A slow start to his career in Indianapolis raised some concerns for 2021 first-round draft pick Kwity Paye, especially after he was inactive due to a hamstring injury for two weeks early in the year.
Once he got his legs underneath him though, Paye went on a tear down the stretch, recording all four of his sacks in 2021 after Week 10, including a three-week stretch from Week 10-12 that saw him record a sack in each game.
Now, after closing the season on a high note against the run and as a pass rusher, Paye is in line for a breakout season in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus's Kambui Bomani, who listed Paye as one of six AFC breakout candidates Thursday.
"Paye registered a 77.5 pass-rushing grade in true pass sets last year, a top-35 mark among all pass-rushers. He also recorded a 20% win rate while totaling 20 hurries, three hits and four sacks on those reps — all in his first NFL season," Bomani writes. "Paye’s pass-rushing grade was the highest of all Colts edge rushers, and he racked up the second-most pressures on the team (39). With the pre-draft addition of Yannick Ngakoue into the fold, Paye’s numbers could increase this year with a bookend edge rusher on the opposite side.
"Paye’s rookie impact went under the radar because he didn’t have the sack numbers of a Micah Parsons," Bomani added. "However, he has the potential to build upon that in 2022, and a change in scheme with added reinforcements can elevate him into a prime AFC breakout candidate."
While the overall raw numbers weren't there entirely for Paye, a deeper dive revealed just how impactful he was as a rookie, highlighted by his 39 pressures, which was second on the team in 2021 as Bomani points out.
Eventually, those pressures turn into sacks, and with the addition of Yannick Ngakoue opposite him on the Colts' defensive line, Paye could be in line for a number of one-on-one pass rush reps, which should be a huge boon for him in his second season.
It'll be interesting to see the Year 2 improvements on the field in training camp from Paye, who was a rather raw defensive end coming out of Michigan who was known more for his relentless motor than his actual pass rushing chops.
In a new, attacking defense under first-year coordinator Gus Bradley, Paye should see a significant jump in his overall pressures and sack numbers, assuming he's able to stay healthy for all 17 games in his second season.
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