The Indianapolis Colts have spent the last four seasons overhauling an aging roster and changing schemes on both sides of the football. There have been some notable additions to the team in the draft, trades, and on the waiver wire. These moves have led the Colts down a path that has made it increasingly more difficult for rookies to make an early impact.
Perhaps no season has been a bigger indication of the home-grown talent over the last four years than 2021. There are only five true rookies on the regular-season roster at this time. Only three of them are likely to play any noticeable role this year.
Interestingly, the two most impactful rookies on Sunday were first-round defensive end Kwity Paye and seventh-round wide receiver Mike Strachan.
Strachan earns honors as the most impactful rookie against Seattle. In 18 total snaps, Strachan caught two passes on two targets and earned a pass interference penalty on another. All three of those plays came on third down and resulted in Colts’ first downs.
This made Strachan responsible for a quarter of all passing plays that resulted in first downs and gave him a hand in more than 10 percent of the team’s total first downs on the day.
It would be unfair to refer to his day as anything other than highly efficient. It bears noting that few seventh-round rookies at any position have a first professional game that is referred to as “highly efficient.”
It should be encouraging to Colts fans that Strachan was able to build upon his productive preseason to make an immediate impact. It should be encouraging to Strachan that quarterback Carson Wentz is establishing relationships with his receivers in Indianapolis for the first time and that the only receiver who has truly earned his in-game attention to this point is T.Y. Hilton, and he’s on injured reserve.
Okay, Zach Pascal has also proven to be a reliable option for years but the separation between Hilton and Pascal in a Colts uniform is considerable.
Fellow offensive rookie Kylen Granson took seven offensive snaps but wasn’t targeted.
Kwity Paye drew a tough first NFL assignment when he had to line up across from left tackle Duane Brown. Brown has been in the league since 2008 and has earned three All-Pro selections and five Pro Bowl selections. He was unlikely to have any success with his primary bull rush move and that left him to beat Brown with speed and athleticism.
There is little doubt that after more time working on his speed and bend on the edge, Paye may be able to abuse an aging but incredibly talented tackle like Brown. It’s probably too much to expect that would be Week 1 of his rookie season.
Nevertheless, Paye took 41 of Indy’s 54 defensive snaps. He did a lot of learning across from an incredibly gifted foe. He tallied three tackles, including one for a loss, and had the awareness to recover a fumble caused by Darius Leonard in the second half.
Paye will need to show growth and build on this performance. Facing 39-year old Andrew Whitworth who is 6’7” could give him a better chance to showcase his skills.
Fellow defensive rookie Chris Williams took four total defensive snaps but did not register a tackle.