surprising that the Colts didn’t miss a beat against the Giants with him sidelined due to injury. Walden sits at -1.3 for the season, but has played fairly well against the run (something he’s failed to do for most of his career).

Inside Linebackers: C-

D’Qwell Jackson has been horrible this season. He’s the lowest graded play on defense at -11.0. He can’t cover, he can’t run laterally, and struggles to finish tackles. It was another in a long line of awful signings by the front office.

Jerrell Freeman has been decent, but missed four games with a hamstring injury. While he’s the team’s best linebacker in coverage, he’s can also be effective rushing the passer. The problem is that due to Jackson’s deficiencies, Freeman has to drop back.

The Colts clearly don’t have any other options at the position as Josh McNary (-7.0) and Henoc Muamba (-1.8) have played poorly in their time on the field.

Secondary: B+

The secondary has been outstanding for most of the season. They have played well enough to lockdown receiver and make the pass rush look better than it really is.

Vontae Davis is playing at an All-Pro level and leads the defense with a +13.5. Right behind Davis is safety Mike Adams who has a +9.0 this season.

Sergio Brown has also played very well while LaRon Landry has served out his suspension. Brown (+2.9) has clearly outplayed Landry (-2.6) this season and should remain the starter going forward.

Greg Toler, despite popular opinion, has not played particularly well this season. He gambles too often and as his -6.8 grade shows, it often doesn’t work out well in his favor. When he does play well, this secondary is incredibly difficult to pass on.