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NFL: AUG 24 Preseason - Colts at Eagles

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INDIANAPOLIS – Plan for the worst, hope for the best?

Well, for Grover Stewart’s first potential free agency of his NFL career, the big man didn’t even do the first part of that.

Nope, Stewart had a feeling he wouldn’t be going anywhere as free agency neared last month.

“I had a strong feeling I was going to be back here,” Stewart said in looking back on any potential off-season uncertainty. “I wasn’t prepared to leave or none of that. You know how people have their house packed? I don’t know, I was like, ‘Shoot, I’m going to be here.’”

Honestly, that 6-game PED suspension Stewart had last season only strengthened the Colts belief in how vital the nose tackle is to their run defense success.

No one stepped up for the Colts in the absence of Stewart with the run defense suffering to one of the lowest points in recent Colts history.

You don’t often see one player’s absence make such a difference when it comes to the overall team concept in stopping an opponent’s run game, but it’s hard to ignore the numbers with and without Stewart.

With Stewart last season (11 games): 3.7 yards per carry allowed, 324 carries for 1,191 yards

Without Stewart last season (6 games): 4.7 yards per carry allowed, 194 carries for 914 yards

That’s why, despite Stewart jeopardizing his future with the Colts by being suspended for nearly a third of the season, the organization never wavered in backing their 4th round pick from the 2017 Draft.

“The disruptiveness that Grover causes on the field, especially in the run game, is rare and pivotal to the success of our defense,” Shane Steichen said after the team re-signed Stewart to a 3-year deal. “The physicality he plays with in the trenches sets the tone. It was important that we kept Grover here and I’m confident he will continue to develop as the years progress.”

Honestly, about the only potential knock on Stewart returning would be if the Colts thought there was some mal intent with his suspension, or if they were worried about his game tapering off now that he has reached the age of 30.

Clearly, they don’t feel that way.

Stewart has been remarkably durable throughout his career, and the production numbers indicate he’s much more than just a space eater.

Moving forward, the Colts are trying to create a little more depth along the defensive line interior.

New defensive line coach Charlie Partridge gushes about Stewart’s presence, but also wants to see the big fella add a few sacks to the resume.

And it’s clear, Stewart was a massive priority for the Colts to retain in free agency.

“Grover brings tremendous value to our team, and it was important that he remained in Indy,” Chris Ballard says. “Coming from a small school HBCU in Albany State, his growth into an eight-year NFL professional has been exceptional.

“Grover is a difference maker on our defensive line and we’re excited to see the continued impact he will make moving forward.”

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