Grades for Colts defense entering Week 5
Really strong play from this unit so far this year. DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart are automatic in their performance, but injuries have begun to slow them down already. The pass rush, that was a concern, is really starting to blossom early on. Kwity Paye is showing some early promise. Samson Ebukam is learning and getting better each week and we saw the best game of Dayo Odeyingbo’s career last week against the Rams. They also have some great depth both on the edge and the interior this season for the future of this team.
Hard to find needs of improvement from this unit so far. I know they got torched by Kyren Williams in Week 4, but Buckner was limited in the game to just third down due to injury. If they can continue to develop the youth and keep Buckner healthy this could end up being one of the best defensive lines in all of football.
This has been the shining star of the entire team this year, even with the struggles of former All-Pro Shaquille Leonard. It appears that Leonard is on a pitch count until November, and it has allowed the others to shine. Defensive captain Zaire Franklin is on pace for his best season to date with 57 tackles and 1.5 sacks to start the season. EJ Speed has lived up to his new contract that he received this past offseason and while Leonard has been a non-factor on the field, his voice (along with Franklin) really drives not only the LB room, but the entire defense itself.
If Shaquille Leonard can ever get back to his All-Pro level is the only question left for the linebacking corp. The injuries are piling up with Leonard and it’s not surprising due to the physicality of his play. If he can return to his Maniac style of play it would take the pressure off the rest of the room and they could flourish to an even higher level.
This unit has been the weakest part of the team so far. Some of this is due to injury and some of it due to development. It’s a very young unit and took a big hit recently losing starting CB Dallis Flowers. They will now have two rookies on the outside with Jaylon Jones and JuJu Brents. We will have to see the often-healthy scratched Darrell Baker Jr. get another shot at playing time in the coming weeks. They have been unable to shut down the lead receiver on any team they have played this season. Those players include Calvin Ridley, Nico Collins, Zay Flowers, and Puka Nacua.
Lots of room for improvement here and it will improve with more repetition and more experience. The overall understanding of the scheme with the new players will take time but hopefully we can see a breakout game from this unit as the rest of the defense has been pulling their weight.