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Previewing Colts’ DT Depth Chart Entering 2022 Season

With Buckner and Stewart combining for one of the best defensive tackle combinations in the league, the Colts look to be stacked in the middle once again.

The painful dead period of the offseason is almost over as football inches closer to a return.

In a matter of days, NFL teams will reconvene as each organization will begin training camp. Players and coaches will return from their summer break fresh and ready to start the long grind of the NFL season. The Indianapolis Colts are one of those teams and will begin camp on July 27th at Grand Park Sports Complex in Westfield, Ind.

The Colts are a team that will see plenty of new faces taking on major roles for the 2022 season. Some position battles have already been determined, while others will be up for grabs throughout training camp. The Colts are hoping this competition leads to improved play all over the field.

As was the case a season ago, it is time to preview the Colts’ depth chart as we head into the 2022 season. We will go position by position and discuss how the players stack up heading into the fall. The next group to preview is the defensive tackles, where the Colts have one of the best starting combinations in the league once again.

Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) chases after New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) as he scrambles in the pocket Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, during a game against the New England Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

DeForest Buckner

2021 Stats: 68 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, 18 QB hits

The Colts traded for Buckner in 2020 with the San Francisco 49ers for a first-round pick. To say the trade has been a resounding success would be an understatement.

Buckner has completely transformed the middle of the Colts’ defensive line. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle has to be accounted for on every single play, commanding regular double teams from opposing offenses. The 6’7” behemoth has ascended to one of the best in the league at his position.

But believe it or not, 2022 could be the best season yet for Buckner in a Colts uniform. With the addition of Yannick Ngakoue at defensive end and the expected jump from second-year pass rusher Kwity Paye, more attention will need to be directed to both of these players on the edge. Buckner could see many more one-on-one matchups this season than in years past, where he is sure to take advantage.

With the extra help on the outside, Buckner has a good chance of becoming the game-wrecker he was in 2020 which led to his First-Team All-Pro selection.

Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Grover Stewart (90) celebrates after a stop Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022, during a game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Grover Stewart

2021 Stats: 46 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 5 QB hits

There is an argument to be made that Stewart is one of the most underrated players on the Colts. In fact, Big Grove could even be one of the most underrated players in the entire NFL.

Stewart was drafted by the Colts in the fourth round of the 2017 draft out of Division II Albany State. After starting his career as a backup, Stewart quickly found himself in the starting lineup and has worked to improve every season. It led to a three-year, $30.75 million extension in 2020 that has been worth every penny.

Fast-forward to 2022, and Stewart is now one of the best nose tackles in the league. While his stats may not jump off the page, the 6’4”, 315-pound Stewart is a key cog in the middle of the Colts’ defense. He is one of the Colts’ best run defenders, routinely bringing down ball carriers for minimal gains.

Stewart combines with Buckner to form one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the league. This statement looks to be the case not only this season but for years to come.

Sep 4, 2021; Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA; Missouri State Bears defensive lineman Eric Johnson (93) and defensive end Kevin Ellis (right) and defensive end Jalen Williams (95) tackle Oklahoma State Cowboys running back LD Brown (0) during the third quarter at Boone Pickens Stadium. Oklahoma State Cowboys beat Missouri State Bears 23-16. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Johnson

2021 Stats (college): 43 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks

Behind Buckner and Stewart, the Colts saw an influx of youth at the defensive tackle position this offseason. One of the young players looking to make an impact early is Johnson.

Johnson was selected by the Colts in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Missouri State. Including his redshirt freshman season, Johnson was at Missouri State for six years and played in 55 consecutive games. While Johnson earned Second-Team All-MVFC honors his last two seasons, he generated most of his buzz at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl and Senior Bowl during the pre-draft process. The Colts are notoriously known for taking players that have impressed at the Senior Bowl.

Johnson has a great first step and uses his length to engage blockers early. His explosiveness stands out on film, and while he is still raw in his technique, the Colts feel like he can be molded into a solid contributor. While Johnson has experience playing all along the defensive line, his size and playing style best suit the three-technique in the Colts defense, backing up and learning behind Buckner.

Cincinnati Bearcats defensive lineman Curtis Brooks (92) celebrates after sacking Southern Methodist Mustangs quarterback Tanner Mordecai (8) on 3rd down in the first half of the NCAA football game between the Cincinnati Bearcats and the Southern Methodist Mustangs on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati. Syndication The Enquirer

Curtis Brooks

2021 Stats (college): 56 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks

If you are looking for someone to be a leader and bring fire to your defensive line group, look no further than Brooks.

The Colts took Brooks in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft this spring out of Cincinnati. Like his fellow rookie Johnson, Brooks also spent six years playing college ball and consistently improved each year. By his senior year, Brooks had developed into a team captain and earned First-Team All-AAC honors as he helped lead the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff.

Brooks also has position versatility along the defensive line with the ability to play both the three-technique and nose tackle. He has a quick first step and the explosiveness the Colts want their defensive linemen to have. Brooks also comes to the Colts with a chip on his shoulder after falling to the sixth round.

Brooks will be fun to watch in camp as he will likely be the backup nose tackle behind Stewart. However, he will try to create a role for himself and fight for playing time.

Best of the Rest

While there is still one veteran left in the group, the rest of the defensive tackle unit continues to be full of youth.

The lone other veteran in the group is R.J. McIntosh. McIntosh was signed by the Colts as a free agent this spring after spending the 2021 season on the Green Bay Packers practice squad. While he has been in the NFL the past four seasons, McIntosh has not seen game action since the 2019 season with the New York Giants. He is hoping to make an impression and stay on the active roster this season.

The two other rookies in this group were signed as undrafted free agents, but have different stories. Caeveon Patton was signed after the 2022 NFL Draft from Texas State where he tallied 51 tackles, four tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks in 2021. Chris Williams was signed after the 2020 NFL Draft from Wagner but has still not played in an NFL game. Williams’s last season at Wagner saw him rack up 62 tackles. 11.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, and three forced fumbles.

It will be an uphill battle for any of these three to make the active roster at the end of the preseason. However, there could be practice squad spots available to those who impress during camp.

Other Colts Depth Chart Previews

Have thoughts on the Colts' DT depth chart heading into the 2022 season? Let us know in the comments section below!

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