The Indianapolis Colts selected defensive tackle Adetomiwa Adebawore in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Adebawore, 22, was a highly touted (and extremely athletic) prospect that happened to fall right into the Colts' lap on day three of this past draft.
Adebawore was far from a finished product as a prospect, but it is hard to deny the athletic ability that he brought to the table. Standing in at 6'2" 289 pounds, he ran a blazing 4.49 forty yard dash at this year's NFL Combine, easily the fastest of any player nearing his weight at the event.
Despite that immense athletic upside, Adebawore found himself in an uphill battle for playing time this year for the Colts. He didn't see a single defensive snap through the first three weeks of the regular season and only had 15 in total through the team's first six games. It wasn't until star nose tackle Grover Stewart was suspended back in week seven that Adebawore finally got his chance on the field.
While it hasn't been all perfect by any means, Adebawore has flashed that high level potential in his limited playing time. The rookie has a sack and three pressures in his last two games and he appears to be finding a groove on the defensive side of the ball.
Doing the Dirty Work
Before jumping into some of Adebawore's defensive film, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this insane special teams tackle by the rookie back in week nine. Reminder that Adebawore is a defensive tackle, a position that is rarely seen on kick coverage units in the NFL.
A 289 pound defensive tackle running down a kick returner in the open field is one of the craziest displays of athleticism that I have ever seen in this sport. I watch this play is utter disbelief every single time it pops back up again on my computer.
These type of effort, and athletic, plays are what earns players time on defense. The coaches surely took note of a play like this in the film room throughout the week and I wouldn't be surprised if it was one of the factors that led to more playing time for the young player:
Explosion up Front
The biggest negative in Adebawore's game so far has been his run defense. The Colts are playing him way out of position at nose tackle with Grover Stewart out, but he still lacks the natural strength and the technique to handle interior combo blocks.
Still, he has flashed some explosiveness in run defense the last few weeks. This clip below was an excellent block deconstruction to blow up the Patriots' draw play, he just needs to finish the play and get the tackle for a loss.
There is still plenty of room for growth in this area but I'm optimistic that Adebawore can develop into an adequate run defender at the right position and with a bit more fine tuning in the trenches:
Pass Rush Flashes
The overall consistency is still a work in progress for Adetomiwa Adebawore, but it is hard to deny the flashes that have popped so far on film. He came away with his first career sack against the Carolina Panthers back in week nine and had a near-sack against the Patriots back in week 10.
The most promising aspect about Adebawore's pass rush ability is his effort. When effort is combined with a special athlete, these types of players usually luck themselves into a few sacks even when their technique is still developing. Adebawore may not have a go-to move down just yet, but he's explosive off of the ball and he keeps his legs driving through contact in pursuit of the quarterback:
The effort on this pressure against the Patriots was so promising from the rookie pass rusher. He didn't win with his initial move whatsoever, but he kept those legs driving and eventually displaced his opposing offensive lineman to break free inside.
This was mere inches away from being Adebawore's second sack in as many games, with this one coming on a key third down in the redzone for the Colts. These flashes are very promising signs to build upon over the next seven weeks or so:
The Bottom Line
Adetomiwa Adebawore is still a ways away from being a key rotational piece for the Colts' defense, but the young player is starting to flash in an expanded role. If he can continue to stack good weeks together (and continue to grow as a run defender), he can carve out a pretty significant role on defense in 2024.
If this season is all about development for the young pass rusher, the results are looking good so far. He just needs to keep this upward trajectory going into these final seven games to be on a great pace to contribute big time in 2024.
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