Colts defensive staff
Richard Smith-Linebackers Coach
The most senior member of the entire staff had a great showing this season even with the loss of a one-time superstar mid-season. That superstar loss was Shaquille Leonard who was released by the franchise after weeks of complaining about his playing time and use in this system. In the end this appeared to be the right decision as the group continued to flourish even without Leonard.
The biggest positive was Pro Bowl snub Zaire Franklin. He finished with a career high 179 tackles. Another late-round draft gem from Ballard. EJ Speed has shined since Leonard left as the starter along with reserve Segun Olubi. Ballard has always drafted Linebackers very well and Smith seems to be the right man for the job to keep coaching them up.
Ron Milus-Defensive Backs Coach
A seasoned veteran in the profession as he has only been a DB and/or secondary coach in this league. This was by far the worst unit on this defense this season. Now this unit is very young as they started two rookies for portions of the season and lost Dallis Flowers early to a season-ending Achilles injury and don’t forget, lost Isaiah Rodgers Sr. to a season-long gambling suspension, which led him being released.
The biggest problems were blown coverages and the inability to fix the needed in-game adjustments. The other issue that was troubling was the stunting of growth amongst this unit. The big three starters were JuJu Brents, Jaylon Jones and Darrell Baker Jr. Brents missed training camp, Jones struggled against bigger competition and Baker Jr. was a healthy scratch at points in the season. We did not see much growth as the season went on and the sign of a well-coached unit is constant improvement. Hopefully better health and another training camp will help this unit progress.
Nate Ollie-Defensive Line Coach
I mentioned above how great of a job that Sparano Jr. did on the offensive line and you can say the same for the other side of the ball with Nate Ollie. Ballard has always made trench play the focal point of his teams and this season Ollie led them to one of their best seasons to date. The Colts recorded 51 sacks this season. Of those 51 sacks this season, 45 of them came from the defensive line.
We had breakout seasons from edge rushers Kwity Paye, Dayo Odeyingbo, and Samson Ebukam. All set career bests for sacks in a season. All-Pro DeForest Buckner also had another solid season and was the leader of the defense. This was the second year that Ollie was leading a position group in the NFL and to see the growth this group showed is very promising for the future.