Colts continue heavy investment into defensive front by selecting Laiatu Latu

This offseason, there have been two clear points of emphasis for the Colts. The first was that they prioritized re-signing their own players over making outside additions. The second was bolstering their defensive front, and not only for 2024 but for 2025 and beyond.

In the last few months, we’ve seen the Colts re-sign Grover Stewart to a three-year deal. They also added Raekwon Davis as an outside free agent on a two-year contract and extended DeForest Buckner through the 2026 season.

Then, in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Colts further bolstered their pass rush by selecting UCLA’s Laiatu Latu.

“I think our defensive front is the best since we’ve been here. It’s excellent. It’s excellent, and we’re really excited about it.”

Buckner has been one of the best, most well-rounded interior defenders for several seasons now. Stewart’s presence was greatly missed in the run game last season when the Colts were without him. To put it simply, this was a completely different run defense unit when he was on the field versus off.

That is where the addition of Davis comes into play to help beef up the interior defensive line rotation during obvious running downs or when Stewart isn’t on the field.

Latu will be tasked with adding more consistency to the Colts’ pass rush overall. Although this is a defense that set a franchise record in sacks in 2023  and totaled the fifth-most in football, they did not get after the quarterback regularly, ranking 23rd in pressures. From a sustainability standpoint, if the Colts are going to duplicate that sack production in 2024, they’ll have to generate pressure more consistently.

Latu has been one of the most disruptive pass rushers in college football in the last two seasons. In 2023, he ranked first in pass rush win rate and fifth in total pressures.

Success for any defensive unit begins with the play in the trenches. For a Colts’ defense that still has some question marks in the secondary, the defensive front’s ability to stop the run and get after the quarterback can benefit the defensive backs greatly.

When a front is able to limit the run game, it puts the offense in long down-and-distance situations, where the pass rush can pin its ears back, and the defensive backs have the advantage from a coverage standpoint. It’s these instances that can lead to turnover opportunities as well.

And, of course, we all know that the name of the game in today’s NFL is pressuring the quarterback. Without that element, most offenses will pick defenses apart.

The fastest and most effective way to disrupt any offensive play, whether it’s a run or a pass, is with a quick push up the middle and from the defensive front. When that is taking place, there isn’t a position group on the field that doesn’t benefit.

Soon, the Colts will have to make a decision on whether or not they will pick up Kwity Paye’s fifth-year option for the 2025 season. This is another potential move that could again showcase the Colts’ willingness to solidify this unit.

“Our stable up front, it’s good,” said Ballard. “We’re really good up front.”

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire