INDIANAPOLIS – From afar, it’s the level of play from DeForest Buckner throughout a game and season that stands out to Gus Bradley.
It starts with the one missed game due to injury in six NFL seasons.
You rarely see a defensive player of Buckner’s size (6-7, 295 pounds) be as available on a weekly basis, and as productive as a game spans 60 minutes.
“Any time you have a really good player on the inside, it helps the perimeter,” Bradley says. “A lot of this game is affecting the quarterback and you can have a couple of good edge rushers but when you have a really good rusher on the inside, it even strengthens the outside.
“So, (Buckner) brings that. I think he brings a presence, a mentality. I think with Buck, the quality that I’ve learned to see in his career is his endurance. When you have a veteran presence, even though he’s Year Seven, he still is veteran for this team and from game one to game 17, the endurance that it takes and you can feel that type of presence and that type of leadership not only in the defensive line room but throughout the defense.”
Under Bradley and new defensive line coach Nate Ollie (a Ball State product), the Colts defensive line will have a different focus this season.
It will be all about getting vertical and immediate penetration from the D-line, compared to playing and reacting with blocks in years past.
For Buckner, it’s the same system he played in at San Francisco.
“We are blowing things up and everybody behind is cleaning things up,” is how Buckner describes the new system.
While Buckner did earn a Pro Bowl honor last year, his numbers dipped in a couple of key pressure areas from his first season with the Colts.
Despite playing 2 more games last season, Buckner had 2.5 fewer sacks (7.0 down from 9.5) and 8 fewer quarterback hits (18 down from 26).
But Buckner believes he should have a few more opportunities in the pass rush department this season.
With the arrival of Yannick Ngakoue and a hopeful second-year jump from Kwity Paye, Buckner is expecting fewer double teams, and for opposing quarterbacks to step up in the pocket.
It goes without saying that the Colts finally have some other defensive lineman that should offer Buckner a few more 1-on-1 chances.
Many Colts were jumping for joy when they heard news of Ngakoue coming to Indy.
Buckner was one of them, and that adds to his eagerness in getting back to a scheme which helped establish himself as a disruptive interior presence.
“Playing in the scheme, the d-line is really the engine of the defense,” Buckner says. “We’re attacking up front… I just remember all this terminology back my last year with San Francisco, it’s literally the same scheme up front and pretty much the whole defense.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun.”