Skip to main content
Indianapolis Colts

Game Preview

Presented by

Colts-Texans Week 2 preview: Grover Stewart, D-line look to keep rolling against C.J. Stroud in Houston

Stroud, the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, was sacked five times for 58 yards in his NFL debut last weekend against the Baltimore Ravens.


The Colts' defensive line picked up where it left off to open the 2023 season, with Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner bossing the interior and allowing linebackers Zaire Franklin, Shaquille Leonard and EJ Speed to play with speed and physicality. Defensive ends like Kwity Paye and Samson Ebukam both had impactful pass rushes, and Paye had a tackle for a loss against the run, too.

"I feel like we have the most underrated D-line in the NFL," Franklin said. "Just Buck and Grove, Samson and Kwity, even Taven (Bryan) and Eric (Johnson II) – I feel like all those guys, it was rolling last weekend. Obviously, Shaq, myself and EJ – best linebacker room in the league, we've been the best linebacker room since I've been here. That's just how that is and we all making plays. It's something to build on and continue to roll with in Houston."

In Houston, the Colts will face C.J. Stroud – the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft – in his second career start. The goal for the Colts' front seven is standard against a rookie quarterback: Put pressure on him to make him uncomfortable.

(The Jacksonville Jaguars tried to make Anthony Richardson uncomfortable in his first career start by sending extra pressure. Richardson was blitzed on 16 of his dropbacks in Week 1, tied for the fifth-most in the NFL.)

The Colts, under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, aren't known as a blitz-heavy team – they sent the fewest blitzes in the NFL in 2022, per Pro Football Focus, opting to get after quarterbacks by rushing four defensive linemen and playing tight, sound coverage on the back end. Most defensive coordinators would prefer Bradley's approach, where you affect a quarterback while playing the maximum number of players in coverage.

However Bradley does it, though, getting after Stroud is a focus for the Colts' front seven in Week 2.

"Whenever you're going against a young quarterback, a rookie quarterback, you want to get pressure on him early," Buckner said. "You want to hit him as much as you can early and often to kind of get him rattled a little bit – uncomfortable in the pocket. I think as a unit, even if we're not bringing pressure and it's a passing down, us four up front have to do a really good job in applying that pressure on him throughout the day. You can never let him get comfortable back there. Those are my biggest points going into this game."

Stroud was pressured on 25 of his 54 dropbacks in Week 1. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 78 yards, was sacked five times for minus-58 yards and scrambled three times for 17 yards.

And what Baltimore did against the run – holding backs Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary to 53 yards on 18 carries (2.9 yards/attempt) – helped key their ability to generate pressure as the game went on.

"Up front, we've got to do a good job of dominating the line of scrimmage, stopping the run game," Buckner said. "They really depend on the run game with Dameon Pierce back there. He's a really good back. He likes to get downhill and he runs hard. As a collective group, we've got to do a good job with tackling."

The Colts in Week 1 earned Pro Football Focus' highest run defense grade (83.4) and, on average, tackled ball-carriers 2.2 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, the second-lowest mark in the NFL. Keeping that same run defense energy while making sure Stroud can't sit in the pocket and pick apart the secondary, then, will be key for the Colts on Sunday at NRG Stadium.

"(Stroud) can make the throws when he has time," Buckner said. "As a defensive unit, we've got to do a good job of making him uncomfortable in the pocket."

Related Content

2024 Season Tickets - Now Available!

2024 Season Tickets - Now Available!

Season Tickets for the 2024 Season are available now! Get access to the best seating locations, best pricing, and best benefits as a Colts Season Ticket Member!