The Indianapolis Colts' offseason overhaul included massive upgrades to the defensive front seven.
One of those big additions brought in by GM Chris Ballard was run-stuffing defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins. The ex-New York Giants defender told NFL Network's Good Morning Football he believes the Colts can be one of the best units in the AFC in 2017.
"Right now I feel like we got probably the best defense in the AFC," Hankins said. "On paper, it looks good, but we've got to go out there and prove it. We've got a great quarterback here, as y'all know, Andrew Luck, and some great weapons on offense. So, if we can just come together during OTAs, and once training camp starts, get a good feel of everybody and just trust each other, I feel like we'll be real dominant out there."
The Colts ranked 30th in the NFL in total defense in 2017. Football Outsiders rated Indy 29th in DVOA and 32nd against the run.
Hankins' addition immediately helps versus the run. The signings of Al Woods, Jabaal Sheard, Barkevious Mingo, Margus Hunt and Sean Spence in free agency provided depth to one of the NFL's shallowest front sevens last season. In the draft, the Colts then added first-round safety Malik Hooker, cornerbacks Quincy Wilson (2nd round), Nate Hairston (5th round), defensive tackles Tarell Basham (3rd) and Grover Stewart (4th) and linebacker Anthony Walker (5th).
"Chris [Ballard] did a tremendous job bringing a lot of guys in here, even going into the draft he brought even more defensive guys in here -- and of course we got a couple [Ohio State] Buckeyes on defense, so that's just going to help us and improve us out there," Hankins said. "I just love the new atmosphere we got going on in here about winning, and ready to take the next step with a new team."
With the Colts looking for a turnaround following two seasons missing the playoffs, the Titans becoming favorites to win the division, the Texans owning a playoff-caliber roster if they can figure out the QB, and the Jaguars' perpetual offseason optimism, the AFC South has a chance to be the most entertaining division in the NFL in 2017.