Colts Second-Year Defender ‘Ready to Ascent to Star Status,’ Writes NFL Analyst

Frank Reich

Getty A second-year defender for Frank Reich and the Indianapolis Colts could potential grow into a star during the 2022 season.

The Indianapolis Colts acquired edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue from the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason to bolster their pass rush. But for the Colts to place truly elite pressure on quarterbacks this season, they will need more from 2021 first-round pick Kwity Paye.

NFL analyst Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report predicts that will happen for Indianapolis. Sobleski included Paye on a list of eight second-year NFL players “ready to ascent to star status” during the 2022 season.

“Two significant factors should play into a leap in production and improvement as a sophomore,” wrote Sobleski about Paye.

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Impact the Arrival of Yannick Ngakoue Should Have on Kwity Paye

The first reason Sobleski argued Paye has the potential to grow into a star this season was due to the arrival of “one of the league’s most consistent edge-rushers” in Ngakoue.

With 55 career sacks, Ngakoue should make the Colts pass rusher significantly better. He’s posted at least 8.0 sacks in all six of his NFL seasons. Ngakoue made the Pro Bowl with a career-high 12 sacks during 2017.

Last year, the Colts didn’t have a single defender reach 8.0 sacks.

Ngakoue should elevate the team’s sack totals, but his presence will also allow other rushers such as Paye opportunities against single blockers. That’s something Payne was not afforded much of in 2021.

“Last season, the Colts lacked a viable bookend to the rookie,” Sobleski wrote. “Al-Quadin Muhammad and Kemoko Turay both flashed throughout their careers, but Ngakoue presents a significant upgrade.”

NFL writer Kambui Bomani of Pro Football Focus agrees with Sobleski. Bomani included Paye on a list of six potential breakout candidates for the 2022 NFL season on May 26.

Longer Offseason to Mentally Prepare for Second NFL Season

So many rookies immediately impact their teams in a large way that there’s an expectation in the NFL that all good players have to play well right away. If not, then they’re busts.

But in reality, sometimes it takes time to develop. The first NFL season for rookies can be really long and grueling, especially with overseas trips and a 17-game slate in the modern league. The rest following that first season and then going through a full offseason as a professional is where a lot of players make the most strides in their development.

“Paye, like most rookies, had a year to figure things out after being run down by the entire process,” wrote Sobleski.

The NFL analyst is referring to Paye admitting to being worn down during his first season with the Colts.

“People don’t realize, but it’s long,” Paye told Colts Insider Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. “You’re coming off the college season, and then straight off of there, you’re into Combine prep, and then straight after that, it’s rookie minicamp, and then OTAs, and then you’ve got to stay prepared because in a couple of weeks you go into camp. There’s not really any offseason for a rookie.

“I felt like being locked in mentally for that long (18 weeks) is what got me in the end.”

Paye posted 4.0 sacks, 32 combined tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hits and 1 pass defense in 15 games last season. With Ngakoue to help and a year of experience in the NFL, Sobleski is anticipating Paye recording a much better stat line in 2022.

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