Johnathan Hankins: Colts have ‘probably the best defense in the AFC’

Johnathan Hankins

Who has the best defense in the AFC? Why, the Indianapolis Colts do, of course. At least, that’s the opinion of new defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.

Hankins was one of many players brought in to stabilize a shaky unit. Speaking on the NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football,” Hankins shared his belief that his new defense is the best in the conference.

“Right now I feel like we got probably the best defense in the AFC,” Hankins said, as transcribed by Kevin Patra, NFL.com. “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.”

These comments are always tricky.

Objectively, it’s not hard to make a case against Hankins. As Patra noted,  the Colts had the 30th-ranked defense a season ago and “Football Outsiders rated Indy 29th in DVOA and 32nd against the run.” Sure, they have a lot of new faces, but the best defenses are generally the ones who have been together for a few years.

But realistically, Hankins can’t say that. He can’t say “We’re terrible” or “We’ll be improved but after the last few years, this defense has nowhere to go but up.” We may all be thinking that but a member of the team can’t say it.

As such, if Hankins was asked how his defense ranks, we could cut him some slack. But that wasn’t the question.

The question was, why are the Colts in position to win an improving AFC South? To that, Hankins could have said, “This team wasn’t very far off last year. We already have a potent offense and with many new faces on defense, like myself, we feel we’re ready to hold up our end of things.”

Calling the Colts the best defense in the AFC isn’t just objectively wrong. It’s the kind of comment that gets remembered, much like Vince Young calling the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles a “dream team” or Derrick Rose calling the 2016-17 New York Knicks a “super team.”

What’s going to happen when the Colts have a terrible early season game allow 40 points? These comments will certainly be brought up.

Hankins should express confidence in his team. But these comments put a bulls eye on the collective back of everyone on Indianapolis, especially those on defense.