Looking to find a solution to the pass rush questions they faced this offseason, the Indianapolis Colts went out and signed veteran Justin Houston during free agency.
One of the bigger signings the Colts have made in Chris Ballard’s three offseasons as general manager, part of the plan is for Houston to help develop the young defensive linemen, whether that be through conversations or simply leading by example.
While he wouldn’t be considered one of the younger guys on the defensive line, Denico Autry has enjoyed picking the brain of the veteran edge rusher.
“I was like we got another piece to the puzzle. A great guy coming in,” Autry told reporters Tuesday on the Houston signing. “It’s going to be deep. I was thinking about that the other day. We got Justin Houston in and he brings a lot. Just walking around the locker room with him alone, just talking to him, he helps out a lot.”
Autry himself was a free-agent addition during the 2018 offseason and wound up thriving in the attacking defensive front. He led the Colts with a career-high 9.0 sacks on the season working primarily as a three-technique, though defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus slid him out to the edge at times as well.
The 28-year-old was only able to play in 12 games during his first season with the Colts. With some new additions to the pass rush along with some hopeful development with younger players, Autry could find himself in a situation where he surpasses his career-high of sacks in a single season.
There are still some questions about the pass rush that won’t be answered until the pads come on, but the addition of Houston should help the entire unit be more consistent and productive.
The signing will also have an impact, whether directly or indirectly, on the improvement of the pass rushers such as Autry.
One of the bigger free agency moves the Colts made in 2018 was bringing in defensive tackle Denico Autry, who proved he was a versatile and productive piece when healthy.
The veteran defensive lineman worked all over the Colts front, playing the three-technique and even kicking out to defensive end at times.
During his first season with the Colts, Autry played 12 games and recorded 37 tackles (28 solo), 13 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits and 9.0 sacks, all of which were career-highs.
Autry struggled with some injuries during the first half, but was a big piece of the defense in the second half as he didn’t miss a game over the final nine regular-season contests.
Autry was brought in to be a pass rush specialist, and he proved to be just that leading the team in sacks. He recorded 6.0 sacks over the last five games of the regular season working from both the interior and on the edge.
The 28-year-old found ways to win with quickness on the interior, beating guards and centers to their spot as soon as the ball was snapped. His strong play earned him consideration for the Pro Bowl, which he wound up being a reserve. It doesn’t count as a selection, but it shows he got some recognition for his strong play.
The Indianapolis Colts and defensive end Denico Autry reportedly reached an agreement Wednesday on a three-year, $17.8 million contract.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported details of the free-agent signing. Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle noted the deal includes $6.5 million in guaranteed money.
Autry signed with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State in 2014. He steadily developed into a reliable piece of the team’s defensive line rotation over the past four seasons.
The 27-year-old North Carolina native registered 100 combined tackles, 12 passes defended and 10.5 sacks across 56 appearances for the Raiders. His 36 tackles and five sacks last season were both career highs.
Autry, who will likely play defensive tackle in the Colts’ 4-3 formation, graded as the league’s No. 56 interior defender in 2017, per Pro Football Focus.
In December, former Raiders teammate Justin Ellis praised the unheralded lineman’s raw strength and scheme flexibility after working with him all season, according to Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I always demonstrate the O-lineman for him during the week,” Ellis said. “I can feel how strong he is and he’s not even, like, against me. We know Denico’s a good pass-rusher, inside and outside. I just thought he did the things that we know he can do.”
Autry should slide into a starting role for Indianapolis as part of a rotation with Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods at tackle. He could also see some snaps on the edge on rushing downs.
Colts defensive lineman Denico Autry has been fined $13,369 for unsportsmanlike conduct during last week’s playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported.
Autry celebrated a fourth-down takedown of Patrick Mahomes with two pelvic thrusts, directed toward an official no less. The sack dance came with Indianapolis trailing 24-7 midway through the third quarter. Autry, like McCringleberry before him, apparently just couldn’t help himself.
- Rams cornerback Marcus Peters was fined $10,026 for unnecessary roughness against Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper during L.A.’s win, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported
- Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers was fined $20,054 for roughing Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in New England’s 41-28 win, Pelissero reported.
INDIANAPOLIS — As Chris Ballard began envisioning the pieces needed to build the Indianapolis Colts’ new 4-3 defensive scheme, he knew having players with versatility up front would be critical.
While the team would eventually want established starters at all four defensive line positions, adding players with the ability to play both inside and on the edge — and having the ability to play both spots with quickness and power — was going to be a major component to the Colts’ general manager’s offseason roster-building plan.
So on March 15, one day after the start of the league’s free agency period, Ballard didn’t wait long to add a player with all of those attributes, making Denico Autry the Colts’ first outside signing of the offseason.
Since that time, Autry has been ingrained as a theoretical starter along the Colts’ defensive line during offseason practices, working in as the No. 1 defensive tackle at the three-technique spot.
He’s displayed the traits the Colts’ scouts saw in Autry when doing their homework on the free-agent-to-be earlier this year.
“Just hard-nosed, effort, run all over the field. I can get in any position and play,” Autry said when asked what Ballard told him he liked about his game. “So, I’ve got to bring something to the table. So, that’s what they like about me.”
Autry — who turns 28 next month — gives the Colts a player entering the prime of his career who has displayed flashes of solid play with at-times limited opportunities.
He was signed by the Oakland Raiders in May 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State, and has spent the last four seasons in Oakland developing his craft on defense while also turning into a leader on special teams.
Last season, despite starting just three games, Autry was able to collect a career-best 36 tackles, five sacks and seven passes defensed. In four seasons, he has combined to play in 56 games with 18 starts, collecting 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 12 passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and causing one safety.