INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay on Saturday spoke with local media members towards the tail end of the 2021 NFL Draft. What were Irsay's thoughts on the Colts' draft haul, particularly with the first two picks being edge rushers, the team's future at left tackle, his excitement for quarterback Carson Wentz and more?
You can catch Irsay's entire session above, but here are some top takeaways:
1. Irsay is absolutely ecstatic about the Colts' going pass rusher with their first two picks in Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo: Following the Colts' loss to the Buffalo Bills in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs last season, Irsay knew his team had no choice but to get more consistent with its pass rush. While the Colts finished tied for 12th in the NFL with 40 sacks, Irsay knew to take the next step, his defense needed to apply even more pressure on the opposing quarterback.
So general manager Chris Ballard answered the call by not only using the Colts' first-round (21st-overall) pick on Thursday night on Michigan edge rusher Kwity Paye, but he followed that up by using Indy's second-round (54th-overall) selection on versatile Vanderbilt defensive lineman Dayo Odeyingbo.
Both Paye and Odeyingbo, according to Irsay, play exactly how the Colts want their defenders — particularly their defensive lineman — to approach the game: with a relentless motor.
"You have to bring pressure," Irsay said. "And I think you have to remember we have other things in the works here, including (Kemoko) Turay, including blitzing Darius (Leonard) or Kenny (Moore II), including DeForest (Buckner), of course, but adding these edge rushers, these types of guys — and these guys are heavyweights," Irsay said of Paye and Odeyingbo. "I mean these guys are strong heavyweight guys with great athletic ability and speed."
Paye, who totaled 11 1/2 sacks, 23 1/2 tackles for a loss and 97 total tackles for Michigan between 2017-2020, does his damage off the edge, where he remains in hot pursuit of the quarterback from snap to whistle.
Odeyingbo, meanwhile, is one heck of a physical specimen at 6-foot-5 and 285 pounds, and can line up and be productive all the way from off the edge to at nose tackle, if needed, once he is able to return from a torn Achilles suffered while training in January.
"You have to be able to get after the quarterback, and you can only blitz so much — you can blitz sometimes — but you have to be able to beat guys in man-to-man situations at the line of scrimmage," Irsay said. "These guys are special guys coming in."
2. The Colts aren't in "panic mode" at the left tackle position: Irsay and the Colts knew they'd eventually have to find a replacement for their standout veteran left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who pondered retirement prior to the 2020 season before deciding to play one more year. Castonzo then officially announced his retirement in January.
Since that time, the Colts have made a couple moves in free agency to add depth at left tackle, signing veterans Sam Tevi and Julién Davenport to one-year deals, but ultimately decided against using any of its top picks in this year's draft at the left tackle position.
For now, Irsay said today, it seems like the Colts will move forward at left tackle with Tevi, who started 44 games and two playoff contests with the Los Angeles Chargers over the last four seasons. But there's still plenty of time to find the right guy at that position, whether it ends up being Tevi, Davenport, or Will Holden, or perhaps even 2020 rookies Jake Benzinger or Carter O'Donnell.
The team could also still make a move to add another veteran into the mix at left tackle.
"I think that you look at the whole offensive line and how they develop as a group of five, and I think Tevi's body of work shows that he's very capable, he's a veteran," Irsay said. "I think that he can get the job done.
"There's other options that could come about that we could look at," Irsay continued. "But I'm very confident — I know I've talked to Chris (Ballard) and obviously talking to Frank Reich, whose offense is looking to unfold under this scenario, and we've had a lot of conversations going into these first two picks and seeing what might materialize, but we're not in a panic mode, and we believe that if we were playing a couple weeks from now that we would have an outstanding offensive line with Tevi and we're just going to see where we're going from there and what opportunities present themselves."
Irsay also echoed Ballard's sentiments from this week that the team will likely keep its other four starting offensive linemen — left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Braden Smith — where they are, as opposed to moving Nelson or Smith to left tackle, for example.
3. Irsay and the Colts see special play coming from Carson Wentz: For a second straight offseason, the Colts faced a unique opportunity to go out and add a new starting quarterback.
Last year, they signed veteran free agent and future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers, who led Indy back to the postseason. This year, they acquired Pro Bowler Carson Wentz in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wentz, at 28, is seen by the Colts as both the immediate and future answer at the quarterback position. They're hoping the fact that he's reuniting with Frank Reich, his offensive coordinator for his best season with the Eagles in their Super Bowl-winning 2017 season, will pay huge dividends.
"I think with Carson we have a chance for someone who can be really special, and he's got immense talent," Irsay said of Wentz today. "We don't feel like the league has seen what he can totally do because we think it's special."
Irsay was especially ecstatic that the Colts this offseason have been able to address what he views as the two most important needs in today's NFL: quality quarterback play (with Wentz), and getting after the quarterback (by selecting Paye and Odeyingbo early in the draft).
"We are completely different football team with these two edge rushers and Carson Wentz at quarterback," Irsay said. "I mean, that changes everything. And it has to be proved — we have to go out and play and these guys with their teammates have to show what that brings — but we think it's going to bring something very special here."