Why Colts’ Ben Banogu saw limited snaps in Week 1

By Kevin Hickey

Throughout training camp and the preseason, there was plenty of hype surrounding Indianapolis Colts defensive end Ben Banogu. It appeared he had finally taken that step to see more playing time in the rotation.

However, the regular-season opener against the Seattle Seahawks proved it’s just more of the same for the young defensive end. Banogu wound up playing just six defensive snaps, which accounted for 11% of the plays in Week 1.

It was a discouraging development given what Banogu showed leading up to the season, but defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said the packages featuring the third-year player didn’t come up often.

“So Ben (Banogu) was slated to play in the ‘NASCAR’ group. We really on had six to eight reps I want to say, of the ‘NASCAR’ group and that was his starting role and his role for last week. That’s what happened,” Eberflus told reporters Tuesday.

The NASCAR package alludes to a personnel grouping of mostly defensive ends on the entire line. In a typical week, it would feature Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner, Ben Banogu and then either Tyquan Lewis or Kemoko Turay. It’s typically used on obvious passing downs.

Eberflus does have some point in facing few third-down opportunities. The Seahawks had just nine such plays on third down, but that was mostly because their offense was moving at such an efficient pace.

“Typically, you’ll get more of those, you’ll get some two-minute things. We didn’t get any two-minute last week and we just got a few third down,” said Eberflus. “I think it was six or eight of them and those were the reps he got. It just kind of worked out that way and that’s where we were last week.”

Even despite the strong preseason, Banogu still has to take reps behind Al-Quadin Muhammad, who is limited as a pass rusher and struggled to set the edge against the run in Week 1. For Banogu to truly develop, he needs reps in live games.

It will be interesting to see if this is just coach speak from Eberflus or whether the Colts do want to get him more work on passing downs.

Regardless, a crucial year for Banogu did not get off on the right foot.

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