2019 Colts Burning Questions: Defensive End

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July — and the start of training camp — upon us, it’s time for the Indianapolis Colts’ Burning Questions series.

We continue today with the defensive end position:

» How big of an impact will Justin Houston have?

Chris Ballard entered this offseason with “pass rush” circled atop his to-do list. So when veteran Justin Houston became available on the free agent market, Ballard and the Colts couldn’t have been more thrilled to start talking contract terms. Ballard knew first-hand what Houston brings to the table from when the two were together with the Kansas City Chiefs, where Houston racked up 78.5 sacks in eight years, including a 22.0-sack season back in 2014 that left him just a half-sack shy of tying Michael Strahan’s single-season NFL record. In Houston the Colts now have a consistent presence to line up opposite Jabaal Sheard that will be terrorizing quarterbacks each and every week. While Houston still has an adjustment to make now being a full-time defensive end vs. being an outside linebacker with the Chiefs, the expectation is that his presence alone should not only lead to big sack numbers from No. 99, but that he’ll help create more favorable matchups elsewhere up front.

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» Where is Kemoko Turay in his development?

All-in-all, Kemoko Turay had a successful rookie season in 2018, as he collected four sacks and 13 quarterback hits, while also forcing a fumble in 14 games with three starts. But he also battled through his share of bumps and bruises along the way, and learned many lessons about what it takes to keep your body in the best shape possible to be able to handle the rigors of a long NFL season. While Turay has always displayed amazing quickness off the snap, he’s been working hard on becoming a complete player, which includes defending against the run and developing an array of pass rush moves once he’s engaged with a blocker. It’ll be interesting to see once the pads are able to come in in training camp and the preseason how far along Turay is in his development; if he’s able to take significant steps forward, then look out: the Colts undoubtedly have some lightning in a bottle up front.

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» How many defensive ends can be on the field at once?

Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus used all kinds of formations last season to keep the opposing offense guessing. But in 2019 he could very well have the luxury of having a defensive line that is exclusive to defensive ends in obvious passing situations. Think about a 3rd and 10 and having to face a front that includes Houston, Sheard, Turay and Al-Quadin Muhammad, with Ben Banogu at linebacker also coming off the edge. Or you could very well substitute in guys like Denico Autry (who had a career-high nine sacks in 2019), Margus Hunt or Tyquan Lewis, all of whom are interior guys but have experience playing defensive end. Yeah — good luck with that.

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