The Colts‘ Defense has what it takes to be elite, but it has to put the product on the field to match expectations. If they can do that, the season will provide a treat for Colts Fans and those around the league.
Almost every week since his arrival with the Colts, Head Coach Frank Reich has preached about becoming “one percent better”. That is his mantra and this year, he seems to be following his philosophy. At each Defensive position, the team has upgraded with either free agent signings or in-house development.
Colts’ Gilmore Is Locked In
The team’s biggest additions via free agency are not only are bringing leadership into the locker room, but winning cultures. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who is a former Defensive Player Of The Year, Super Bowl Champion, and an All Pro Cornerback, provides a skillset that the Colts have been lacking. Although Cornerback Rock Ya-Sin was good, he needed more grooming time and was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason in exchange for the chance to acquire Pro Bowl Defensive End Yannick Ngakoue.
Gilmore, who is touted as one of the league’s premiere corners, is set to have a positive year. New Defensive Coordinator Gus Bradley, who is known for being the head of top defenses (the Seattle Seahawks “Legion of Boom” and a 2017 Los Angles Chargers team that allowed 17 points per game), thinks highly of Gilmore and was quoted as saying, “Gilmore fits us pretty well.”
Growth Is The Game, Aggression Is The Name
Aggressive perimeter play is needed in Bradley’s Four-Three Defense and Cover Three scheme. With Cornerback Kenny Moore II arguably the league’s best slot corner and Cornerback Isaiah Rodgers showing flashes and promise as a starter, the Colts defense has improved more than just ”one percent”. However, the team must put it on the field and shine some light on their capabilities.
Returning Free Safety Julian Blackmon is poised to have a substantial comeback year after tearing his Achilles in a Week Seven practice last year. Adding veteran Strong Safety Rodney McLeod and University of Maryland Strong Safety Nick Cross to the fold, improves the Safety group. Cross comes in as a 2022 third round draft pick who has decent awareness, is a former track star and is known to be a hard hitter. All of these traits prime Cross to be the starting Strong Safety and bring more of that aggressiveness Coach Bradley is looking for.
Bring The Pain
The Colts’ Linebacker group is highlighted by the 3-time First Team All Pro Linebacker Shaquille Leonard. He leads a group who is hard-working, fast and physical. They bring the pain each week. For example, Linebacker Bobby Okereke has been a staple in the team’s defense and is set up to have a bigger role this season.
As a starter last year, Okereke saw a jump in his production with 132 total tackles and 89 solo tackles. Since joining the Colts in 2019, he has racked up 265 total tackles, two forces fumbles, three interceptions, and 12 pass deflections. Okereke, along with Leonard, will not only will bring a needed lift to the Linebacker core, but they are critical in creating turnovers, a key point in any NFL defense.
Energy And Strength Off The Edge
The Colts Defensive line is anchored by All-Pro Defensive Tackle Deforest Buckner, unsung hero and fellow Defensive Tackle Grover Stewart, and last year’s first round pick, Defensive End Kwity Paye. This lineup is the already the stuff of nightmares, but with the addition of Defensive End Yannick Ngakoue, this arguably drives the line into the top five realm of the NFL.
Last year, Nqakoue was part of Gus Bradley’s defense in Las Vegas and comes with knowledge about Bradley’s scheme and knows what it takes to be successful. Ngakoue brings energy and strength off the edge that gives the Defense a much-needed pass rush presence. The pressure he creates can help free up Buckner from potential double-team play, allowing him to impose his will.
With all the new additions on defense, not only have the Colts achieved Coach Reich’s “One Percent Better” motto, but the team has potentially exceeded it. Indianapolis has not had a consistent fierce defense in quite some time, but this season already feels so much different.