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Indianapolis Colts

Colts 2022 Position Recap: Defensive Line

DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart again were a dominant duo on the interior of the Colts' defensive line, while Yannick Ngakoue led the team with 9 1/2 sacks in 2022. 

Grover Stewart

2022 Depth Chart (listed in descending order by games played)

  • DT DeForest Buckner (17 games, 8 sacks, 11 TFLs, 22 QB hits, 74 tackles, 2 forced fumbles)
  • DT Grover Stewart (17 games, 4 sacks, 9 TFLs, 7 QB hits, 70 tackles)
  • DE Dayo Odeyingbo (17 games, 5 sacks, 5 TFLs, 11 QB hits, 31 tackles)
  • DT Byron Cowart (17 games, 2 TFLs, 12 tackles)
  • DE Ben Banogu (17 games, 10 tackles)
  • DE Yannick Ngakoue (15 games, 9/5 sacks, 8 TFLs, 16 QB hits, 29 tackles, 1 forced fumble)
  • DT Eric Johnson II (14 games, 3 tackles)
  • DE Ifeadi Odenigbo (13 games, 3.5 sacks, 2 TFLs, 6 QB hits, 12 tackles)
  • DE Kwity Paye (12 games, 6 sacks, 10 TFLs, 10 QB hits, 45 tackles)
  • DE Tyquan Lewis (7 games, 1 sack, 2 TFLs, 4 QB hits, 14 tackles, 1 forced fumble)
  • DT Chris Williams (5 games, 1 QB hit, 2 tackles)
  • DE Khalid Kareem (4 games, 3 QB hits, 1 tackle)
  • DE Kameron Cline (3 games, 1 tackle)

3 Things To Know

  • Nate Ollie's D-line was tremendous against the run and was impactful on passing plays. The Colts finished 2022 with the NFL's fifth-best rushing defense (4.1 yards per play), with the interior duo of Buckner and Stewart powering those efforts. And the Colts were 10th in total sacks (44) despite facing the eighth-fewest pass attempts in the NFL. Ollie – in his first year as the Colts' defensive line coach – coached his players to have an attacking focus on every play, and it generated plenty of sacks while not sacrificing anything against the run.
  • The Colts' two high draft picks from 2021 had solid seasons. Paye was graded by Pro Football Focus as a top-10 run defender (among defensive ends with at least 200 run defense snaps), and he added six sacks over his 12 games. Baseline, Paye looks like a strong run defender with pass rush upside. And Odeyingbo impressed over the second half of the season, as his role expanded following a season-ending injury to Lewis. In Weeks 15 and 16, Odeyingbo totaled 3.5 sacks, two quarterback hits and two tackles for a loss.
  • DeForest Buckner had another outstanding season. Among starting defensive tackles, Buckner ranked eighth in Pro Football Focus defense grade (82.3), eighth in sacks (8), fifth in total pressures (59) and sixth in tackles for a loss/no gain (12). "I think he's got great credibility around the league as a tremendous football player and what he brings to the table as far as a defense," defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. "I think on top of it, the professional he is. He's not a guy that shows up on the injury report, but he's got some – he's nicked. How he handles that, the professional part that he's going to play no matter what. These things you don't know until you're with him. That he battles through injuries, he has a standard for himself but he also has a high standard for the defense. I thought maybe he'd be a high-standard guy for the defensive line, but he is truly a high standard for the defense and at times gets frustrated if it's not run accordingly. Great competitive spirit about him, high standards, not only for himself and not only for the defensive line, but the whole unit. Those things you don't know until you're with him. So, you come to appreciate what he brings on a day-to-day basis."

1 Big Stat

It's a shame Grover Stewart didn't get more consideration for the 2023 Pro Bowl, not just because he earned it – but because seeing his gregarious personality on a national stage with some creative competitions would've been awesome.

Anyways, Pro Bowl or not, Stewart was fantastic in 2022. His stats and rankings among starting defensive linemen against the run:

  • 45 tackles (T-2nd)
  • 30 stops (T-6th)
  • 16 tackles for a loss/no gain (T-1st)

Run defense stats may not get the attention pass rushing numbers do, but there aren't many good defenses in the NFL that can't stop the run. With Stewart bulldozing the interior, the Colts had a good run defense in 2022 – and should continue to have one going forward.

What's Next

Ngakoue is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March, and the 27-year-old's market will be interesting to watch. With his 9.5 sacks in 2022, Ngakoue became just the fifth player in the last 40 years have at least eight sacks in each of his first seven seasons in the NFL, along with:

  • Aaron Donald (2014-2020)
  • DeMarcus Ware (2005-2011)
  • Derrick Thomas (1989-1995)
  • Reggie White (1985-1991)

A look back at the Colts' defensive line through photos from the 2022 season.

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