The Indianapolis Colts have a sneaky good defense.
With the 2020 NFL campaign on the horizon, there’s no division that’s more wide open for the taking than the AFC South. Well, unless you’re the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are primed to land the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Tennessee Titans know what it takes to reach the AFC Championship Game and the Houston Texans have an extremely talented quarterback in Deshaun Watson.
When you bring up the Indianapolis Colts, many will point out the question marks on offense, especially with aging veteran Philip Rivers under center. But the Colts don’t need the offense to bring them to the dance, they can do so on their sneaky good defense.
The Colts improved upon their defense this offseason
After a strong 2018 campaign, the Colts defensive unit took a bit of a hit this past season. While Indianapolis did have the seventh-best rushing defense in the league in 2019 (1,567 yards allowed), their passing game struggled, as they surrendered the tenth-most passing yards in the NFL with 3,982 (all stats per NFL.com).
So, Colts general manager Chris Ballard decided to work some of his trademark magic this offseason.
Let’s start off with his biggest, most talked-about get of the offseason: DeForest Buckner. The San Francisco 49ers were in quite the bind, as they couldn’t afford to pay both Buckner and Arik Armstead, who were each due a new contract. So, Ballard called 49ers general manager John Lynch and offered their 2020 first-round pick in exchange for Buckner. Sure enough, that got the deal done.
The Colts’ rush defense was already stout, but now with the addition of Buckner, that unit became a whole lot better. Oh, and he can get to the quarterback too, as evidenced by his 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons. That defensive line of Justin Houston, Denico Autry and Kemoko Turay looks very solid on paper.
Indianapolis’ secondary is youthful with promise. Malik Hooker, Rock Ya-Sin and Kenny Moore II all have the potential to become a solid group. However, all three struggled in 2019, which is expected with any young defensive backfield. That was the reason why the Colts signed veteran corner Xavier Rhodes. Yes, he struggled mightily last season (despite his ill-gotten Pro Bowl nomination), but he was a lockdown corner in 2018. Rhodes can take these defensive backs under his wing and give them advice. That’s worth way more than his play on the field right now.
Of course, the linebacker corps is solid with Darius Leonard leading the way. Bobby Okereke has the potential to take the leap in 2020, and Anthony Walker is a literal tackling machine.
All in all, the Colts defense can make some noise this year. Let’s not forget that the Titans no longer have Jack Conklin on their offensive line and the Texans shipped off stud receiver DeAndre Hopkins for pennies on the dollar. That Indy defense will definitely be licking their chops.
Don’t be shocked to see the Colts contend for a Wild Card berth, at minimum.