Colts: How Ben Banogu’s emergence could affect roster crunch
By Mike Luciano
On the surface, the Indianapolis Colts using a second-round pick on TCU defensive end Ben Banogu in the 2019 NFL Draft looked like a very smart idea. A two-time All-Conference selection for the Horned Frogs, Banogu looked like he had the perfect blend of raw talent needing to be developed and ready-made power to help produce as a young player.
That…has not been the case, as Banogu has recorded just 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks in his first two seasons in the NFL. After being ruled a healthy scratch at times last year, this preseason might’ve served as the last time fans could see Banogu in white and blue.
Against all odds, Banogu has turned things around in these all-important contests. The Panthers had to double-team him regularly because he was such a disruptive presence, and he was able to consistently put pressure on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Jake Browning.
With his roster spot up in the air, Banogu is making it very tough for Indianapolis to part with him. In fact, he may have just turned the race for the final spot on the defensive line — a spot that Isaac Rochell or Al-Quadin Muhammad could also fill — completely upside down.
Ben Banogu has made it tough for the Colts to release him.
DeForest Buckner, Kwity Paye, Grover Stewart, and Tyquan Lewis will likely be the starters on the line. With Dayo Odeyingbo, fellow second-rounder Kemoko Turay, and Antuwan Woods the favorites to earn backup jobs, Banogu needs to show that his technique as a rusher has improved enough to where the Colts trust him over Rochell and Muhammad.
Banogu’s biggest issue coming out of college was his stiffness and lack of amazing athletic ability, and it’s clear to see where needed to improve. With his burst off the snap and array of moves as a rusher looking better in addition to his edge-bending ability, Matt Eberflus might be strong-armed into giving him snaps.
Rochell is the most versatile defender of this trio given his size, and Muhammad has experience within the scheme (and Eberflus has given him snaps over Banogu in the past). Even with all of those factors, it’s been impossible to ignore the leaps Banogu has made this preseason.
If Banogu is ever going to become a success with the Colts, now is the time. Odeyingbo is hurt, he’s crushing it in the preseason, and Indianapolis doesn’t have a ton of competition for that final spot outside of two career backups in Rochell and Muhammad.
If Banogu still doesn’t end up securing a place in the Indianapolis defense long-term, it might be time to either try for a fresh start somewhere else or find a different line of work.