Heading into the 2022 NFL season, the expectation is that defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will be the new top edge rusher for the Indianapolis Colts. After all, he’s recorded more sacks (8.0) in each of his six NFL seasons than any Colts defender posted last year (7.0).
But there’s one other edge defender that shouldn’t be forgotten about in Indianapolis. Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said as much when talking about 2021 first-round pick Kwity Paye.
“I believe with Kwity, a guy the way he goes, he can be the guy,” Bradley told the media on August 16. “But I think also because of the second effort, it’s going to give him some opportunities.”
Paye started slowly as a rookie, but he eventually carved out a significant role by Week 7. He posted 32 combined tackles, including 3 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hits and 4.0 sacks in his first NFL season.
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Paye’s Second Effort Making the Difference
Bradley was pretty complimentary of Paye while speaking to reporters on August 16. He called the 23-year-old “very physical” and “tough-minded.” Bradley also added that he trusts Paye.
Interestingly, Bradley concluded that all of those positive traits stem from his best asset — his effort.
“He’s got a good skillset in there and because of his effort, a lot of his sacks come on [the] second effort,” said Bradley.
The defensive coordinator says the percentage of sacks that come from second effort are “real high,” in the NFL. But with quarterbacks such as Jalen Hurts, Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson on the 2022 schedule for Indianapolis, Paye’s second effort will be even more important.
“Some of the [quarterbacks] we are going to face this year have that ability to extend plays,” Bradley said. “That’s where the second effort part comes in.”
High Expectations for Paye
Bradley is hardly the only one to have noticed Paye’s effort.
“The cool thing about Kwity is he’s a real high-motor guy,” an NFL executive told Heavy senior NFL reporter Matt Lombardo. “No one really is talking about him, but if he can play all 17 games, there’s no reason he can’t reach the high teens in sacks.”
The NFL front-office executives, scouts and coaches that Lombardo spoke to told him that Paye is due for a breakout season. That’s why Lombardo listed Paye among his top six players with the best chance of having a breakout season this fall.
“There’s a belief that the former Michigan standout who logged a 4.57 40-yard dash and ran a freakish 6.37-second unofficial three-cone drill, could be on the cusp of becoming one of the game’s premier pass rushers,” wrote Lombardo.
Paye may have only had 4.0 sacks last season, but according to Pro Football Focus, he posted a 15.1% pass-rush win rate. That was third-highest among rookie defenders in 2021.
That analytic statistic and the single blocking he could see are why Paye could be in for a much bigger 2022 campaign.
With Ngakoue and DeForest Buckner along the same defensive line, Paye probably won’t see many double blocking assignments. Opposing offensive lines will probably prioritize stopping Ngakoue and Buckner, giving Paye chances to break down the pocket by beating only one offensive lineman.
If that happens routinely, though, don’t be surprised if opposing teams reconsider who’s “the guy” to block first.