The Indianapolis Colts pass rush has gone badly this season. Heading into Week Nine’s game against the New York Jets, the team placed last in produced quarterback hits and ranked among the worst teams in pressure percentage.
The past two weeks have been a whole different story as the team ramps up the pressure on opposing quarterbacks. While this happened against two bottom locals of the Jacksonville Jets and Jaguars, it’s nice to finally see this pass rush intensify.
The two main factors in this turnaround were the emergence of rookie Kwity Paye and the sudden escape of 26-year-old Taylor Stallworth. Focusing only on Stallworth in this play, his play has been remarkable lately.
In 840 career shots before the past two weeks, he’s totaled three sacks and two quarterback hits. In the 55 snaps he’s played since Week 9, he’s totaled three sacks and four quarterback hits. This sudden emergence led to more playing time for the veteran.
Is this escape really happening? In today’s movie theater, I dive into Stallworth’s room and decipher if his play deserves all the praise he’s received.
Jets escape game
The game of the Jets is at the origin of this madness with Stallworth. He was all over the field in this one and wreaked havoc as a rusher.
He started the day with a sack in the first quarter. There is nothing very special about this game because it is a good stopping point with the defensive line. Stallworth does a good job working the field during the run and locating the quarterback for the sack.
While the first game wasn’t very impressive, every other snap he played in that game was. His sack in the fourth quarter of the game could be the best rush of the year by a Colts player.
He begins the game aligned in the gap ‘A’ between the right guard and the center. He was passed to start the rehearsal, but the right guard was quickly released to help the right tackle. This leaves Stallaworth face to face with the center.
He strikes a powerful two-handed blow that sends the cross to the ground. He then turns the corner of the field and gets a huge bag. Just an exceptional and revealing rush on the play.
The rest of the game was more or less the same, but they ran into a better player. In those next two clips, Stallworth was lined up against first-round pick Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Vera-Tucker is having a solid season for the Jets, but you wouldn’t know from those two clips. On the first play, Stalloworth defeats Vera-Tucker with a nasty push-pull. He pushes forward on the bull rush before quickly pulling Vera-Tucker out of the way en route to another quarterback shot.
On the second clip, Stallworth gets Vera-Tucker in with an impressive sledgehammer. He makes a slight head feint before pushing Vera-Tucker’s hands away and back up the field. The wide range of moves on his part in that one game was truly impressive considering how little he rushed the passer in his career.
Continuation of the game against the Jaguars
Due to his standout play against the Jets, Stallworth has seen even more clichés when passing situations against the Jaguars. While he hasn’t been so dominant in this game, he has had a few extra flashes of strong play.
Stallworth is once again working on a stunt in this first clip. He quickly gets inside and makes his way through the field. He doesn’t give up on the race despite the traffic jams and is able to break free late to get the quarterback’s hit.
This final clip is not a pass snap rush, but it’s a super impressive run stoppage where he beats his man cleanly from the snap.
The Jaguars perform a simple trap game inside and Stallworth blows it up right off the bat. He swims quickly past his potential tackle and meets the running back in the hole for a loss on the play. It’s an incredibly fast move that looked a lot like Grover Stewart in this shot.
Maybe I desperately hope so, but I kind of buy into the Stallworth break-up. His rushes have been clear wins up front and he’s making a positive impact as a passer. I’m not going to say he’s becoming a legitimate star or anything, but he seems to be emerging as a solid player rushing for the passes.
Here’s what defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus had to say about Stallworth’s recent emergence:
I see him dancing during the stretches and everything, so I know he’s athletic and he’s light on his feet (laughs). So he knew he could do it. But no, he’s done some good things in our one-on-one passing race over the years we’ve had him in practice. He’s definitely a guy who was able to do this during these exercises. We’re excited where he is. It gives us another new element in there and we’re excited to keep it going. The more guys there are on the bridge in terms of manpower on the bridge in terms of the pass rush, and we’re excited where he is. He has good pressures, a few bags and we continue.
Overall, I’ve been more impressed with Stallworth over the past two weeks than any other defensive lineman on this team this year (apart from Kwity Paye). Hopefully he continues to take advantage of his chances and become a constant passer for this team.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ ZachHicks2.