INDIANAPOLIS – If first impressions do indeed last, the Colts are going to like rookie pass rusher Tarell Basham for a long, long time.
Evaluating pass rushers during the spring is dicey.
But the offseason program does offer a chance to see if the fundamental traits needed to pressure the quarterback are there.
For rookie Tarell Basham, so far, so good.
"He's got some natural pass rush to him," Chuck Pagano said of the team's third-round pick this past April.
"He's got burst, he's got twitch. He's a nifty athlete and he's good with his hands. It's going to be exciting."
It's no secret the Colts were eager to find a young pass rusher in this year's draft.
Basham came in the third round, after he had 11 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in winning the Mid-American Conference's Defensive Player of the Year award last season.
At 6-4 and 266 pounds, Basham already has the frame that makes one think he can provide a presence on early run downs, too.
"I think that we can predict that he's going to do several things well," defensive coordinator Ted Monachino says of his new pass rushing toy. "He's going to be physical and have a little violence on the edge of the run game. We can see that he can win late in the down with some power in the pass rush. He's also slippery enough that he can win early in the down, which is good."
The Colts are asking Basham to make the move from a 4-3, hand in the ground, defensive end, to a (likely) 3-4, stand up, outside linebacker.
That's similar to the switch Robert Mathis made after the 2011 season. Ironically, Mathis worked with Basham throughout the team's recent offseason program.
"Honestly, since I started playing football, since I became a defensive end, he's been one of those names that you just watch and that you admire," Basham says of Mathis. "You try to say, 'I'm going to rush like Robert Mathis.' To be able to get here and be able to work with him and learn from him, it's amazing."
Comparing any rookie pass rusher to Mathis, the franchise's all-time leading sacker, would be wildly unfair.
But after Jabaal Sheard and John Simon in 2017, the Colts would love for Basham to emerge as a consistent threat in getting after the quarterback.
"We've got very high expectations for him, but not as high as he has for himself," Monachino says of Basham.
"I think that from the day he got here, he's been focused on his diet, on his activity level, on learning the system and fitting in with his teammates. And he's doing a good job in all those areas."
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