When the Indianapolis Colts lost names such as Denico Autry, Justin Houston, and Anthony Walker Jr. in free agency, many pundits believed the Colts' defense would fall off just a bit.
That likely won't be the case in 2021 after the Colts shored up some depth with the re-signing of veterans Xavier Rhodes, Al-Quadin Muhammad, and TJ Carrie, grabbed standout edge defender Kwity Paye in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and recently inked veteran defensive tackle Antwaun Woods to provide strong No. 3 reps inside.
Sure, the loss of Autry, Houston and Walker Jr. will hurt from a leadership standpoint, but there's no denying the Colts aren't extremely talented on the defensive side of the football.
Knowing that names like DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke, Kenny Moore II, and more remain on the defensive side of the football, Bleacher Report analyst Alex Kay is high on the Colts' defense, slotting the unit in at No. 13 overall in the NFL Defensive Power Rankings, grading out as the top defensive unit in the AFC South.
Here's what Kay had to say about the Colts' defense in his power rankings:
The Indianapolis Colts were a solid, if unspectacular, defensive team last year and appear to be in line for a similar performance in 2021. New additions include first-round pick Kwity Paye—one of the better edge-rushing prospects in the class—and Dayo Odeyingbo, a first-round talent who slipped to Day 2 due to a torn Achilles. The Colts also drafted safety Shawn Davis at No. 165, getting a player who adds depth to a secondary didn't re-sign the oft-injured Malik Hooker this offseason. Indianapolis mostly focused on re-signing its own players in free agency, notably returning starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes on a one-year deal. If Paye can live up to his potential and the younger players on this roster show improvement, the Colts defense could crack the top-10 this season.
In 2020, the Colts' defense ranked No. 11 overall in points allowed, and No. 8 overall in yards allowed, carrying the Colts to a strong 11-5 record and a berth in the AFC Wild Card game against the Buffalo Bills.
While 15.5 sacks walked out the door in Autry and Houston, the Colts may be better overall on the edge with the additions of Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo, along with a hopefully healthy Kemoko Turay and an increased role for Ben Banogu.
Walker Jr. is a tough loss inside, considering his leadership and ability to get guys lined up in the right spots, having started every game for the last three years. But Okereke took a significant step forward in 2020 and looks like a future Pro Bowler, while Leonard remains arguably the best off-ball linebacker in football.
There's no denying this is a talented, high-ceiling group. Coupling this defensive with a smash-mouth, ground-and-pound offensive style, the Colts will be incredibly tough to play against.
Here's betting that come the end of the 2021 season, the Colts' defense outperforms its No. 13 power ranking from Kay.
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