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INDIANAPOLIS – While the Colts believe Kwity Paye has a higher floor than normal for a rookie pass rusher, they know that development is still needed to complete his game.

Paye did not set the college football world on fire with his sack production.

He finished his four seasons at Michigan with just 11.5 sacks.

That pales in comparison to other first-round rushers the Colts have drafted (2002: Dwight Freeney 34.0 sacks, 2009: Jerry Hughes-28.5 sacks, 2013-Bjoern Werner: 23.5 sacks).

But the Colts feel there are some specific reasons for Paye not putting up those eye-popping sack numbers.

One comes from where Paye lined up for Michigan and how they utilized him.

At more than 270 pounds, Paye is strong enough to handle a presence in the interior, so Michigan didn’t hold back in sliding him inside at times and using him to stunt towards the middle of the pocket, thus moving him away from that true edge rusher.

The Colts have told Paye that he’ll be a right defensive end for them and be out on the edge as a rusher.

Sure, the Colts like the fact that Paye can do other things up front, but they think his sack production will rise in more of an up field rushing role.

“We think he’s got really big upside,” Chris Ballard says of Paye. “We think he’s going to continue to get better.

“You always look for guys who pop. Do they pop on tape when you’re watching – all 22 of them – who pops off the tape? And Kwity pops off the tape. One, with his athleticism and his speed but also with his effort. This kid already plays the way we want to play. He is going to fit in pretty quickly.”

While those sack numbers weren’t at an All-American level for Paye, fellow Big Ten-er and draftmate Will Fries was impressed facing off against him.

“As a player, he’s so explosive off the ball,” Fries, a 7th round pick of Indy, says of Paye. “He uses his combination of size, strength and speed to be a tough rusher to match up against. You have to be prepared for a variety of moves.”

Paye says the defensive keys at Michigan were more ‘read and react’ for him. In Indy, it’s ‘just going’ with an emphasis on getting up field quickly.

That brings a slight adjustment which Paye felt during rookie minicamp over the weekend.

When Paye arrived to Indianapolis the day after being chosen No. 21 overall, his new defensive coordinator looked at him and said he was the top defensive end on the board for the Colts in 2021.

Along with a change in usage for Paye, the Colts view the intriguing athletic testing traits of him and see areas to grow, and turn that ‘pop’ into finishing off pressures with sacks.

The floor is pretty high for a rookie that should come in and offer three-down ability early on.

And the Colts believe that their staff can tap into the rush element that does need some fine-tuning, in formulating a rush plan and adding to various moves.

“This organization has got a great history with (Dwight) Freeney and (Robert) Mathis, some of the great rushers,” Ballard says. “My wife asked me, ‘You get excited,’ well absolutely I get excited on draft day, but I’m also a realist where they have got to come perform. I’ve almost sobered up the more I’ve done this where, alright, we have got a really good player here. Now let’s go to the next step and he has got to come and go through the process of being and developing into a good player.

“(Paye) is going to be a rookie. I don’t want to get crazy with the expectations, but we think very highly of him. He’s going to fit right in. He’s going to come in and compete and he’ll be a big part of it.”