Justin Houston and DeForest Buckner will open up opportunities for other Colts players.
The Indianapolis Colts defense was the very definition of average in 2019 as it ranked in the middle of the NFL in seemingly every major category, including yards (16th) and points allowed (18th) per game.
It might seem harsh, but the Colts — outside of stud edge rusher Justin Houston — did little to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season. The four-time Pro Bowler was a one-man wrecking crew, totaling 44 tackles, 11 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries.
That’s pretty impressive since he was facing double teams on seemingly every snap. Luckily for Houston, the addition of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who was acquired via trade back in March, will only create more real estate for him to exploit.
While the 31-year-old vet is an obvious pick to benefit from Buckner’s presence, what about the rest of Indianapolis’ defense? Here are three players who could really make the most out of Houston and Buckner wreaking havoc in the backfield and commanding most of the attention from opposing offensive lines.
3. Al-Quadin Muhammad
Some view Al-Quadin Muhammad as the dark horse on the Colts D-line.
Once considered an afterthought on Indianapolis’ defensive line, Al-Quadin Muhammad has done nothing but impress the coaching staff at training camp. He entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints back in 2017, and the Colts didn’t hesitate in claiming him off waivers prior the start of the 2018 campaign.
Since that move, Muhammed has become a viable asset to Indy’s front seven, tallying 56 tackles (13 of which came for a loss), 11 quarterback hits, and three sacks across 31 appearances (eight starts).
For a player that’s fresh off a career-high in terms of snaps played (47%), we could be looking at a breakthrough season for the 25-year-old. The Colts are going to need somebody to step up following the departure of Jabaal Sheard, and fans shouldn’t be surprised if Muhammed is that player.
The tandem of Houston and Buckner will only make his life easier coming off the edge and give him more opportunities to get to the QB or stop running backs behind the line of scrimmage.