Colts: ESPN’s Bill Barnwell is wrong about Indy’s most ‘vulnerable spot’
The Indianapolis Colts underwent a significant shift on both sides of the ball, and one area of “concern” is the defensive line.
They let defensive end Denico Autry walk to the division-rival Tennessee Titans and have opted not to bring back outside linebacker Justin Houston. Those are two big disruptors that no doubt helped open up opportunities for others along the D-line.
But do we really think general manager Chris Ballard is going to let this unit fall off significantly, given how important pass rushing is in the modern day NFL?
ESPN’s Bill Barnwell isn’t necessarily incorrect in his analysis that the Colts could be vulnerable with their defensive line depth behind DeForest Buckner, but we can tell you right now why they won’t be.
The Colts’ defensive line is a bit suspect, but it will still get the job done in 2021.
Here’s what Barnwell had to say about Indy’s defensive line depth:
"“With question marks on the edge after Justin Houston left in free agency, though, the Colts desperately need Buckner to be that sort of force once again in 2021. Their sack rate and pressure rate were both unsurprisingly higher with Buckner on the field, while the passer rating they allowed rose from 85.3 with him on the field to 107.2 without their star tackle. Fellow starter Grover Stewart isn’t a pass-rusher, and the Colts lost useful interior rusher Denico Autry to the Titans in free agency.”"
Valid points. We get it. We’ve lived through these changes are are waiting to see the new finished product.
But how is there no mention of Kwity Paye, the Colts’ first-round draft pick who has high expectations to be one of the starting defensive ends after an impressive career at Michigan? And what about Tyquan Lewis, who played in all 16 games (24 tackles, four sacks and six QB hits while logging 40% of the defensive snaps) for the first time in his career in 2020 and could now be slated for a starting role?
Barnwell is right: Stewart is not a pass rushing interior DL, but he’s a disruptor and a tremendous run defender. Al-Quadin Muhammad and Kemoko Turay are also returning. Muhammad isn’t a game-breaker, but he’s a solid rotational piece. Same for Turay, who has the potential to start, but has been hampered by an ankle issue (that’s hopefully fully repaired) over the last two seasons.
Throw in veterans Isaac Rochell and Antwaun Woods and that’s a healthy cast. It might not be otherworldly, but it’s rock solid.
And whenever it may happen, Dayo Odeyingbo’s return from injury should provide a jolt for Indy. The Colts’ second-round pick fell in the draft because of an Achilles injury that will keep him out until October (according to reports), but he played in a tough SEC and managed to wreak havoc in his final 20 games (77 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and seven sacks). His 6-foot-5, 285-pound frame can immediately change the complexion of the defensive line when his time comes.
Again, Barnwell isn’t egregiously wrong, but there are so many other ingredients along the Colts’ defensive line that actually make a case for it to be a strong unit as opposed to a problem area.