The Indianapolis Colts have been known for their atrocious defense in recent years-both their front seven and secondary. The Colts secondary and run defense have been prone to giving up big plays and getting dominated. However, after just one offseason of Chris Ballard, the Colts are one of the best run defenses, as they rank in the top ten in yards per attempt allowed.
But this isn’t about the Colts run defense, it’s about the young secondary that has exceeded expectations and improved every week.
A secondary that includes rookies Nate Hairston, Malik Hooker, and Quincy Wilson (missed week three due to injury). All three of these rookies have started and played key roles on the defense at some point this season.
The other starter at corner through three games without Vontae Davis? Rashaan Melvin.
Melvin, in his seventh season after going undrafted, has been excellent in 2017, and just as important: Consistent.
Through three weeks of the 2017 season, Melvin is ranked as the 21st overall cornerback according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). Melvin has an overall grade of 82.5.
After another great game against Cleveland, one that included Melvin’s first two career interceptions, Chuck Pagano can see Melvin gaining confidence in his play. “He stepped up big time. He played well a year ago for us. You can just see this kid growing and gaining confidence with every snap and every game. Not only the two interceptions stand out, but it was consistent.” Pagano said Monday.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) September 24, 2017
Melvin was just happy he helped the team get a win. “It feels great. It feels even better to get the win… Those interceptions contributed to the team’s success. I’m just glad I was able to do my job out there.” Melvin said.
The emergence of Rashaan Melvin this season has been huge for Indianapolis, as Vontae Davis is injured and in a contract year, so his future with the Colts is cloudy.
Hairston, a 2017 fifth round pick out of Temple, has started in the slot all three games this season.
Through three weeks, Hairston is the ninth-ranked slot defender according to PFF, and has allowed just six catches.
Rookies that have impressed pic.twitter.com/fMyzXSvYLi
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) September 26, 2017
In Colt Nate Hairston’s 91 snaps of slot coverage, he’s allowed 6 catches, the NFL’s 5th highest cover snaps to catch ratio for a slot CB.
— PFF IND Colts (@PFF_Indy) September 26, 2017
Hairston has been great at replacing last years starting slot corner Darius Butler, who converted to safety over the offseason. Hairston will only continue to grow and get better, and it looks like GM Chris Ballard may have hit a home run with him in the fifth round.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Colts used their first two picks on defensive backs Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson, who are expected to be the future of this young defense.
Both Hooker and Wilson have shown promise early on, and it almost appears as if the future might already be here.
Through three games, Hooker is the 18th-ranked safety in the NFL, according to PFF. The 15th overall pick has graded out at 81.1 through three weeks.
Hooker has started in two of the three games and recorded an interception in both starts.
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 19, 2017
Hooker shows incredible instincts and speed during his first career interception, in which he covered half of the field to make the play.
The future is now for Hooker, as he has already earned a spot in the starting lineup and has proved to be a ball-hawk, something the Colts have lacked for years. Hooker is already racking up the accolades, as he was nominated for week two Defensive Rookie of the Week honors.
Wilson, the Colts second round pick in 2017, didn’t play much in week one, but earned the start in week two, in which he played good all game long.
Colts gave Quincy Wilson the start and he had an early flash play. Was aggressive in closing and it caused a drop. Great speed. pic.twitter.com/jtEPhjXKIv
— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) September 19, 2017
Terrific instincts from Malik Hooker and then equally as impressive coverage from Quincy Wilson here.
These 2 will be really, really good. pic.twitter.com/6YPtkXWvb4
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) September 18, 2017
Quincy Wilson is also doing a nice job in his first-career start. Two tackles and two pass breakups so far.
— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) September 17, 2017
Wilson had great coverage and almost came up with an interception in his lone start of the season.
Just when he was getting into a groove, however, Wilson was inactive week three against the Browns due to a knee injury.
Melvin, Hooker, Wilson, and Hairston, along with Darius Butler and Matthias Farley, have held down the fort in the Colts’ secondary while Vontae Davis and Clayton Geathers are working through injuries.
Without two of their star players from last year, the Colts are just tapping into their potential on defense and the sky is truly the limit for this unit. The Colts have something good, possibly something great brewing up in this secondary.
Forget that, the Colts have something special in their young secondary.