In 2023, Chris Ballard’s repeated investment into the defensive line paid off for the Indianapolis Colts. It seems like Indy signs a defensive lineman or two and uses a couple of draft picks on defensive linemen every offseason. That’s because a great defensive line is one of the keys to winning in the NFL, and Ballard has been very vocal about his desire to build a deep defensive line.
This season, the Colts had just that. Defensively, the team had 51 total sacks, which ranked for fifth most this season. The four teams with more than Indy were all playoff teams. While the Indianapolis defense had its fair share of struggles, defensive linemen getting after the quarterback wasn’t really one of them.
Samson Ebukam led the team with 9.5 sacks, Kwity Paye had 8.5, and DeForest Buckner and Dayo Odeyingbo had eight each. Tyquan Lewis had four and 10 other players recorded at least one sack. Going into the offseason, the question will be if the unit can replicate this next season and find a way to improve.
Can Colts defensive line keep ascending?
The promising thing about the defensive line production this season is the fact that it was led by younger players who all had breakout seasons. While DeForest Buckner was still a force, Samson Ebukam, Kwity Paye, and Dayo Odeyingbo all had career years. Considering where they are in their careers, this could be just the start of an ascension.
Hopefully, that is the case. For as good as the unit was this season, the group could be even better. The Colts also still don’t have a guy that could be considered a star edge rusher. Could one of these guys develop into that or could Indy use the 15th-overall pick to once again draft a defensive linemen? It’ll be interesting to see how exactly the group develops after having one of the best pass rushing seasons, statistically, the team has witnessed.