Key Moves: Re-signed Tyquan Lewis, traded for Yannick Ngakoue, drafted Eric Johnson and Curtis Brooks. Al-Quadin Muhammad, Kemoko Turay, Taylor Stallworth, left in free-agency.
Depth Chart: Kwity Paye, Deforest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Yannick Ngakoue ; Dayo Odeyingbo, Curtis Brooks (R), Eric Johnson (R), Tyquan Lewis, Ben Banogu
Defensive line was, other than quarterback, the position group where I thought the Colts needed to make the most improvements this off-season. While the run defense did okay, the pass rush was atrocious, and seemed to completely disappear when the Colts were desperately needing a stop. It was evident that DeForest Buckner could not carry a pass-rush by himself, and even though Kwity Paye looked promising during his rookie year, edge rusher was among the biggest needs.
Ballard knew this as well as anybody, so he went out and traded ascending cornerback Rock Ya-Sin to the Raiders for Yannick Ngakoue. Losing Rock hurts a ton, especially after watching him develop throughout the years and become a solid cornerback for this defense, but with the emergence of Isaiah Rodgers, and the signing of Gilmore (which happened after the trade), his loss is not that terrible. Ngakoue had a 6.6 PRP (A formula that combines sacks, hits and hurries relative to how many times they rush the passer), which would have been good for the best mark in the defensive line among players with more than 200 pass rushing reps. Ngakoue gives the Colts an established option at edge rusher, and a proven pass rusher that can deliver when games get complicated, something the Colts have not had since Robert Mathis retired.
Hopefully, the Colts coaching staff also manages to further develop the young duo of Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo, as Paye had the most promising year from a Colts’ rookie edge rusher since I started following the team, and Odeyingbo showed some flashes and versatility in limited action as he was recovering from a torn Achilles.
Indy also drafted Curtis Brooks and Eric Johnson in the late rounds of the Draft. They probably will not see that much playing time this year, but if I had to bet on someone to make a meaningful impact this year I would say Brooks has more chances, as he was a 3-year starter on a stout Cincinnati defense, and I was actually surprised we were able to get him in round 6.
What did the Colts lose at the position? I have been among AQM’s biggest critics over the past few years, and I am glad that Indy finally moved on. Muhammad will be reunited with his favourite coach in the NFL, Matt Eberflus, in Chicago. Losing Kemoko Turay and Taylor Stallworth hurts a bit for two different reasons. Stallworth was surprisingly productive in his limited snaps last season, coming in after the Colts suffered plenty of injuries at the position, and Kemoko has just so much potential he could never materialize because of different injuries. Losing those three is not the end of the world by any means, but considering how thin the Colts are right now at the position re-signing at least Turay does not seem like a bad move considering he did not command a high price in the market.
All in all, defensive line reinforcements were certainly needed in order for this defense to take the next step, and while the addition of a proven pass rusher like Yannick Ngakoue certainly helps, the Colts are putting a lot of faith in Paye and Odeyingbo further improving and Tyquan Lewis returning to form after his injury.