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With 5 former Ohio State players, the Indianapolis Colts defense could look like the Silver Bullets in 2017

The Colts defense just got a whole lot more exciting.

IndyCar: 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500-Practice Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

“Head coach Chuck Pagano should be able to rely on free agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins and outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard to play major snaps, and can probably slot in first-round pick Malik Hooker at free safety.”

-Danny Kelly, The Ringer

The Indianapolis Colts saw most of their heavy-snap count defenders either retire or head to another team this offseason. As Kelly mentions in his breakdown of the most noteworthy training camp battles, the Colts needed to replace over half of their defensive snaps (5,100-of-11,834) -- they accomplished this, in part, by bringing in all the Buckeyes that they could.

Jack Mewhort is the sole OSU alum returning to the team, with offseason additions, including Johnathan Hankins, John Simon, Tyvis Powell and rookie Malik Hooker. With five former Ohio State stars on the Colts defense, it may currently seem a bit curious, but the unit could be among the best in the league before too long.

The Silver Bullets are back, and considering the Colts defense ranked No. 27 in the NFL last season, there’s nowhere to go but up for a group that has more history together than most at that level.

“In his rookie season, Thomas went on to lead the team and set rookie franchise records with 92 catches for 1,137 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.”

-Louis Puissegur IV, via the New Orleans Saints

He didn’t earn post-season honors following his rookie year, but former Ohio State wideout Michael Thomas became one of the league’s up and comers.

Thomas finished his inaugural season in the league having played in all but one of the Saints’ games, and setting franchise records along the way. In addition to being 1-for-1 in 1,000-plus yard seasons, he also proved that he can be a deep threat snagging a first down on 62 of his 92 receptions.

“I think one of his great strengths is his ability to work and focus. He truly loves playing and so, gamedays are that much more important. He’s very competitive,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said, according to the team site. “I think he’s tough when he catches the ball in space for any defender.”

Thomas will have another Buckeye on offense with the offseason addition of receiver Ted Ginn Jr, combined with the talent of Willie Snead IV, the Saints could have one of the better receiving corps in the NFL.

“At 21 years old, the odometer reading is still relatively low even if he did carry the ball a total of 559 times over his last two seasons at Ohio State.”

-Tim McManus on Ezekiel Elliott’s workload, ESPN

Running backs take a notorious workload early on in their NFL careers, with team’s looking to add the next three-down back whenever possible. The problem with three-down backs is the punishment that their bodies face week-after-week, which turns out to affect their production sooner, rather than later.

Ezekiel Elliott was the only running back in the NFL during the 2016 season to net over 300 carries (322). The 300-carry back is becoming less and less popular with teams. Between 2001-10, there were 8.5 players per season on average taking on that kind of load. In the six years since, the average is now just two players a year coming away with that number of carries.

One reason teams have been pivoting toward a running-back-by-committee approach, is the significant drop-off in production that was seen by 300-carry backs. As detailed in McManus’ ESPN piece, nine of the 10 players in the past five years to have a 300-carry season, saw their production reduced by an average of 739 yards the next season. The one exception is Marshawn Lynch — but, he’s Beast Mode, and doesn’t count.

Elliott could get close to another 300-carry season in 2017, but it will depend on if the league brings down any form of punishment for his off-field behavior. Should that happen, he’ll have more to worry about than just his number of snaps or carries, but rather the big hit that his wallet will take in the process.

And, they might not be in the league just yet, but Nick Bosa and Tracy Sprinkle are spending time interning with NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell this summer.