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Chuck Pagano Likes Young Colts Pass Rushers

Intro: In the Colts’ preseason opener, we saw a glimpse of what the future could hold in terms of edge rushers in Indianapolis. Who are the names to watch behind Robert Mathis and company?


INDIANAPOLIS – If the defense witnessed in the Colts' preseason opener was an ice cream order, there were no toppings, waffle cones or even mixed flavors involved.

It was about as bland as you could imagine.

"We were so vanilla on defense," Chuck Pagano said earlier this week of what his team showed versus Buffalo.

"I think we played three or four calls the entire day, because we wanted to evaluate our guys. We didn't want to do anything other than give them a chance to break a huddle, especially the young guys, and see who can line up and take on a block, get off a block, make a tackle – those types of things."

As the preseason moves along, expect the Colts to sprinkle in more variety.

When that occurs, the Colts will begin to get a truer evaluation of what they have in their young pass rushing group.

Pagano believes there is potential among the likes of Earl Okine, Trevor Bates, Curt Maggitt and Ron Thompson.

"I think we have more guys than anybody thinks right now," Pagano says of the youth coming off the edge.

Two guys who did make an impression on Saturday night in Buffalo were Okine and Maggitt.

Okine, who stands 6-6 and 290 pounds, is making the switch to outside linebacker this season and showed off some new tools in his pass rushing box.

A "stab and spin" by Okine in the third quarter (learned from Trent Cole) led to the Colts' lone sack on Saturday.

Robert Mathis is often a frequent listener to Okine wanting to expand his pass rushing arsenal.

"He studies like crazy," Mathis says of Okine. "He listens and asks questions."

Maggitt's playing time on Saturday was the first time he's been in game action since September 2015.

Recovered from a hip injury that ended his senior season at Tennessee, Maggitt had three tackles for loss on Saturday.

"It was a dream come true," Maggitt said of getting out there on Saturday. "Every kid wants to play in an NFL game.

"These past nine months have been a challenge with rehab and treatment. So to be able to get out there and perform and to feel good performing, I'm grateful."

The Colts know Maggitt can rush the passer (11 sacks as a junior in the SEC), but he also displayed the ability to shed blockers and finish plays against Buffalo.

"The culture in the outside linebacker room is make plays, set the edge and do our job," Maggitt says. "I'm out there trying to hold the standard and keep up with the guys that are teaching it to us."

In an ideal world, the Colts would groom the likes of Okine, Maggitt and/or some of the other names above to eventually take over for the vets in that group.

Getting younger at linebacker was a priority this offseason and these are the names trying to do just that.

"The word 'development' is so critical," GM Ryan Grigson says. "It's imperative to our situation to develop those young rushers on the back end because no matter how much you don't want it to happen the back end ends up being your front end at some point during a 16-plus week season.

"You can't turn a blind eye to that reality because you will pay the fiddler at some point."   **


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