Earlier this week, I graded the Indianapolis Colts at each offensive position and now it’s time to break down the defense. The Colts are ranked 26th in run defense, 28th in pass defense and 30th in total defense as a team, so you can expect the grades won’t be very high.
Defensive Line – Final Grade: B-
The Colts defensive line saved the rankings from taking an even deeper plunge this season. Henry Anderson, Margus Hunt, Al Woods and Johnathon Hankins all ranked within the top 41 of interior defenders per Pro Football Focus. Due to the team being a 3-4, the entire defensive line is interior defenders. Other than Anderson, all were new additions to the team, which shows a good foundation for the future.
Outside Linebackers – Final Grade: C-
If it weren’t for Jabaal Sheard, this grade would probably be in the D+ to D range. Sheard was the only guy that was able to generate consistent pressure, and he still only finished with 5.5 sacks this season. He excelled in run defense and was the only outside linebacker to rate as “above average” in that aspect. After that, the position really fell off. The next highest graded player at the position was John Simon, who ranked 61st amongst edge defenders. They consistently struggled to generate a pass rush as the team finished with a total of 25, which was good for a 31st overall ranking and was doubled up by three teams. Moving forward, the outside linebacker position will need some serious attention.
Inside Linebackers – Final Grade: D
The inside linebacker position was one of the Colts’ biggest weaknesses this season. Every player that received snaps were below average in both pass coverage and run defense, with the exception of Bostic who was strong in run defense. Tight ends were able to consistently win against the Colts linebackers, and running backs were able to make plays when they got to the second level of the defense. With running back and athletic tight ends the rage right now in the NFL, strong inside linebacker play is a major necessity, which will require the team to make major overhauls by next season.
Cornerbacks – Final Grade: D
Rashaan Melvin was the lone bright spot of the cornerback position for the Colts’ injury-plagued. If his season was not cut short by injury and Quincy Wilson was brought out of the dog house sooner, there might have been a strong duo based on potential waiting in the wings. However, original starter Vontae Davis was released in a bizarre injury situation, Melvin sustained his own injury and Wilson was inactive most of the season. Pierre Desir had a couple weeks of promise before he met the injury bug and the team was just consistently unable to stop anyone through the air. Bringing back Melvin, increasing Wilson’s role and spending big in free agency will be key to making the Colts more competitive next season.
Safety – Final Grade: C-
Malik Hooker fell in the draft due to a lingering hamstring issue, but he made Chris Ballard and the Colts look really smart by excelling in pass coverage. He is a strong building moving forward, and he just needs to improve his run coverage to be considered a top safety league-wide. After being a non-factor last season, Matthias Farley performed well, as he was the 25th-ranked safety per Pro Football Focus. He was the 10th-ranked safety in run defense, and pairing him with Hooker moving forward creates duo where each excels in one area. After these two, T.J. Green, Darius Butler and Clayton Geathers all made strides this season and will provide great depth in the future.
Stay tuned for Special Teams and coaching grades in the coming week.
- Defensive Line – B-
- Outside Linebackers – C-
- Inside Linebackers – D
- Cornerbacks – D
- Safety – C-
Total Defensive Grade = D+