PFF Ranks Colts as Having 26th Best Defensive Front-Seven

Nov 29, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight linebacker Trent Cole (58) reacts to sacking Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats Tampa Bay 25-12. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 29, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight linebacker Trent Cole (58) reacts to sacking Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) at Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis defeats Tampa Bay 25-12. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /
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According to Pro Football Focus, the Indianapolis Colts have the 26th best defensive front-seven in the entire NFL:

"26. Indianapolis ColtsProjected starters: DE Henry Anderson, NT David Parry, DE Kendall Langford; OLB Erik Walden, OLB Robert Mathis; ILB D’Qwell Jackson, ILB Nate IrvingOther names to know: DE Zach Kerr, DE T.Y. McGill; OLB Trent Cole; ILB Antonio Morrison, ILB Sio MooreKey stat: Last season, the Colts recorded pressure less often from sub-packages (33.5 percent) than in their bases defense (36.7 percent).A strong rookie season (cut short) from Henry Anderson and a career-year from Kendall Langford were the bright spots in an otherwise disappointing season from the Colts’ defensive front. D’Qwell Jackson was a tackling machine, but offered little penetration to make those tackles and missed more than his fair share. Next to Jackson, the pressure will be on Nate Irving to finally claim the full-time role that his performances on limited snaps in Denver suggested he was ready for. Off the edge, the Colts will hope for Robert Mathis and Trent Cole to roll back the years and raise their games after each had solid 2015 seasons, but far from the team-leading production you would hope for from them."

Pro Football Focus analyst Ben Stockwell hits the nail on the head that defensive ends Henry Anderson and Kendall Langford were the real bright spots of the Colts front-seven last season. The former, Anderson, is currently rehabilitating from a torn ACL, while the latter, Langford, will look to simply keep it going during his 9th NFL season.

Aug 22, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kendal Langford (90) and defensive tackle Arthur Jones (97) talk during a game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 22, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kendal Langford (90) and defensive tackle Arthur Jones (97) talk during a game against the Chicago Bears at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

However, this defensive unit also could get an enormous lift from the return of a healthy Art Jones, who missed all of last year with a season-ending ankle injury suffered in preseason. Stockwell omits mentioning Jones all together, which is surprising considering he could have a huge impact if healthy–particularly against the run.

Nevertheless, holdover Nate Irving (or perhaps Sio Moore) have some big horseshoes to fill in the middle of the Colts defense, where departed inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman had a career season for the team and won’t be easily replaced.

The inside linebacker either will be playing alongside is veteran D’Qwell Jackson, who has shown a knack of finding the football and is a tackling machine. While Jackson remains a veteran leader and is still solid against the run, he’s often been a liability in coverage across the middle of the field.

The Colts also will need to get more production out of nose tackle David Parry, who while showed initial promise in his rookie campaign, faded a bit down the stretch.

Nov 22, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis (98) celebrates after a teammate recovered a fumble in the third quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Colts won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis (98) celebrates after a teammate recovered a fumble in the third quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Colts won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

Otherwise, the Colts will hope that the veteran duo of Robert Mathis and Trent Cole can find the fountain of youth. There’s reason for some optimism, as Mathis looked better as the season progressed, distancing himself from his prior season-ending achilles surgeries. Specifically, he recorded 3 sacks in the team’s final 3 games.

Meanwhile, Cole recorded 3 sacks in his final 5 games and has another offseason to get comfortable in the team’s defensive system.

Still, this veteran pass rushing tandem is also another year older, and it’s fair to question just how much gas is left in their tanks respectively–meaning new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino may have to get creative with his blitz packages in order to generate consistent pass pressure.

Nov 22, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (52) celebrates his interception returned for a touchdown with defensive tackle Billy Winn (99), linebacker Erik Walden (93), and defensive end Kendall Langford (90) in the fourth quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Colts won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 22, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson (52) celebrates his interception returned for a touchdown with defensive tackle Billy Winn (99), linebacker Erik Walden (93), and defensive end Kendall Langford (90) in the fourth quarter of their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Colts won 24-21. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

The other starting outside linebacker Erik Walden remains serviceable as a starter, namely against the run. However, like the rest of his Colts linebacker counterparts–except for maybe Mathis, he’s not a real difference-maker at this point in his career.

In my opinion, this ranking seems like a fair assessment of the Colts at this time.

However, if both Anderson and Jones can get healthy, this defensive unit could surprise and become one of the better front-sevens in football–at least from a run-stopping standpoint.

The pass defense of the front-seven of the Colts remains a major concern, as the defense lacks elite pass rushers and could withstand to improve in pass coverage as it relates to the team’s linebackers.

Next: Colts Only 25th in ESPN’s NFL Future Power Rankings

As a result, there’s some reason for optimism, but also some lingering concerns carrying over from last season for the Colts.