The Indianapolis Colts brought in a star in DeForest Buckner, and he will make an impact in a variety of ways.
The Colts made a big move before the new league year started, trading the 13th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft for San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Buckner was the seventh overall pick in the 2016 draft by the Niners and has developed into a star. He broke out in 2018 with 12 sacks and 20 tackles for a loss, and was a key cog in 2019, leading that defense to a big year and a Super Bowl berth. He also earned defensive MVP from the coaches.
So what will Buckner bring to this defense, a defense that has looked good in the past couple seasons? Well, he brings instant star power, along with so much more. Let’s dive in to some film and see how he will impact the game.
Note: I watched five games of Buckner from the 2019-20 season (Baltimore, New Orleans, Seattle (week 17), Minnesota, Kansas City).
While Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard has talked a lot about finding help at the 3-technique (and has mentioned how it all starts there on defense and it drives defense), Buckner can do more than just line up at that spot. It will likely be the main spot on the defensive line where he operates, but he’s lined up from the 1-technique to the 7-technique (outside the tight end). That movement allowed him to work with his power and quickness to gain an advantage wherever he played.
Here’s an example of that versatility, shown against the Saints. Buckner lines up at 1-tech, just outside the center in the A-gap, and works across the line, eventually beating the guard with an arm over move, forcing Brees to get out of the pocket and make a quicker decision than desired. His quickness shows up in wins like this, and that can be a useful tool for the Colts.
Buckner posted an elite RAS in his testing before the NFL Draft, and it shows up on film right away. It certainly plays into his versatility to move around on the defensive line, and you see it in his ability to change direction and chase down plays from the backside of the formation.
Buckner had a couple plays like this in the Saints game, and many others throughout the season. Here, it’s a designed sweep for Taysom Hill, and Buckner works across the field through traffic and accelerates to well to finish this tackle and limit a big play. Having an athletic defensive tackle who can work across the field.
I really wanted to include this in the effort section, but it belongs here in this spot. Buckner sees Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson leave the pocket, and he immediately turns and runs, taking a smart angle and forcing Jackson out of bounds before he can reach the end zone. His quickness and speed in open space is evident. Keeping up with Jackson is no easy task, but Buckner somehow pulled it off here.
The Indianapolis Colts made this move to bolster the pass rush, and Buckner will do just that. He’s at his best when he gets a quick first step, which helps him immensely when trying to win reps against top offensive line competition. It’s also crucial to gaining initial leverage, which is an important part of his game as a pass rusher. Buckner has so much power in his lower half, and he has good pad level, especially for someone who comes in at 6-foot 7.
When it comes to getting pressure on the quarterback, hand usage is Buckner’s go to. He brings an array of moves to the table, and has great arm length to keep linemen from latching on to him and stopping him in his tracks. Combine that length with violent hands, and it’s easy to see why teams struggle to block this guy.
We have to talk about this rep first. Buckner lines up against against All-Pro guard Marshal Yanda here, and he makes Yanda look like a developing guard with this push/pull move. A push/pull is about getting an initial push forward with good hand placement, then ripping your opponent down with a strong grip. Buckner could write a clinic on this move, one of his better moves as a rusher.
Teams (and offensive linemen) understand that DeForest Buckner brings good pad level and power to the table, and sometimes that’ll get guards to lean a bit to try to anchor or get Buckner to the ground. The problem is that once you lean, it’s over for you. This happens to Vikings guard Pat Elflein. He leans, and it gives Bucker the opportunity to win with an arm over move, keeping his feet moving and using his strength to gain position to get around Elflein, leading to a sack.
This rep is just flat-out outstanding. Once again, Buckner uses his strength to keep Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif from landing an initial punch, and goes right back to the arm over, winning the rep early on. Then, center Austin Reiter comes over to help out, and it doesn’t affect Buckner. He barrels through the late double team and gets to Patrick Mahomes for the sack.
The Colts are getting such a talented and powerful rusher in DeForest Buckner, and his ability to collapse and affect the pocket will be important for the defense.
Being an effective defensive tackle isn’t just about rushing the passer. The Colts struggled at times against the run in 2019, and that is the main reason this move made sense. DeForest Buckner is impressive against the run for many reasons. He attacks gaps so well at the 3-technique spot to re-route running plays and make tackles for loss. We’ve showed how well he chases down runs from the back side of plays. Buckner also does a great job stacking linemen and shedding them to make plays, and can eat double teams due to his size and strength. Time for some clips!
This might be the best play I saw Buckner make against the run in the five games I watched. The Saints are knocking on the door, just two yards from the end zone, and they decide to double Buckner here and punch it in for the touchdown. Buckner gets the lowest and holds his ground at the point of attack, but that’s not the most important part. Because the Saints felt the need to double, this frees up Nick Bosa for a one-on-one against a tight end, which he wins easily to get into the backfield. Another great example of this is here.
We’ve talked about how the 3-technique is about attacking gaps and getting into the backfield to disrupt plays. Here, the Vikings run a counter, and in hoping to free up Dalvin Cook at the second level, they opt to leave Buckner unblocked. So, Buckner needs to get downhill quickly before Cook gets out into space, and he does just that, getting Cook in the backfield.
Lastly, we highlight another play against the Ravens. Here, Buckner stacks Yanda, and holds his ground before shedding his blocker and making a play to limit the gain on the play. If you dive in more, you’ll see Buckner does really well stacking and shedding.
You want to see Buckner giving his all on every play, and this is extremely evident on his tape. His willingness to turn and chase plays down is outstanding, and he never gives up on the play. Buckner will continue to fight when the play is in front of him, like in this clip here.
Buckner is initially double-teamed here, and driven off his spot. But, he doesn’t give up on the play. He keeps himself squared and focuses his eyes on Damien Williams. Williams is forced to run his way, and Buckner quickly sheds and makes the play. This is another one of my favorites.
It’s clear to see that the Indianapolis Colts saw a player they believed could make a big impact, and made it a goal to acquire him. Buckner is going to be a key cog on this defense and brings great versatility, effort, and three-down ability to the table. Get ready for a productive year from him Colts fans. He’s coming to make a difference.