INDIANAPOLIS – One of the best wins the Colts had in years ended on a sour note.
As Kemoko Turay was getting carted off the field on the final defensive snap of the Colts’ 19-13 win over the Chiefs last October, the Indy defense was losing a player that mattered far more than the dozen or two dozen snaps he was playing each game.
“We lost a big piece,” Frank Reich now says when the Colts had to put Turay on injured reserve, following a deltoid fracture and a torn ligament in his ankle as he was sacking Patrick Mahomes.
Turay is back on the field doing rehab work, and he is poised to be a massive factor in the Colts getting a more consistent pass rush, without needing to commit multiple blitzers.
It’s been just 18 career games in two seasons, but Turay has shown some pizazz off the edge (5.5 sacks and 18 quarterback hits) when healthy.
When talking about what makes a great edge rusher, Reich initially points to speed, first-step quickness and instincts.
He also points to bendability, another thing that Turay, at 6-5 and 248 pounds, brings to his rushing package.
“How can you bend around a corner?” Reich explains. “All these pass rushers at this level can bend, but there’s that extra 10 percent of bend and Kemoko has that. And it’s just a God-given ability that you can go fast, and bend, and not lose speed. Then, on top of that, the other thing that he has is length. Some of the good edge rushers we’ve seen in the recent years have gotten smaller and faster. Well, Kemoko is still big and long. So he has that length, with get off, with bend. That’s a dangerous combination.
“The guy has gotten a couple of bad breaks on injuries. That was a big loss last year and we our really excited about Kemoko. He’s been working really hard to get ready physically and mentally.”
Reich adds that he ‘feels good’ about where Turay is at his rehab wise currently. Unlike the rest of his teammates, Turay is able to rehab at the Colts team facility right now. Keeping his weight up, above the 240 level, has been something Turay has struggled with in the NFL.
Ample work with pass rushing consultant Robert Mathis has continued for Turay.
For a guy that runs 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, Turay has always been a guy known for his speed.
It’s that trait as to why the Colts coveted Turay in Round Two of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Despite having just 14.5 sacks in his four years at Rutgers, Turay’s draft stock overcame the lack of production for virtually all other second-round edge rushers.
What Mathis has been working on for the raw Turay over the last two years has been turning him into a more complete rusher.
Turay was the guy with the 95 mile per hour fastball, but didn’t know how to pitch.
Mathis has helped Turay add more to his rushing repertoire, so now the 24-year-old rusher can counter against opposing tackles and set guys up with different moves throughout a game.
Having all the moves, but not having a plan of how, or when, to use them limits a rusher. That includes not tipping your hand with your pitches and trying to set rush moves up by tricking an opposing lineman into what he thinks is coming.
Can your speed rush up field look like your bull rush at the get off?
That’s where the tutelage of Mathis comes in.
As the Colts look at their 2020 rush group, DeForest Buckner’s length and athleticism is in the interior and Justin Houston brings more of a power-look from one defensive end position.
That’s where Turay needs to complement things with his speed off the edge.
“With the addition of DeForest, and Justin coming off a great year, we feel really good about our up front unit on defense,” Reich says.