The Indianapolis Colts have begun press conferences now that off-season workouts are underway and the NFL draft is approaching.
Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley spoke to the media on April 19 and revealed that top 2022 pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue will not return to the team. Ngakoue entered free agency earlier this off-season.
“We lost Yannick Ngakoue,” Bradley said during his April 19 presser. “He was a tremendous player for us. That’s the NFL. There are some times you bring new guys in, and they got to step up, and every year is different with the team.”
The Athletic’s Zak Keefer noted that the Colts signing a different veteran defensive end in Samson Ebukam earlier this off-season indicated that this move was likely to happen.
Related or not to Bradley confirming his departure, Ngakoue tweeted a video of him showing off his footwork in ladder drills on April 20.
Ngakoue only had a one-year stint with the Colts, notching 29 tackles with 9.5 sacks, 16 quarterback hits and a forced fumble. Ngakoue was named a Pro Bowl alternate because of his strong 2022 season.
Kenny Moore II Hopes to Improve in 2023
Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II garnered Pro Bowl honors after the 2021 season but struggled throughout last year. He put up just 65 total tackles (102 in 2021) and didn’t force any turnovers after doing so five times the previous season.
It is, however, noteworthy to include that Moore was out five games and had a stint on injured reserve before the final week of the regular season (January 4).
Bradley said he took notice of Moore II’s frustrations last season and is hoping to put him in a better position to succeed this time around.
“I know he was frustrated with the production overall: the interceptions, the caused fumbles when he was playing,” Bradley said during his presser. ”Sometimes, it (frustration) appears just because of the takeaways and things like that. He’s right, and so that’s why we’ve got to do a good job of giving these guys a good chance of being around the ball.”
Bradley joined the Colts last off-season and implemented a brand-new Cover 3-based defense — something Moore II was not as familiar with. Because Moore II has played a full year under that scheme, Bradley said he could take a step forward in 2023.
“I think the big part of it is we have a better feel for the players and hopefully the players have a better feel for us as coaches,” Bradley said of Moore II during his presser. “He’s come in the off-season visiting, talking about the next step for him, the next step for where we want to go as a defense and he’s been tremendous.”
Gus Bradley Addresses Nick Cross’ Development
Colts safety Nick Cross was in the starting lineup for the first two games of 2022 but lost his spot to Rodney McLeod, who finished out the year as the starter.
Bradley said the reason for Cross moving down the depth chart was because he wasn’t playing up to game speed.
“Now, it’s just playing fast on the field — that part we didn’t see at the beginning of the year (in 2022),” Bradley said during his presser. “Felt like he was thinking a lot, his conversation was more about doing things right rather than just reacting and it slowed him down some.”
Despite the 2022 third-round pick out of Maryland moving to a backup role, Cross still made 17 total tackles and a fumble recovery.
The second-year Colts coordinator said McLeod’s ability to communicate ultimately weighed heavily in Cross’ benching.
“I think Rodney was just a good communicator and I think it just brought a sense of calm to guys back there because of that communication,” Bradley said. “That’s the part that held Nick back.”
But McLeod is now a free agent, and it is unclear if he will re-sign. With that in mind, The Indianapolis Star’s Nate Atkins tweeted that Cross has a chance to become a starter yet again.
Bradley said he’s looking forward to seeing if Cross can improve in year No. 2 in his secondary — similarly to Moore II.
“That second year – the jump that he can make – he is extremely talented,” Bradley said. “It would be great for him to take the next step for us.”