New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Indianapolis Colts

The New York Jets’ lone scheduled prime time game for the 2021 season comes in Thursday night fashion against Indianapolis.

The Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
The Date:
Week 8, November 4, 8:20 p.m. ET, Fox/NFL Network (@ IND)
The Series: 
Colts lead 43-32 (last meeting: 2020, 36-7 IND)

Much like the original cast of another metropolitan staple, Saturday Night Live, the modern New York Jets could well be described as “Not Ready for Prime Time Players”.

The Jets’ only prime time game of the 2021 season (discounting a morning game against Atlanta in London) is a Thursday night contest against the Indianapolis Colts. Former division rivals will square off for the second straight season: the Jets will be seeking revenge for a 36-7 shellacking they endured at Lucas Oil Stadium, one that showed how far they had fallen since the 2018 trade that put Sam Darnold on a green path.

Both the Jets and Colts have made changes at quarterback since last season’s showdown: no trade was necessary for the Jets to choose Sam Wilson second overall in April while the Colts have opted for another veteran in Carson Wentz after Phillip Rivers’ retirement.

The Skinny On the Colts

The Colts have managed to make the most out of meandering in franchise quarterback purgatory after Andrew Luck’s infamous abrupt retirement. That’s been made possible by a reliable offensive line anchored by Quinton Nelson, one that has protected its stopgap throwers like Rivers and Jacoby Brissett. Running back Jonathan Taylor has likewise flourished, as the rookie broke through for 1,169 yards last season. A fearsome defense is headline by three-time All-Pro Darius Leonard.

Indianapolis has built its consistency through the draft, an endeavor that partly started through its fateful deal with the Jets. The picks sent to the Colts eventually yielded horseshoes for several vital contributors, including primary blockers Nelson and Braden Smith, defenders Kemoko Turay and Rock Ya-Sin. Rusher Jordan Wilkins, the final portion, has also proven to be a reliable depth option, working with Taylor, Nyheim Hines, and Marlon Mack (who missed nearly all of last season with a torn Achilles).

Eight Indianapolis starters have been acquired over the last three drafts prior to 2021. At least one more should be added to that tally with Michigan pass rusher Kwity Paye arriving at 21st overall last spring. NFL agents recently named Colts general manager Chris Ballard the best talent evaluator and in a poll conducted by Ben Standig of The Athletic. Both Ballard and head coach Frank Reich were recently granted contract extensions that will keep them in Indianapolis through the 2026 season, high honors for the first-time GM and lead headset man.

Colts owner and CEO Jim Irsay was proud to keep continuity in Indianapolis in addition to the sense of consistent stability that could’ve been lost in the wake of Luck’s franchise-altering departure.

“When you bring in two people like Frank and Chris who had never been general manager-head coach before, you invest in their growth,” Irsay said, per team reporter JJ Stankevitz. “You invest in the fact they’re going to mature and become better than they were when they started…that’s what continuity does, it brings the day where you can read the growth of a person’s professional track as they grow.”

“They’re outstanding men in our community, they’re the type of men that our players can look up to and truly see as mentors where they know their feet go where their words go. That means a lot to me.”

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

What’s New In Indianapolis?

The new hope for the Colts is Wentz, who’s seeking to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career after the good times in Philadelphia fizzled out. Indianapolis was perhaps the best place for him to land: the Colts have let up only 52 sacks over the last two seasons…in comparison, Wentz was sacked 50 times alone in 2020, and he missed four games after he was benched for Jalen Hurts.

Indianapolis lost of one of its blocking staples this offseason through Anthony Costanzo. The Colts made up for the loss through the signing of Eric Fisher, Kansas City’s top overall pick from 2013, but he’ll be out for the team’s Sunday opener against Seattle (1 p.m. ET, Fox). Paulsboro, NJ native and recent signee from Houston Julien Davenport is scheduled to take over. The rest of the group is otherwise the same. Both Nelson had late foot issues that were addressed, but each is scheduled to be a full-go for Week 1.

Right guard Mark Glowinski once against spoke about how important Colts chemistry and continuity was in another report from Stankevitz. It’s exactly what Wentz needs to gain some long-sought protection and for Taylor to keep up the momentum from his freshman campaign.

“We still find ways to learn from one another and make it interesting,” Glowinski said. “We’re still able to use the same jokes and still laugh and stuff like that. It’s kind of funny being able to be together for this long but we’re just working. Like I would say every year, you’re working on the same blocks and everything. You just find another way to get better at those and you can keep developing new ways to do your job. It’s pretty cool to be able to be with all those guys for that long though.”

While Reich was made a staple on the Colts’ staff, several assistants departed, some joining former offensive coordinator and new Philadelphia boss Nick Sirianni. Quarterbacks coach and three-time CFL champion Marcus Brady takes over in Sirianni’s wake, while the Colts were able to keep defensive boss and popular head coach interviewee Matt Eberflus. The arrival of Paye partly settles pass-rushing quandary: the departures of Denico Autry and Justin Houston cost the Colts 15.5 sacks from last season.

How To Beat Them

-Corral the Pass Rush

Indianapolis’ pass rush was hit or miss even with Autry and Houston in tow. DeForest Buckner fulfilled expectations in his first season in blue while inside man Grover Stewart played his way into an expensive extension. Mekhi Becton will likely get first dibs at the legendary Leonard. The group will have to step it up in the early going, as Rutgers alum Kemoko Turay will miss Sunday’s opener.

But even with the Costanzo-sized on the offensive line, the Colts felt that needed to address the area through the selection of Paye out of Michigan. Thus, it’ll be up to the Jets’ blockers to keep sowing doubt when they meet up for their nationally televised matchup.

“Kwity pops off the tape, one, with his athleticism and his speed, but also with his effort,” Ballard said of the choice to draft Paye over a lineman, per Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. “This kid, he already plays the way we want to play. He’s going to fit in pretty quickly.”

-Wentz Turnovers Cometh

Part of the reason why Philadelphia moved on from Wentz was his increasingly troubling turnover issues: his 15 interceptions were a league-worst in 2020 and he fumbled 10 times…the latter mark was an improvement after putting 16 on the grass last season.

As with so many other areas of their horrid 2020 season, the Jets struggled to force turnovers, picking up only 19. Upping the pressure on Wentz could lead to those struggles resurfacing and the Jets have the front seven to do so, even with the oft-cited red flag of Carl Lawson forced out for the year.

This time around, Wentz’s turnover issues could be partially cast aside by the idea that the Colts have the additional weaponry to get by, namely the multi-pronged run game. The Colts were 1-3 when Taylor, Hines, and Wilkins were held to under 100 yards rushing

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Kwity Paye speculation growing on eve of draft

Tomorrow is the start of the 2021 NFL Draft. The New York Giants hold the eleventh overall pick in the first round of this year’s draft. The Giants are one of the first round’s biggest question marks. They could select any one from a list of prospects ranging from wide receiver to cornerback to edge rusher.

The Giants had a phenomenal free agency period where they fixed nearly every major weakness on their roster. New York went all-in on Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph as Daniel Jones’s new weapons. They also signed Adoree’ Jackson as their starting boundary cornerback opposite James Bradberry.

But this does not mean that the Giants will not draft a receiver or a cornerback for that matter. Both are still viable options. However, the new rumor heating up in the mill is that the Giants will take an edge rusher, filling a need that they did not fully address in free agency. One particular edge rusher has been linked to the Giants a lot in recent days: Kwity Paye out of Michigan. Could he be the pick for New York at eleven? And what would he bring to the Giants’ defense?

Could Kwity Paye go to the Giants?

By most analysts’ standards, Kwity Paye at eleven would be a reach for the Giants. His projected draft stock lands him in the late teens or mid-twenties. However, Paye would fill a clear need for the Giants on defense.

The Giants are lacking a true every-down edge rusher on their roster. But is Kwity Paye that guy? Kwity Paye would instantly give the Giants a boost off the edge, especially as a run-defender. Paye is a polished edge prospect and the safest edge prospect in this class. He has no red flags medically or with any character concerns. If the Giants want to make a safe pick and address the edge rusher position, Paye is the pick.

However, Kwity Paye is unlikely to be the best player on the board. There is a strong chance that an elite prospect like Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith, Micah Parsons, or Rashawn Slater will be on the board for the Giants due to the run on quarterbacks expected to go in the top ten. Taking Kwity Paye over any of those elite guys would be a hard sell to the fanbase.

Paye at eleven would be a reach, though he is a viable trade-down target. Additionally, if he is the pick at eleven, that selection will be scrutinized and put under a microscope, but Kwity Paye is still a very talented edge rusher. Paye is the top-ranked EDGE in this class according to Pro Football Focus. He had a 26% pass-rush win rate in 2020 while also being a tremendous run-defender (PFF).

In his final two collegiate seasons, Kwity Paye racked up 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss through 16 games. Paye was mainly a 5-tech in college, but he has experience playing outside linebacker, rushing out of a two-point stance as well. He might not be the fan-favorite pick, but Kwity Paye is one of the best defenders in this year’s class and he would be a big upgrade on the New York Giants defense.

Should the New York Giants consider EDGE Kwity Paye with the eleventh pick?

The New York Giants need help on both sides of the ball entering the 2021 NFL offseason. The Giants’ offense was particularly poor during the 2020 regular season. Upgrading the offense is a major point of emphasis for Dave Gettleman and the Giants this offseason. But there are weaknesses that need to be masked on the defensive side of the ball, as well.

One major area of weakness for the Giants on defense is at the edge rusher position. Patrick Graham and the Giants’ defense were able to put together a productive pass-rush this past season. But much of the Giants’ pass-rush was schemed together by Graham or generated from the interior defensive line.

New York was inconsistent pass-rushing off the edge. They struggled with injuries and often found themselves starting late-round draft picks at edge rusher. The Giants should make it a priority to find a primary pass-rusher to line up as a stand-up edge rusher in 2021. But should they find this player in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft?

One intriguing EDGE prospect that has been suggested as an option for the Giants is Michigan edge rusher Kwity Paye. Many analysts have mocked Paye to the Giants with the eleventh overall pick in the draft. There is a lot to like about Kwity Paye, but there are reasons to disagree with this mock draft selection to the Giants.

What makes Kwity Paye so exciting?

Kwity Paye’s incredible athleticism and unreachable traits make him such an exciting prospect. He has all the tools necessary to become an elite edge rusher. But he does need to refine his technique and add more pass-rushing moves to his toolbox.

At six feet, four inches, and 272 pounds, Kwity Paye just moves different for a guy his size. Paye clocked a 6.37 three-cone drill at Michigan, an utterly insane time for an edge rusher. That explosiveness and agility cannot be taught at Paye’s position. He is a rare physical talent.

Like Rashan Gary in 2019, Kwity Paye is a Michigan edge rusher that did not put up crazy numbers in college but is projected to be drafted in the first half of the NFL Draft. Paye only totaled 11.5 sacks throughout his four-year collegiate career. His best season was in 2019 when Paye played 12 games and racked up 6.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 50 total tackles.

Sack totals do not tell the full story with Kwity Paye, though. Paye is an edge prospect that frequently found himself in the backfield pressuring quarterbacks. Many of those pressures failed to turn into sacks, but he was still a productive pass-rusher in college. Maybe with some NFL coaching in a better defensive scheme, Kwity Paye will be able to turn those sacks into pressures.

Why Kwity Paye might not be the best fit for the Giants

Kwity may be an extraordinarily talented edge rusher. But he might not be the edge rusher that the Giants need. Paye is has all of the unreachable traits that NFL scouts and general managers will fall in love with. He has too much raw athleticism and talent to bust in the NFL. But his style of play might not translate to every NFL team.

Playing at Michigan in college, Kwity Paye was playing in a 4-3 defensive scheme. This means that Paye lined up as an edge rusher with his hand in the dirt, like a defensive end. Now, the Giants certainly do run a “multiple” defensive scheme, constantly changing their defensive fronts and disguising their coverages. But, the Giants’ base defense is primarily a 3-4 defense. Kwity Paye might struggle with the transition to a stand-up edge rusher after getting accustomed to the defensive end role he played in college.

Additionally, Kwity Paye is a raw prospect. He needs to be molded into an elite pass-rusher. But he will not be an elite pass-rusher instantly, especially if he has to change positions. The Giants are in need of an instant-impact player with the eleventh overall pick. There are other players at other positions better suited to help the Giants win in 2021 than Kwity Paye.