INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on Friday spoke to local reporters via video conference. What's the latest on defensive tackle/end Tyquan Lewis' strong start to training camp, defensive tackle Grover Stewart's big role up front, cornerback Rock Ya-Sin in Year 2 and much more?
You can catch that entire session above, but here are some main takeaways:
» Eberflus is noticing an upward trend for Tyquan Lewis as he begins Year 3: Lewis was one of the Colts' four second-round picks in 2018, the same year they also selected linebacker Darius Leonard, tackle Braden Smith and defensive end Kemoko Turay in Round 2. The Ohio State product has battled through injuries his first two years — he missed the first half of his rookie year with a foot injury, and then it was an ankle last year — and has 18 total tackles (four for a loss) with two sacks, nine quarterback hits and one pass defensed in 17 career games played to this point.
But through the team's first week or so of training camp practices, perhaps no defender has been able to be as consistently strong on a daily basis as Lewis, who has mostly been getting his reps from the three-tech spot — most notably helping fill in for starter DeForest Buckner, who has sat out the last two days with a hand injury.
It's early, of course, and lots can happen before the start of the season, but Eberflus is certainly seeing the makings of a third-year jump for Lewis so far.
"Yeah, we're pleasantly pleased with Tyquan," Eberflus said. "He's doing really well in terms of his effort and his technique and his fundamentals. We've always talked about this … that the third year for a defensive lineman is sometimes that sweet spot. Some guys do it faster, but usually that's about when they start to really figure out who they are."
So far, so good for Lewis.
» Grover Stewart has been able to turn effort into production: Back in 2017, Stewart was a fourth-round pick in general manager Chris Ballard's first draft with the team. At the time, Stewart was a bit of a developmental project, as he was coming from NCAA Division II Albany State and, while he was quick off the snap as a run-stuffing nose tackle, he needed to continue to work on his all-around game up front.
Stewart has seemingly gotten better and better with every passing year since. He had 40 combined tackles (three for a loss) with five quarterback hits in 30 games played as a rotational player his first two seasons before earning a starting role last year, logging 30 tackles (five for a loss) with three sacks and five more QB hits, as well as a pass defensed.
Stewart seems locked in to the one-tech spot next to Buckner up front for Eberflus' defense, and the third-year coordinator is excited to see what he can do with potentially an even bigger role in Year 4.
"Grover has always had the work ethic. He's always had the desire and he's always had a lot in his body," Eberflus said. "Grover has a lot in his body for a big man, and that's just what he's been giving, and he's worked harder to change his body in terms of his body makeup, his lean mass and to be more explosive. And he's had a few years under his belt and he's starting to take off as a guy that's a force inside and a guy that could help us on all three downs. So we're excited about Grover Stewart."
» Rock Ya-Sin is "taking his technique and fundamentals to a new level:" Ya-Sin was thrown right into the fire at cornerback after being taken 34th-overall in last year's NFL Draft, starting 13 of 15 games and logging the most defensive snaps, 851, of any Colts player in 2019.
Playing the cornerback position, perhaps more than any other, puts a guy's positive and negative moments out there for everybody to see, and Ya-Sin had his share of both as a rookie last year. And while he had perhaps more of an up-and-down first half, Ya-Sin really started to put it together over the second half of the season, and was ultimately named to Pro Football Focus' All-Rookie Team.
Ya-Sin produced 61 tackles (two for loss), one fumble recovered, one interception and five pass breakups. PFF charted him as allowing 36-of-56 pass targets (64.3 percent) for 555 yards (15.4 avg.) and just 3.7 yards after catch per reception. Among all full-time NFL cornerbacks, he was tied for the eighth-most penalties (nine), but also was tied for the seventh-most "stops," which PFF considers to be failed plays by the offense. Ya-Sin also had the seventh-best tackling grade among cornerbacks (82.2).
PFF's No. 46-ranked rookie played the third-most snaps in the NFL among rookie cornerbacks, earning the sixth-best grade, and totaling the most stops, second-most tackles, ninth-best catch rate and opponent passer rating (101.4).
Heading into Year 2, Eberflus senses a much more confident, technically sound player in Ya-Sin.
"Rock's been great," Eberflus said. "We're really excited about Rock. You know, all those snaps last year and he came back in outstanding condition and he's really competing well. I think he's taking his technique and fundamentals to a new level in terms of buying into what works for him."