3 things the Colts defense must do better in 2022
The Indianapolis Colts have high hopes for their defense this season but need to focus on three areas to be an elite force in the NFL.
Chris Ballard and the Indianapolis Colts have one goal entering this season, do not repeat what happened last year. The week 18 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last season put a sour taste in the mouth of all of Colts Nation and major changes were expected. The first of which was bringing in a new defensive coordinator in Gus Bradley.
The defense wasn’t the sole reason Indianapolis had a disappointing season last year but it didn’t help. In addition to bringing in Matt Ryan, and shipping out Carson Wentz, Ballard acquired Yannick Ngakoue and signed Stephon Gilmore, Rodney McLeod, and Brandon Facyson through free agency. Through the draft, they added a starting safety in Nick Cross as well as several depth pieces across the defense. The Colts even had three defensive UDFAs make the roster; JoJo Domann, Trevor Denbow (who was later moved to the IR), and Dallis Flowers.
The team is hoping these new additions will strengthen an already good defense and improve in 2022. Seeing how the defense played last year here are three areas that, in no particular order, the Indianapolis Colts need to improve on in 2022.
1. Colts must get pressure on the quarterback
Looking back at the 2021 season, one can see that the Indianapolis Colts struggled in the passing game in almost every facet. One point of emphasis this season has to be getting pressure on the quarterback. Last season, the Colts ranked tied for 25th in total sacks with 33 sacks. This averaged out to 1.9 per game roughly which was tied for 25th with the New York Jets. Just to put this in perspective, following the Colts and Jets were the Jaguars and Houston Texans with 32 sacks a piece which rounded up is a tenth of a point from the same average as Indy had.
Now, Indianapolis has a much better defense than their AFC South rivals mentioned but it didn’t show in this category last season. 11 players recorded at least half a sack last season with DeForest Buckner leading the way with seven. Right behind him was Al-Quadin Muhammad with six and Kemoko Turay with 5.5; neither of which are still on the team. Kwity Paye in his rookie season recorded four. The front four has to get more pressure and that’s where Ngakoue comes in.
Yannick Ngakoue hasn’t had less than 8 sacks in a season since entering the NFL in 2016. Twice he has had at least 10 with his career-best being 12 in 2017 which earned him a Pro-Bowl bid. Last season, he started every game for Gus Bradley and the Las Vegas Raiders recording 10 sacks, 23 QB hits, and eight tackles for loss. For reference, no Colt last year had double-digit sacks, only four recorded double-digit QB hits with the highest being 18 (Buckner), and Buckner was the only Colt to have more TFLs than Ngakoue recording two extra.
The addition of Ngakoue is two-fold for the defense. History shows he can get pressure on the quarterback on his own and can be the leading force on the team. Because of this, the rest of the line will benefit. When the offensive line has to plan for Indy’s defensive line they have to make some tough decisions. Do you double Buckner in the middle and risk Paye or Ngakoue getting loose on the edge? And what about Shaquille Leonard? What if Bradley rushes 5 or 6? Ngakoue takes the pressure off Buckner and Paye much like Buckner did last year for Grover Stewart.
Getting pressure can come from every position on defense and therefore needs to be instilled in every player prior to Week 1 of this season. To be successful and take the pressure off their offense, the Indianapolis Colts’ defense needs to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks.