INDIANAPOLIS – Out with the old, in with the new.
While the Colts have maintained continuity at several spots this offseason, that’s not been the case along the defensive line.
Gone are Denico Autry (31 years old) and Justin Houston (30 years old) and in are top picks Kwity Paye (22) and Dayo Odyeingbo (21).
Outside of linebacker, no Colts position group is younger than the defensive line.
The oldest members are now 27-year-olds DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart.
Chris Ballard had a goal entering the draft of finding new defensive line talent, and he’s also adamant that Paye and Odeyingbo were the top players on the Colts’ board, when making the first two picks.
“Paye was the best player on the board at the time and fit us not only from an athletic and performance standpoint but from a character standpoint, which you all know that’s a premium for us, who we bring in the building,” Ballard explained.
“Dayo, we thought he was first-round talent. It’s hard to pass up a guy that you have that high even with the circumstances with the injury, so it just kind of worked out that way.”
While the long-term future of the DL now has more options, the amount of production from this group in 2021 will be a question.
Yes, Houston and Autry didn’t have a real long-term outlook in Indy, but both still filled important roles over the last couple of seasons.
Should the Colts expect the same from Paye (8.0 sacks, 12 QB hits) as a rookie? Remember, Dwight Freeney didn’t even start until November of his rookie season.
How much will Odeyingbo be able to contribute as a rookie, as he rehabs a torn Achilles from January? Autry did put up 7.5 sacks in 14 games last year, while lining up at several different spots.
Expecting the two draft picks to achieve that production in Year One is unfair.
The Colts will undoubtedly need to receive more from the likes of Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay and Ben Banogu.
Had those three shown more in the beginnings of their NFL careers, that would have lessened Ballard’s thinking in that the D-line needed help, again with premium draft picks.
It might not be felt immediately this season, but the Colts will hope the learning curve will be quick for their young D-line guys.
If that’s the case, the step back for this position might not occur at all.
But if the normal transition to the NFL occurs, then this group could regress a bit in 2021, with the hope that dividends will pay down the road as the Colts have gotten much younger along their D-line.