The Indianapolis Colts may have a breakout player on the defensive front.
Τhe Colts are coming off of a season in which their defense broke the Indianapolis era record for sacks in a single season with 51, putting up their most prolific season in nearly two decades.
They were also the lone team in the NFL to have four or more defenders with seven or more sacks: Samson Ebukam (9.5), Kwity Paye (8.5), Dayo Odeyingbo (8.0), and DeForest Buckner (8.0).
All of those players are either well-established playmakers or have a bright future. However, the three-year pro out of Vanderbilt, Odeyingbo, may be on his way to a breakout season in 2024.
Here are three reasons why it could happen.
The Charlie Partridge Hiring
Recently, the Colts decided to move on from previous defensive line coach Nate Ollie in favor of Charlie Partridge.
Partridge coached at the University of Pittsburgh for the Panthers and was as efficient as it came to the defensive trenches.
Zach Hicks of the Horseshoe Huddle had a breakdown of the magnitude of this hiring in his “Colts Make Massive Hire That Could Unleash Defensive Line Group” piece.
“Partridge’s defensive front has finished top three in sacks in each of the past four seasons,” Hicks wrote. “Pitt has also been fantastic in run defense over the past five seasons, finishing top 10 in the country in average yards per carry in three of those years.”
For Odeyingbo, this is a paramount hiring.
Yes, the others on the front will benefit from Partridge’s approach, but Odeyingbo may be the most imposing physical presence outside of Buckner from a pass-rushing standpoint.
Odeyingbo stands around 6’6″ and weighs approximately 290 pounds. He utilizes this size to out-muscle and knocks offensive linemen off their stance with explosive movements.
Odeyingbo showcased raw efficiency at pass-rushing in 2023, posting a solid 68.2 grade, per Pro Football Focus. He also applied 29 pressures and recorded a career-best in sacks. While Odeyingbo needs to improve against the run (49.1 grade), Partridge’s aggressive coaching style and decades of experience can help clear this up.
Odeyingbo can get better all-around under Partridge. If the potential hits he could become a massive issue for any lineman that stacks up against him.
He’s Improved Every Year
Odeyingbo was picked in Round 2 (54th overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft. Immediately, Indy had aspirations to pair him with the first-round selection, Paye. Sadly, an achilles injury suffered before the draft took away much of Odeyingbo’s rookie campaign.
He returned to play in 2022 with question marks all over if his injury would hamper the on-field performance of the former Vanderbilt Commodore. However, Odeyingbo had 5.0 sacks in four starts and played all 17 games. He also tacked on 31 tackles (5 for loss) and played great in the second half of a bad season for the Colts.
In Odeyingbo’s third NFL season (2023), he had the best season of his short career.
The 8.0 sacks were impressive, but Odeyingbo also set career bests in tackles (38), tackles for loss (9), fumbles forced (2), and quarterback hits (17).
With the previously mentioned Partridge hire and Odeyingbo’s upward trajectory, he might overshoot 10.0 sacks and become an overlooked key piece of the Colts’ defense in 2024 and beyond.
The Talent on Indy’s Defensive Front
The Colts finished fifth in the NFL in sacks, but they’ll still likely need either a free agent signing or a draft pick to continue building weapons in the trenches. Those two situations are still a ways off, but at this moment, the Colts have plenty of talent on the roster to help Odeyingbo erupt.
Buckner, Paye, and Ebukam are assets, but so is current free-agent defensive tackle Grover Stewart. While Stewart needs a new contract, and it’s technically up in the air, Indy would be wise to retain him regardless of the market value of an interior defender.
Along with Stewart’s ability to smash gaps and stop running lanes, depth rushers like veteran Tyquan Lewis also provide important play. Lewis, also a free agent, applied a fantastic 44 quarterback pressures, recorded 4.0 sacks, and is a constant motor that causes chaos in offensive backfields.
Indy needs to spend money to retain Stewart and Lewis, but it won’t break the bank to have both return.
If the Colts make these moves and add talent, Odeyingbo will only have more chances to thrive in Indianapolis.