INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL continues to operate business as usual here in the 2020 offseason, with training camps on the horizon.
If everything does begin on time for camps, the Colts will start theirs on July 28th (veterans report day). This year’s camp will take place at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, with the NFL mandating teams stay home for camp due to COVID-19.
With the on-field portion of the spring not happening this season, training camp will be the only time this offseason for players to make an impression on the staff.
It’s time to pick back up our ‘burning questions’ series on 1075TheFan.com.
Here are our burning questions for the defensive line position group heading into the 2020 Training Camp:
1. Will DeForest Buckner be an All-Pro difference maker?
There’s no doubt that DeForest Buckner will improve the Colts defense.
In giving up the No. 13 overall pick for Buckner, the expectations are very high for him as he enters his prime.
Buckner’s presence is going to positively impact every level of the Indy defense.
Individually though, the Colts do need for Buckner to be an All-Pro for them.
In his first four NFL seasons, Buckner has put up really impressive numbers.
Duplicating those, and even growing them, will not be as easy in Indianapolis, without similar high-level talent around him up front.
He’s largely viewed as the missing piece for this defense taking the necessary jump.
STAT TO NOTE: Since entering the league in 2016, DeForest Buckner rankings among defensive tackles are as followed: 262 tackles (2nd), 171 solo tackles (3rd), 28.5 sacks (5th), 74 quarterback hits (5th).
2. Do we see an emergence from the former second-round picks?
Here, we are talking about DE-Kemoko Turay, DT-Tyquan Lewis, DE-Ben Banogu.
You noticed the Colts didn’t make a single outside move at defensive end this offseason, even though Jabaal Sheard was not re-signed?
Part of that is because of the names above.
Chris Ballard said on several occasions this offseason that it’s time to see what the Colts have in those high draft picks.
For Turay, that means returning to full health and offering the Colts that fastball option off the edge.
For Lewis, it’s showing more consistency, possibly as an early-down defensive end, with the numbers more crowded at defensive tackle.
For Banogu, it’s turning his athletic testing traits into more production, while possibly being a three-down option when Justin Houston’s contract ends in 2021.
STAT TO NOTE: From 2017-19, the Colts spent 4 second or third round picks on defensive linemen (2017: Tarell Basham-3rd round; 2018: Kemoko Turay-2nd round, Tyquan Lewis-2nd round; 2019: Ben Banogu-2nd round).
3. What is the future of the defensive line?
The question above plays into this answer, as well.
Obviously, DeForest Buckner is the guy to build around along the defensive line (Buckner is signed through 2024).
But offering definite answers to who will join Buckner is a little more unclear.
Justin Houston, Denico Autry, Grover Stewart, Sheldon Day and Al-Quadin Muhammad are all in contract years this season (on a long list of notable 2020 FAs for the Colts).
Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis are signed through 2021.
Ben Banogu is signed through 2022.
This group has really nice depth (perhaps the most of any position on the team), but some guys need to emerge to join Buckner as definite answers for the next 3 or 4 seasons.
STAT TO NOTE: The Colts finished last season 12th in yards per carry allowed (4.09 YPC), after ranking 6th in 2018 (3.92 YPC).