Colts: Here’s how DeForest Buckner’s presence will elevate Indy’s defense

DeForest Buckner will bring a tenacity to the Colts defense fans haven’t seen in a while.

Remember the Indianapolis Colts used to thrive on a high-powered offense coupled with a lethal pass rush, led by Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney? Those days are long gone, but the defense general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich are building right now could eventually become the best fans have seen in a while.

That was reinforced this offseason when Ballard went out and traded a 2020 first-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for defensive lineman DeForest Bucker, who they immediately signed to a huge contract extension.

Buckner has missed just one game in his four-year NFL career and has 263 tackles, 28.5 sacks, and seven fumble recoveries in 63 games. He’s a force both rushing the passer and stopping the run, as evidenced by his 74 QB hits and 38 tackles for loss.

The Colts were right in the middle of the pack in terms of total defense last year but stand to improve with a number of additions this offseason, which include Bucker, defensive backs Xavier Rhodes and TJ Carrie, and undrafted free agent Kendall Coleman.

Buckner is easily the most impactful, however. His presence up the middle is going to create even more opportunities for pass rushers on the outside (like Justin Houston) to wreak havoc on quarterbacks. Houston’s 11 sacks from 2019 should stand to increase with ease.

Not only that, but adding a top-notch hybrid defender in Buckner will help the Colts improve even more on their seventh-ranked rushing defense (1,567 yards allowed) from 2019, which was the unit’s best attribute by far.

It’s also important to remember how pressure up the middle (provided by Buckner) and on the outside (from Houston) will assist the passing defense. An effective pass rush always makes the defensive backs look better, so expect last year’s 10th-ranked passing D to take even bigger strides with you consider Buckner’s presence and the additions to the secondary.

And lastly, fellow defensive linemen Kemoko Turay, Grover Stewart and Al-Quadin Muhammad should stand to benefit from Bucker and Houston likely drawing double teams. If those guys can take the next step, this Indy front seven will be frightening for the foreseeable future.

Expect big things from Buckner, even if he’s indirectly improving other areas of the defense.