Colts DT DeForest Buckner’s activation is huge ahead of Texans matchup.
The thought of the Indianapolis Colts beating the Tennessee Titans last Sunday while missing a handful of their most important defensive players and running back Derrick Henry really hitting his stride leading up to the game was honestly a pipe dream.
However, that excuse is no longer applicable. Indy will be close to full strength this weekend as they look to get back on track against the Houston Texans, who are riding high amid a two-game winning streak.
On Friday, defensive tackle DeForest Buckner joined some of his other teammates in being activated from the COVID-19 reserve list, meaning that he will eligible to play on Sunday. We know the Colts’ defense is as balanced as any unit in the NFL, but it really isn’t hyperbolic to say that his return could end up being the difference.
The Colts’ defense was down several starters due to injury and COVID-19 protocols vs Tennessee, but it shouldn’t be surprising that they put forth their worst performance of the season with Buckner sidelined.
In every sense of the word, Indianapolis was steamrolled against the run, as Henry racked up 178 rushing yards on 6.6 yards per attempt and a season-high three touchdowns seemingly without even trying.
How important is Buckner to the defense? Well, let’s just say that the Colts are allowing 3.2 yards per carry and a 77.1 passer rating with him on the field this season. Without him, however, the defense is conceding a whopping 5.1 yards per attempt and a 107.8 passer rating, per NFL.com.
Through 10 games, Buckner has forced himself into the Defensive Player of the Year conversation, as he’s compiled 40 tackles (four for loss), 2.5 sacks, 16 QB hits and a forced fumble while playing 73% of the defensive snaps. Those numbers have seen him earn a sensational 89.6 grade from Pro Football Focus, which is one of the highest markings of any player in the league on both sides of the ball.
With Deshaun Watson not putting a foot wrong of late — he hasn’t thrown an interception over his last six games (!) — Buckner’s presence up the middle will be huge in making him uncomfortable in the pocket. If that happens and the offense does its job, Indianapolis should win this game pretty handily.