The Indianapolis Colts have suddenly transformed into one of the AFC’s strongest rosters and are a favorite to challenge for a Super Bowl bid in 2019, thanks to strong drafting and smart free-agent signings by general manager Chris Ballard.
In April, Ballard added TCU edge defender Ben Banogu in the second round (No. 49 overall) with the expectation he’d compete for a starting linebacker role as early as this season.
Those expectations have changed. Banogu will focus on playing defensive end, according to defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
“You have to find the starting point for every player, and then see where he can ascend to,” defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said earlier this month via the Indy Star. “Playing end is probably the best starting point for him, relative to who he is, what he brings to the table and where he can impact the defense the most and the earliest.”
The fastest way for a first-year player like Banogu to impact the Colts is by getting after the quarterback. He recorded 8.5 sacks as a senior, a mark that matched his previous season total, too.
There were some mock drafts that had Banogu as a late first-round projection, so the Colts are certainly getting great value in the former Horned Frog. He’ll receive a master’s degree in pass rushing from Justin Houston, one of the defensive ends slated to start in 2019 who has a track record of elite production as a pass rusher.
In fact, Banogu will most likely be a rotational player at first, with Jabaal Sheard holding down the other starting defensive end spot for Indianapolis. Sheard signed a three-year, $25.5 million contract with the club this offseason.
Both Houston and Sheard are 30 years old, and while defensive ends can be productive well into their 30’s, Banogu will be groomed as one of their eventual replacements in the not-too-distant future.