The Indianapolis Colts have hopes for rookie pass rusher Kwity Paye, a player they selected with the 21st pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. While some in the fanbase expected Paye to immediately step in and produce, it will take some time for the raw pass rusher to gain his footing.
The match-up he had on Sunday was one of the toughest draws that a rookie pass rusher could get in their debut. Paye faced off against Seattle Seahawks' left tackle (and 12-year veteran) Duane Brown. Brown, 36, is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro at left tackle.
Brown is one of the top left tackles in the NFL, and he definitely won the match-up from this past Sunday. Just how did Paye fare overall though? Let's dive into the film and find out.
Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Brown is an extremely gifted left tackle. He may be the best in the league at combating power moves, and he can still move with ease in jump sets.
Paye only has a few moves in his repertoire to work with at the moment and that predictability is something that a veteran like Brown can dominate against. Paye finished the game with just two hurries on 21 pass rush snaps.
For the most part, this should be a big learning experience for Paye. He needs to develop some quick counters to combat tackles when they quick set him, and vary his rushes more to beat experienced tackles. If he constantly tries to go speed to power or dip/rip, veteran tackles are going to read that and prepare accordingly.
It's a tough first match-up, and hopefully Paye is watching the film closely and learning from it.
There Were Some Flashes
While it was mostly an ineffective game for Paye, he did have a couple rushes where he flashed his elite ability that the Colts hope to develop. When he timed the snap correctly, his blend of power and speed even had a tackle like Brown reeling.
His best rush came in the clip below. Paye is the first player off of the line of scrimmage, and he uses this great jump to get out wide of Brown. Once Paye gets to the corner, he quickly converts speed to power as he dips around the edge. He is in the process of turning the corner when Russell Wilson dumps the pass down to the flat. Another split second and Paye may have had a sack.
This is all that I needed to see from this past weekend to not be concerned about Paye going forward. If a rookie is flashing against a top-tier NFL tackle, then they will be just fine.
Great in Run Defense
While Paye was drafted for his ability to rush the passer, his traits along with elite hustle proved to be a major asset in the run game on Sunday. The Colts' defense struggled as a whole to stop the run, but Paye was really strong in this area.
In this first clip, Paye crashes the backside of the outside zone run. The Seahawks attempt to cut him off with a tight end on a crackback block, but Paye is able to run through it with ease. He barrels through the tight end and wrestles down the running back for a short gain on the play.
On the other end of the spectrum, when it comes to run defense, Paye set a hard edge on runs to his side. The linebackers struggled to fill and make tackles, but Paye did his job on most run plays.
His best rep came on this outside zone sweep to his side. He stands Brown up at the point of attack and keeps the veteran tackle off his body with his extended arms. When the running back cuts inside, Paye quickly disengages and makes the tackle for a loss.
It may not have been the debut that everyone had hoped for (statistically) for Kwity Paye, but I was thoroughly impressed with the young defensive end. He battled all game against a top tier left tackle, flashed as a pass rusher, and was stout as a run defender.
The next step is turning those flashes into production. As the year goes on, I fully expect Paye to learn from these tough tests early in the season and start producing. He gets another difficult match-up with veteran Andrew Whitworth this week, so it'll be big to see if he can perform better against another top left tackle.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.