INDIANAPOLIS – From a sheer individual production standpoint, DeForest Buckner is an All-Pro type of talent.
We’ve looked at Buckner’s numbers since entering the league in 2016, and they clearly state he is one of the better defensive tackles in football:
-262 tackles (2nd)
-171 solo tackles (3rd)
-28.5 sacks (5th)
-74 quarterback hits (5th)
-38 tackles for loss (7th)
Those numbers are notable, but the reason the Colts felt Buckner was worthy of the No. 13 overall pick (and a major contract extension) goes beyond what is on the stat sheet.
Buckner’s presence should/will help every level of the Colts defense.
Let’s start with the defensive front.
It’s been years, more like decades, since the Colts have had a defensive tackle who routinely commanded double teams and heavy attention from opposing offensive lines.
Of course, the byproduct of that is the edge rushers of the Colts will have more 1-on-1 matchups.
When Buckner is able to disrupt things on his own, that is the type of interior pressure quarterbacks absolutely hate, and it’s something the Colts didn’t have enough of last year.
“We’ve got to be able to get some more interior pressure,” Chris Ballard said earlier this offseason. “When you can rush the passer up the middle, the quarterback only has one place to go and that’s stepping out and he’s got to run. That should help your edge.”
Moving back to the linebackers, the 6-7, 300-pound Buckner should occupy at least some attention from opposing offensive lines.
While it won’t be Buckner’s top duty to eat up space, his frame will keep some offensive linemen from easily climbing to the second level, thus getting their hands on Darius Leonard and other linebackers.
A major change from 2018 to 2019 for Leonard was seeing more offensive linemen getting to his face quicker in plays. But with more attention now needed at the first level of the Colts defense—the defensive line—Leonard should see more free space early in plays to move.
“Sometimes we watch film on Indy and you see that guy flying around everywhere,” Buckner says of Leonard. “So I am excited to have a linebacker like him behind me. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
When passing downs do arise, the secondary of the Colts will also feel the impact of Buckner.
Under Matt Eberflus, the Colts have allowed 70 percent completion percentage in each of the last two seasons. That’s not good. The Colts are the first team in NFL history to have allowed at least 70 percent in completion percentage in consecutive seasons.
A reason for that comes from scheme, but also the lack of a rush, especially early in a play, from the front.
More pressure now from a 4 or 5-man rush will help the back end, relying on a half dozen guys or so to mostly play zone.
From an annual money standpoint per year, Buckner is the 3rd highest paid defender in the entire NFL.
His personal impact will be needed at a very high level, but the Colts have to feel his presence across their unit in order to be a playoff team this fall, and moving forward.