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Colts Get First Opportunity To See Defensive Rotation In Action

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INDIANAPOLIS — “We’re going to play with waves. We’re going to play with seven, eight defensive linemen and they’re going to play in waves.”

That was Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard on April 27, after the team had completed its selections on Day 2 of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The new 4-3 scheme under first-year defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus would allow the Colts to emphasize their depth — especially up front, where hustle, effort and get-off are the main emphasis, which requires fresh players rotating in and out throughout every game.

But during training camp and the preseason, the team took advantage of its 90-man roster and purposefully mixed and matched many different kinds of lineups, never really sticking with a primary first or second unit for more than a few days at a time.

So Sunday’s 2018 regular season opener against the Cincinnati Bengals was really the first opportunity to see the defensive “waves” in action.

And, true to their word, the numbers show the Colts utilized plenty of bodies up front along the defensive line against the Bengals. But they also had the same approach at the linebacker and safety positions, where reserves were rotated in and out throughout the game to help the starters stay fresh.

Here’s a breakdown of where each Colts defensive player lined up throughout Sunday’s game against the Bengals, thanks to Pro Football Focus:

Defensive Line — First Unit:

» DE — Margus Hunt: 42 snaps along the defensive line

» DT — Denico Autry: 41 snaps along the defensive line

» DT — Al Woods: 28 snaps along the defensive line

» DE — Jabaal Sheard: 40 snaps along the defensive line

Defensive Line — Second Unit:

» DE — Kemoko Turay: 22 snaps along the defensive line

» DT — Grover Stewart: 22 snaps along the defensive line

» DT/DE — Tarell Basham: 9 snaps along the defensive line

» DE — Al-Quadin Muhammad: 20 snaps along the defensive line

Quote from Eberflus on the defensive line rotations vs. the Bengals: “I think it was good. We did some different things with some different players because of the end spot and then moving some guys inside, but I think it worked out okay. I think a couple guys got some high numbers. We were looking for 35 or so in there. I think a couple guys got 40. But I thought overall it went well and the guys seemed fresh in there.”

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Linebackers — First Unit:

» LB — Darius Leonard: 50 snaps lined up in the box; four snaps lined up in the slot; one snap lined up along the defensive line; one snap lined up in the secondary

» LB — Skai Moore: 26 snaps lined up in the box; one snap lined up in the slot

» LB — Anthony Walker: 23 snaps lined up in the box

Linebackers — Second Unit:

» LB — Zaire Franklin: five snaps lined up in the box; two snaps lined up along the defensive line; two snaps lined up in the slot

» LB — Najee Goode: three snaps line up in the box; two snaps lined up along the defensive line; two snaps lined up in the slot

Quote from Eberflus on the youth at linebacker: “What do we have, six starts between them? And then we started with all rookies so we had zero starts. I think the last group I had probably had over 100, maybe a lot more than that. But it was exciting for those guys and surprisingly, they stayed calm and they executed at a solid rate. We are excited where they are going.”

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Cornerbacks:

» CB — Kenny Moore II: 40 snaps lined up as the slot cornerback; 15 snaps lined up out wide

» CB — Nate Hairston: 49 snaps lined up out wide; four snaps lined up in the box; two snaps lined up along the defensive line

» CB — Quincy Wilson: 37 snaps lined up out wide; two snaps lined up in the box; one snap lined up along the defensive line

Quote from Eberflus on the play of his cornerbacks: “The two corners did decent. Nate (Hairston) and Kenny (Moore II) – I thought they were solid.”

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Safeties — First Unit:

» S Clayton Geathers: 27 snaps lined up at safety (20 on the left side, seven on the right); 21 snaps lined up in the box; six snaps lined up in the slot; two snaps lined up along the defensive line

» S Malik Hooker: 36 snaps lined up at safety (31 on the right side, 13 on the left and two as a single-high safety); three snaps lined up in the box; one snap lined up in the slot; one snap lined up along the defensive line

Safeties — Second Unit:

» S Matthias Farley: 17 snaps lined up at safety (11 on the right side, six on the right); three snaps lined up in the slot; two snaps lined up in the box; one snap lined up along the defensive line

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