INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July upon us, and training camp right around the corner, it's time for the Indianapolis Colts' Burning Questions series.
We continue today with the defensive end position:
• How will the team's former outside linebackers adjust to a move to defensive end?
The biggest effect from the Colts defense's switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 base scheme is on its pass rushers, several of whom are making the transition from a 3-4 outside linebacker to a 4-3 defensive end.
At its core, those players making the switch from last year's Colts defense — Tarell Basham, John Simon and Jabaal Sheard — will still be tasked with the same overall goal: get to the quarterback. But instead of also worrying about coverage responsibilities, what the defenders around them are doing, etc., a 4-3 defensive end, at least in this scheme, is solely focused on getting to the quarterback (or, of course, taking down the running back). So these guys will be lined up with their hands in the dirt at all times in a three-point stance, as opposed to a more traditional outside linebacker two-point stance.
During offseason practices, we mostly saw Basham and Sheard lined up at defensive end with the theoretical "first-team" defense, while Simon and a group of other players came in with the second wave of defenders. But with more opportunities to simply worry about getting after the passer, there's reason to believe the Colts' defense, as a whole, will be able to produce more sacks than its 2017 total of 25, which ranked 31st in the league.
• Who will be in the rotation at the position come Week 1?
The Colts have expressed a desire to have a defensive line that comes at the offense in waves throughout the game.
Because the simple "see ball, get ball" approach can be quite tiring snap after snap after snap, this idea of multiple defensive line units makes plenty of sense.
Just who will make up those units, particularly at defensive end, is yet to be determined, however.
As previously mentioned, it seems as though Basham and Sheard, at least through their showings in offseason practices, will head into training camp as the primary candidates to start with the No. 1 defense. But there's a lot of other names currently on the 90-man roster that are hoping to earn their way onto the depth chart by the time Week 1 rolls around.
Those other players include Simon, Kemoko Turay, Chris McCain and Anthony Johnson, while Denico Autry and Tyquan Lewis also have the flexibility to play both defensive end and defensive tackle. Margus Hunt, who played defensive end in the 3-4 for the Colts last season, seems to primarily be a defensive tackle in this new 4-3 system, but also was seen working in a little bit at end this offseason.
• What can we expect out of Kemoko Turay?
Second-round picks typically aren't viewed as potential situational pieces, but Kemoko Turay could possibly be just that — at least in his first season with the Colts.
One of four second-round picks by general manager Chris Ballard this year, Turay showed all kinds of promise in limited pass-rushing opportunities during his time at Rutgers — and we say "limited," because Turay ended up actually being asked to rush the passer about half as much throughout his college career compared to the other top prospects at the position this year.
But when Turay did go after the quarterback, the numbers showed his production rate was just about as high as, if not better than, the likes of Bradley Chubb, Marcus Davenport, Harold Landry and others.
Ballard said he doesn't consider Turay a "project," per se, but he does have plenty of work ahead of him to turn into an every-down pass rusher in the NFL.
Having Robert Mathis as your pass-rushing coach, we can assume, will only accelerate the rookie's development, however.
So while Turay was seen getting limited on-field work at times during offseason practices, look for his opportunities to keep increasing throughout training camp and the preseason so the Colts can get a much better idea what they have in their young pass rusher.