After trying to build the pass rush for multiple seasons, the Indianapolis Colts are finally seeing results from a productive defensive line.
For years, the Indianapolis Colts had one of the best pass rushes in the league. Peyton Manning and Indy’s explosive offense of the past would jump out to leads, then Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney would just relentlessly get after opposing quarterbacks. That was the culture in Indianapolis for a long time— until it wasn’t. In recent years, the Colts have been the opposite of a good pass-rushing team, they’ve been really bad.
That has resulted in general manager Chris Ballard selecting several defensive linemen in the drafts during his tenure. Unfortunately, many of those linemen didn’t pan out as Indy had hoped. Ballard and Indy stayed committed to bringing back a pass rush and that resulted in the team trading for DeForest Buckner and Yannick Ngakoue, drafting Kwity Paye in the first round, and hiring Nate Ollie as the defensive line coach. After years of building, Indy finally has a productive pass rush once again.
This season, the Colts have seen nice production from Buckner, Ngakoue, and Paye, as well as many other defensive linemen on the team. As a result, Indianapolis has 43 sacks through 15 games this season. That is the most sacks Indy has had in a single season since 2005.
Colts’ defensive line has improved
The sack count is bolstered by Yannick Ngakoue’s 9.5, Buckner’s eight, and Paye’s six. Three other defensive linemen have over three sacks each, and six more defenders have recorded at least one sack. This all comes from a defensive unit that has been one of the few bright spots of Indy’s underwhelming season. With Paye and DeForest Buckner under contract moving forward, the Colts will have to try and re-sign Ngakoue so the pass rush can remain productive.
While Indianapolis is improved from its recent seasons, the pass rush does still have some work to do. Although three guys are nearing double-digit sacks, Indy hasn’t really consistently been an elite pass-rushing group. The 43 team sacks are sixth in the NFL, but Indy has to pressure the quarterback more consistently and especially late in games.
One of the few, but critical, issues for Indy’s defense is late-game performance. The Colts have crumbled in multiple fourth quarters and the defensive line hasn’t been able to come through and close games out when they’re needed most. Edge rushers are supposed to be clutch players and help end games, similar to closers in baseball. The defensive line for the Colts hasn’t really done that this season. That will be the next step of improvement for Indianapolis to take.