Colts: What in the world is the plan for the defensive line?
The knee-jerk reactions are all out there after the Indianapolis Colts‘ deflating Week 1 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Russell Wilson and Co. marched into Lucas Oil Stadium and made quick work of their opponents, all the while crushing quarterback Carson Wentz all day in the process.
Now, there are some concerns that warrant serious attention. One is the left tackle position. Do we have to worry about Quenton Nelson working his way back to full strength or Darius Leonard getting worked by opposing tight ends? Probably not. Those things will sort themselves out.
Another issue coming into the season that didn’t entirely quell fans’ skepticism was the defensive line rotation. The Colts let Justin Houston and Denico Autry leave in free agency. They replaced that duo with rookies Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingo (who’s currently injured) as well as veteran Isaac Rochell. Was that good enough?
In short, no, it was not, but that’s beside the point. Everyone knew this unit would take a step back after losing such efficient veteran producers. But what can we expect from this rotation, at the very least? Because Sunday was a bit confusing.
The top pass rusher getting only 76% of the snaps? Tyquan Lewis seeing the field just 54% of the time? Al-Quadin Muhammad being favored for … what reason? What’s even the point of rostering Ben Banogu if you’re going to play him for six snaps?
The Colts are known for healthy defensive line rotations and it’s clear that philosophy was abandoned outside of Paye, Muhammad and Lewis at defensive end. Perhaps Kemoko Turay among the inactives for Week 1 messed up Matt Eberflus’ plans, but then why not use Banogu, who was a preseason standout, more often?
It’s not like Muhammad, who has just 83 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 52 career games, is irreplaceable. In fact, it’s a bit puzzling why he’s getting more playing time than Lewis, who broke out in 2020 to the tune of four sacks, 24 tackles and six QB hits in 16 games (four starts), while playing just 40% of the snaps. Doesn’t he deserve the increase over Muhammad, who’s gotten his unimpressive body of work done in 56% of the defensive snaps?
Do we know the answer? Definitely not. But we know that Paye should probably be the defensive end on the field the most, with some sort of a healthy split between the Lewis-Muhammad-Banogu trio, with Lewis leading the way and Banogu getting enough exposure to build upon his momentum so he can make the Colts forget about his awful first two seasons.
What we saw against the Seahawks just wasn’t enough, and it’ll have to change/improve fast because there’s no reprieve between now and Week 5.