Colts: One surprising player who could steal a starting job

The Indianapolis Colts are going to have a new-look defense in 2021 following the offseason departures of Justin Houston, Denico Autry and Anthony Walker. That’ll open up three starting spots along the front seven: two at defensive end and one at linebacker.

It remains to be seen who will nab those starting roles, but if starting lineups at OTAs were any indication, it’s that 2018 second-rounder Tyquan Lewis, 2021 first-round pick Kwity Paye, and third-year linebacker Zaire Franklin are the current frontrunners.

With that being said, however, starting lineups at OTAs don’t mean much. While that trio might have the edge over other members of the roster who are competing for those three spots, we likely won’t have a better idea of who the Colts plan on starting until after training camp.

Taking that into account, it wouldn’t be surprising if Kemoko Turay gave Lewis or Paye a run for their money for one of the two edge rushing spots.

Kemoko Turay could steal one of the Colts’ two starting DE spots.

Desperate not to endure a second consecutive lost year — and wanting to contribute on a team that was poised to make the playoffs — Turay insisted on battling through his lingering ankle injury and was activated from the reserve/physically unable to perform list in November.

Though the 2018 second-round pick managed to appear in eight games in 2020, anybody watching knew he didn’t boast the same explosiveness as he did during his rookie year and beginning of his sophomore campaign, when he was living in opponents backfields.

Still feeling the effects of the injury, Turay underwent a second surgery on the ankle this offseason, and projects to be a full-go for the start of training camp. While it isn’t ideal he’s missing OTAs and mandatory minicamp, the fact he’ll seemingly have a full training camp to showcase his now-restored bend and power off the edge is extremely encouraging.

Based on sheer individual talent, Turay (alongside Paye) might have the most potential of Indianapolis’ legion of pass rushers. As long as the 25-year-old has kept up with learning the playbook, who are we to say he doesn’t have a chance of beating out the likes of Paye and Lewis for one of the two starting DE spots?

On top of that, Turay’s rookie contract is set to expire after this season, which means he’ll be playing with an extra chip on his shoulder. Project your 2021 starters however you see fit, but we certainly aren’t betting against a player who tallied 5.5 sacks, 18 QB hits, 26 pressures and two forced fumbles over his first 464 snaps before his devastating ankle injury.