INDIANAPOLIS — Injuries are the nature of the beast in the NFL, but what a shame it was for Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kemoko Turay in 2019.
The Colts' second-year pass rusher was growing into an incredibly effective force for the Colts' defensive line before an ankle injury ended his season in Week 5.
"Yeah, I mean Turay is a really good edge pass rusher. He has a knack for getting off the ball," Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters after Turay's season-ending injury. "He has this bending gift, right? Not everybody has it that can bend around the corner without losing speed. He really has that. I felt like he was really – his game was continuing to get better and improve. The way he was practicing was good. So it's really unfortunate for him and for us."
Turay made such an impression in his short time during the season that Pro Football Focus tabbed him as the Colts' best breakout candidate in the 2020 season:
"Coming out of Rutgers for the 2018 NFL Draft, Turay came in at fifth on the PFF edge defender big board rankings after grading at 75.0 or better as a pass rusher in each of the three college seasons where he had at least 100 pass-rushing snaps. As a rookie, Turay wasn't winning his pass-rushing reps in dominant fashion, but he was still performing at an above-average level. His 67.6 pass-rushing grade in 2018 ranked 43rd among 102 qualifying players. The 14.8% pressure rate that ranked eighth among qualifying edge rushers indicated he was getting pressure at an elite rate early on, though."
"He was beginning to really flash as a situational pass rusher this season — such as on this play, where he throws Cam Erving into Patrick Mahomes — before an early injury derailed his sophomore campaign. Across the first five weeks of the season, Turay's 91.0 pass-rushing grade ranked second among all qualifying edge defenders, and his 22.9% pressure rate ranked second to only Nick Bosa. With Jabaal Sheard potentially leaving in free agency, there could be a golden opportunity for Turay to continue that progression across from Justin Houston."
A neck injury in Week 2 limited Turay to just four games in the first five weeks of the season, but he was able to total five tackles, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble, five quarterback hits and eight hurries in that time.
For his amount of playing time in 2019 (81 snaps), he was tied with T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the best PFF grade among any edge defender in the NFL (91.3), and his pass-rush grade of 91.0 trailed only Watt and the Cleveland Browns' Myles Garrett. Turay stood alone atop the Pass Rushing Productivity category, his 13.1 ranking handily above the next-best player's 10.6.
Turay was also no slouch when it came to the run game either, as his 72.1 in run defense was 36th and his tackling grade of 74.8 was 14th.
As a rookie in 2018, Turay built a strong résumé that was also recognized by PFF. His 38 total quarterback pressures (sacks, hits and hurries combined) finished third among all rookie defenders despite missing two games, and all rookie edge defenders considered, Turay had the sixth-best pass-rushing grade (67.6).
Having a normal offseason without having to prepare for the NFL Draft, Turay was able to work more on his craft during the offseason before Year 2.
"Just trying to get better each and every day. Just watching film and just looking at the bad habits that I did during the season and just trying to improve and polish it up a little bit," Turay said. "Last year, I didn't have a consistent move — I was just using different moves — but this offseason I just constantly stayed here in Indianapolis, and just constantly just worked on my body and tried to find my move and who I am as a pass rusher."