Chuck Pagano pleased with progress on Colts’ D-line
Barnett is one of the more natural pass rushers we have in this draft class. He’s not explosive in testing, but you see him win with speed and he can really bend around the edge.
Kamara can be an electric playmaker out of the backfield for Andrew Luck. He has the speed to take it the distance in the running game and is also a crafty route runner with strong hands.
With Moncrief out of the lineup, the Colts signed former Cowboys draft pick Devin Street off the Patriots’ practice squad. Street will likely vie with Quan Bray and undrafted rookie Chester Rogers for snaps behind Hilton and Dorsett.
Luck was the best quarterback we saw in Week 1. He regressed in Denver last week, though, with Moncrief sidelined, Hilton and Dorsett unable to shake free of physical coverage and the offensive line overwhelmed by a superior Broncos front seven.
Luck really does seem to be in good spirits. Despite not being able to participate in any offseason training activities or mandatory minicamp practices, both the quarterback and the organization have maintained a pretty incredible atmosphere of calm throughout the process. Luck’s shoulder is by far the most underrated storyline of the season given that we still aren’t 100 percent sure when he’ll return to the playing field. Owner Jim Irsay said the season opener is in play, though that would mean seeing progress quite soon.
Much like Drew Brees in New Orleans, the Colts derive almost their entire identity from the quarterback position. New general manager Chris Ballard is trying to change that by bolstering Indianapolis’ defense, but in the meantime, Indianapolis could use some good news soon regarding Luck’s shoulder.
And on paper, he’s right — this is probably the best defensive line and defense as a whole that Pagano has had since at least 2013. Hankins adds a different element in the middle than Pagano might have ever had. General manager Chris Ballard also attacked the second and third tiers of free agency to complement those players with capable pass rushers.
It adds an interesting dynamic for the head coach this year. For the first time in almost five years, something is expected of a defense that is getting a heavy facelift. For years, Pagano could eschew blame by subtly pointing at what many believed was an underperforming offensive line assembled by former general manager Ryan Grigson. Malik Hooker is the only defensive first-round pick on the roster, though Ballard spent picks in the first, second (Quincy Wilson), third (Basham), fourth (Grover Stewart) and fifth (Anthony Walker) rounds on defense this year.
At just over 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, Mack offers the size, speed and explosiveness to push for playing time immediately.
NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks recently suggested Mack is the best candidate in this year’s class to follow in Bears power back Jordan Howard’s footsteps as the late-round pick who will outperform his draft slot as an instant-impact rookie.
At 6-foot-2, Aiken is a solid route runner with good hands and decent enough speed to gain separation. He also comes with the versatility to play in multiple spots in the formation. In his breakout 2015 campaign, Aiken lined up 78 percent of his snaps out wide and 18 percent in the slot, per Next Gen Stats. Last season, with the Ravens adding outside receivers, Aiken shuffled inside, spending 70 percent of his snaps in the slot and 26 percent wide.
Aiken joins a Colts receiver corps led by star T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and former first-round pick Phillip Dorsett. Despite the trio in place, Aiken adds size to a mostly small unit. He should battle a disappointing Dorsett for playing time and adds needed depth to a unit shown to be wicked shallow after injuries struck last season.