If there is any time to have a short week in the NFL, it’s when coming off a devastating loss.
This is exactly what the Indianapolis Colts are getting, as they try to put the gut-wrenching defeat by the Baltimore Ravens behind them.
The Colts, sitting at 1-4, will be taking on the Houston Texans at Lucas Oil Stadium this week. The Texans also sit at 1-4, tied with the Colts for second in the AFC South. The Colts know how important it is to bounce back and get the win over a divisional opponent.
It’s no secret that the Colts’ defense has not been up to par this season. No matter how you look at it, the defensive side of the ball deserves the bulk of the blame for the collapse against the Ravens.
One of the reasons for this was the lack of a pass rush. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson had all day to throw, particularly in the fourth quarter when the Ravens made their comeback. For a defense that relies on getting pressure with their front-four defenders, it was a disaster.
The Colts’ pass rush has been abysmal so far in 2021. If the team and this defense want to turn things around, it starts up front. The leader of that group, and the player who must play like the All-Pro he is, is DeForest Buckner.
Buckner’s performance to start the season has not been what we expected. He has only tallied one sack, five QB hits, and 23 tackles in the first five games. This is a player that generated 9.5 sacks and 26 QB hits a year ago.
One of the reasons for this is the amount of attention Buckner has been garnering. The All-Pro has faced double and triple teams at times this season as the defensive linemen around him have failed to take the pressure off.
“At times in certain games, definitely,” Buckner said when asked if he noticed the extra attention. “Sometimes the running back coming through the B-gap chipping, or games like Miami where there was times I was getting triple teamed and little things like that. It’s just things that I have to get past and figure out ways to win and also try to find a good flow in the pass-rushing situations.”
While Buckner has faced more attention this year, the film has revealed he hasn’t been as dominant even when going one-on-one with an offensive lineman. When he does get a one-on-one opportunity, he must take advantage, playing faster and relying on his instincts.
“Sometimes I go through it at some points throughout the season where I’m maybe just thinking too much or things like that,” Buckner admitted. “Eventually, I get it started. I feel like this week could be a great week to start that.”
With Buckner getting off to a slow start this season, there’s no better week to turn it around than against Houston. Buckner was a monster last year against the Texans, registering five sacks, seven QB hits, and seven tackles in two games. He has a chance to continue that high level of production on Sunday.
“I think it’s both – scheme, matchup, both of what you just said,” Buckner told reporters Wednesday. “Going into the game, definitely – I haven’t been playing to where I want to be playing on a personal level. I feel like this is one of the games I could get it started.”
Another plus to playing the Texans this week is the health of their offensive line. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil (thumb) and right tackle Marcus Cannon (knee) will both be out on Sunday, and center Justin Britt (knee) missed practice on Wednesday. A banged-up offensive line means plenty of opportunities for Buckner and the Colts’ pass rush to get back on track.
It also helps that Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will not be playing either, as he and the Texans have agreed to sit the quarterback while he handles various legal matters and the team looks for a trade partner. Rookie Davis Mills will be taking the snaps at quarterback for Houston, coming off a 312-yard, three-touchdown performance against the New England Patriots.
All of these factors seem to give the Colts pass rush the advantage this week. For Buckner and the rest of the Colts defensive linemen, it’s the perfect opportunity to bounce back and turn their season around.
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