Chirs Ballard and the Indianapolis staff have turned a once defensive wasteland into an above average group in less than two years. The defense was an obvious priority this offseason and the group continues to get better by adding defensive talent through the draft and free agency.
The Colts have been focusing on defense the past few years and protecting Andrew Luck. In the 2019 NFL draft, the team selected 7 defensive players out of their 10 picks showing their dedication to improving the defense.
In 2017 the Colts defense was close to the bottom in most categories and they turned that around in 2018. The addition of Darius Leonard was a huge boost for a struggling defensive unit. What’s most surprising about Leonard was his ability to tackle and not over-pursue. Most rookie linebackers will be too aggressive and tend to overshoot the plays but Leonard didn’t do that. He had excellent instincts and once he got his hands on you he took you down.
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The Colts also signed Margus Hunt to a 2-year extension after he had a great year for us. Hunt is great at holding the edge while also being an aggressive pass-rusher. He was another player with fantastic instincts and a good sense for where the ball was going to go and holding an edge. Hunt held up blockers so players like Leonard could rush the passer and get some sacks. The Colts also added Justin Houston to an already good group of defensive linemen. Houston brings toughness and pass-rushing ability that is still near the top level. As mentioned in one of my previous articles, he has the highest ratio of QB hits to sacks than any other current player in the NFL right now; once he gets his hands on you, you’re going down.
Chris Ballard knew the defense needed help and he delivered. Rock Ya-Sin was taken 34th overall and he was a steal at that position. Ya-Sin was first-team All-AAC Pro and brings his awesome footwork to the Colts secondary. Ya-Sin has the ability to turn his hips very fast and what impressed me the most about his film was the way he always knew where the football was and what position to put himself in to make a play. He keeps his eyes on the ball and knows when and where to take a shot at it. His strength is in man coverage and with Houston and Margus on the field, they could use some lockdown corners to help with the sack numbers this season.
Chirs Ballard also made it crystal clear his intentions were to focus on pass rushing this year when he took Ben Banogu in the second round too. Banogu is a player that can really do it all, but he excels at pass-rushing and he admits himself that’s what he’s best at:
"“For me, I love to get after the passer. I love getting sacks and setting the edge and rushing. That’s an awesome part of the game and that’s why I played. Doing some of the linebacker stuff at the Senior Bowl really opened my eyes to all the neat ways that you can kind of create plays and turnovers for your team.”"
The TCU linebacker is 6’3″ with a 250-pound frame. But he’s fast, he’s quick, and he’s aggressive. Having Houston to learn from won’t be that bad for him.
The Colts added many pieces to the defense this year which leads me to believe they will be more aggressive this year. The Colts offense should focus on not turning the ball over and running the ball and allowing our defense to put their ears back and rush the passer the whole game. This season will certainly be one to watch.