Colts DE Laiatu Latu focused on continuing to build pass rush repertoire

Minicamp and OTAs over the last three weeks provided Colts’ first-round pick Laiatu Latu with his first taste of NFL competition, where his big focus heading into training camp will be on countering the offensive line’s counters.

“It’s really just knowing those counters off of my finesse moves,” said Latu during minicamp, “and really just knowing how to read blocks, how to work the techniques that I’ve been learning in the room and trying to apply it on the field in certain situations. That’s kind of where I’ve been at.”

Against NFL competition, particularly a Colts’ offensive line unit that is returning all five starters from a unit in 2023 that ranked top-10 in yards per rush and pressure rate, winning solely with speed or power on a given play isn’t always going to work.

And in those instances where the initial pass rush move doesn’t work, the pass rusher needs to have a counter move or two in their repertoire that they can lean on, so they aren’t instantly taken out of the play.

“At times, moves will work crisp out here,” added Latu, “but there’s times where I feel like it works crisp, but they’re still latched on to me. Now I’ve got to figure out a way where I can use their momentum or use my momentum to shift their hands off of me or try to reduce some type of surface level on my body.

“So I’ve just been in the flim room trying to watch how to beat certain tackles off of certain sets because everyone is talented out here. Everyone’s so good from the top down. It’s just a blessing that I get to go up against them every day.”

Latu comes to the NFL after two highly productive seasons at UCLA, totaling over 60 pressures and double-digit sacks each year. Latu ranked top-five in total pressures during both the 2022 and 2023 seasons and was first in pass rush win rate this past year.

Following the draft, GM Chris Ballard did mention that there would be an adjustment period for Latu, as is the case for any rookie pass rusher. However, Ballard also noted Latu’s already “polished” pass-rush repertoire and his intelligence will help him navigate that learning curve relatively quickly, allowing him to make a fairly quick impact.

Also contributing to Latu’s growth as a pass rusher is the experienced defensive end room he’s now a part of. Latu noted how valuable it’s been to share the meeting room and practice field with Kwity Paye, Samson Ebukam, and Dayo Odeyingbo, all of whom eclipsed the 8.0 sack mark last season.

“I don’t think I need to be patient,” said Latu. “I’m definitely taking each day at a time, but it definitely helps that I get to be training with Kwity, Sosa, and Dayo over this offseason, bettering ourselves so we can flow on the field, and individually, we are getting better as well.”

The Colts have invested heavily into their defensive front this offseason, which includes spending their first-round pick on Latu. Ballard has never shied away from letting it be known that depth along the defensive line was going to be a key part of the defense’s success, and the Colts have built a hockey-like rotation that should be one of the most disruptive fronts in football.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire