For years the Indianapolis Colts were known as a laughing stock when it came to stopping the run. Even last year the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots both were able to run all over the Colts in the playoffs. Run defense starts and ends with the defensive line and winning the battle along the line of scrimmage. There has to be gap responsibility and the line has to play with leverage in order to be effective against the run.
Well, this year that reputation is going to change thanks to some new faces and some development along the defensive line. Let’s start with third-year nose tackle Josh Chapman. Chapman was the anchor for a dominant Alabama team that was recognized as one of the best defenses ever to play back in 2012. He played with a torn ACL and that forced him to use his rookie season as a red shirt year. In Chapman’s second year, the Colts brought him along slowly and allowed him to get adjusted to the speed of the game. This year, he should take a big step forward and give the Colts a presence in the middle of the defense. He has shown that he can control two gaps along the defensive line, which is a big part of the Colts 3-4 scheme.
A new addition to the defensive line is Arthur Jones who came over from the Baltimore Ravens. Jones played one year under Chuck Pagano, so he is familiar with the system. Jones got better each year against the run and he is looked to continue that strong play with the Colts. He could play one of the ends in the 3-4 scheme and give the Colts a little bit of a pass rush on passing downs. But make no mistake about it, he is going to make his living on stopping the run.
Finally, there is the strong veteran Cory Redding. Redding was the Colts’ strongest defensive lineman against the run the past two years and, although he is getting up there in age, he makes up for it in being a smart player. You won’t see Redding jump and blow his gap assignment just to make a play because that could lead to a big play. He is a perfect fit within the system and doesn’t put the defense in bad situations.
The depth is also better in years past, with Ricky Jean Francois and Montori Hughes providing quality play when called upon. As long as the Colts don’t ask them to play a lot of minutes, they will be a perfect complement to the starting defensive line.
The defensive line does not get a lot of attention in football games because they wont make the flashy play. But when they do their jobs, it allows other players like Robert Mathis and Bjoern Werner to play well. When three players can control four gaps, that puts one of the rushing ends in a one-on-one position to get to the quarterback. When they stop the run, it allows for third-and-longs and the Colts pass rushers can pin their ears back and rush the quarterback. The Colts defensive line will probably be overlooked this year, but their impact will be felt.