INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts defensive line coach Brian Baker this week spoke to local reporters via video conference. What did he have to say about defensive tackle/end Tyquan Lewis taking advantage of limited snaps, and how his role can grow moving forward, as well as the will imposed by defensive tackle Grover Stewart in the run game?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are a couple top takeaways:
» Tyquan Lewis has earned added snaps moving forward: General manager Chris Ballard this offseason talked about how 2020 will be a huge season for Lewis, who was a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, but had been affected by injuries his first couple years in the league and wasn't quite able to reach his potential.
Lewis said he took a different mindset going into this offseason, and coupled with a new defensive line coach in Baker, as well as the tutelage of guys like Justin Houston and DeForest Buckner, the 25-year-old looked like a completely different player during training camp, when he seemingly made big plays day after day after day.
While Lewis hasn't been a starter to this point of the season, he has been able to produce in a rotational role up front; he has seven tackles (two for a loss) with 1.5 sacks and two quarterback hits; he had his best-overall game in last Sunday's win against the Cincinnati Bengals, finishing with a career-best five total tackles (one for a loss) and a half-sack.
Through six games, Lewis has played 86 defensive snaps, which has been about 23 percent of the total defensive plays on the year. Baker said "I anticipate him playing a lot more than he's played" moving forward.
"Because I think he's earned the right to do that," Baker said of Lewis. "And I think that'll help his development; I think it'll help our defense."
The Colts play a fast, physical and relentless style of defense, particularly up front, which is why they utilize a deep rotation of linemen to keep everybody as fresh as possible throughout a given ballgame; the team usually has anywhere from seven to nine defensive linemen available each week.
Lewis has played a key role in that rotation, but Baker wants to see what he does with even more snaps coming out of the bye week.
"I like his skillset; I think he's playing a lot faster, a lot more physical, I think he's playing a lot smarter than what I observed studying the film of him in the past," Baker said of Lewis. "So I like his progress — I really do. Again … I don't get into ceilings and that kind of thing, 'cause I think a player develops at a different rate, and what he's supposed to be, I'll let you know after he's been on the grass for longer than Ty's been out there. But I do like his progression; I'm excited about his future and certainly his future in this defense."
» Grover Stewart's awareness, physicality has led to his status as a top run-stuffing interior lineman: Stewart showed tremendous all-around growth with an increased role up front for the Colts' defense, and became one of the more unheralded run-stuffing specialists in the league.
Now a bonafide starter up front alongside DeForest Buckner, Stewart has only continued to prove just how much better he's getting on a weekly basis. The 2017 fourth-round pick out of Albany State this year is on pace for a 60-tackle season, which would double his production from last year, when he had 30 tackles in 16 games played with 13 starts.
As he poured over the film from last season after being hired as the Colts' new defensive line coach earlier this offseason, Baker said he couldn't help but be impressed with the way big No. 90 went about his business; he just needed a little refining.
"I watched him on film last year, 'Boy, who's that big ol' No. 90? I mean, I love this kid — love this kid,' and I did, and do, because of his physical demeanor," Baker said. "There's still some things that he can get better at — and he's working to get better at, and he is getting better at."
Baker said Stewart's ability to stop the run "is a pride thing."
"I mean, the ball isn't going to be run on our defense with him out there," Baker said. "He just carries himself that way and you see it on film, big guys running and pursuing the ball sideline to sideline down the field at 300-plus pounds, whatever he is. Big — he's big. How big is Grove? Big. And he can roll, man. He just rolls and chases the ball, and he plays with that attitude that I described earlier that I want our entire front to play with."