The 2021 NFL season is just about three months away and we’re about to see a whole new Indianapolis Colts team.
Think about all the changes made this offseason. Carson Wentz is the quarterback. Anthony Walker is gone. Justin Houston likely isn’t returning. Eric Fisher is at left tackle in place of Anthony Castonzo. Denico Autry is in Tennessee. Did we miss anything? Probably, but you get the point.
That means we’re already getting some different looks at OTAs. You’ve seen the clips of Wentz. The news of Parris Campbell and Marlon Mack getting back on track has been encouraging.
But we have some serious changes on the defensive side of the ball. What do we think about these, Colts fans?
The Colts front seven looks a bit different heading into 2021.
Now, “starting lineups” in OTAs really don’t mean much. The annual activities typically don’t feature full attendance, but a lot of the Colts players have been present, so this could be a sign of what’s to come for the front seven when Week 1 arrives.
Indy used their first two draft picks on pass rushers and have yet to address the linebacker position in wake of Walker’s departure. One of those selections, first-rounder Kwity Paye, is getting starting reps at left defensive end, which is where Houston played the last two years.
On the other side, there’s Tyquan Lewis, who’s taking Autry’s spot. Zaire Franklin is taking reps where Walker would normally be.
A lot of questions, to say the least. Can Paye be as impactful as Houston? The veteran recorded 19 sacks, 30 QB hits and three safeties over the last two years. Can Franklin be a tackling machine like Walker? Franklin’s played in all 16 games over the last three years, but has just 54 total tackles over that span while Walker had 343 over his 57 games with the Colts. Can Lewis, who has experience, replicate Autry’s tenacity (20 sacks, 102 tackles over 40 games)?
There’s a whole new identity on the edges and a serious change in the linebacking corps. The Colts can still make moves to address these areas if they don’t feel comfortable, but we’d bet this is what they’ll be rolling with.
If Ballard and Reich trust Paye, Lewis and Franklin to make an impact, we probably have to feel comfortable with their judgement, especially how they’ve overhauled this roster after the Ryan Grigson era. For now, we wait. But be excited for the new faces. Everyone’s out to make an impression with all of the hype surrounding the 2021 Colts.