INDIANAPOLIS – Two traits jumped off the tape for the Indianapolis Colts as they researched Robert Windsor.
First, the Penn State defensive lineman showed versatility that will allow him to play both interior positions in Indianapolis’ scheme. Second, and perhaps most importantly, he plays with a motor that should live up to even the exacting standards of Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
That combination of effort and flexibility was more than enough to convince Indianapolis to use a sixth-round draft pick – No. 193 overall – on the Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, native.
“We had a high grade on this guy,” Colts head coach Frank Reich told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “He kind of fell to us. We had him a little bit higher than (the sixth-round), so we are really excited. He is very disruptive. We feel very good about getting him.”
It’s been an active offseason for general manager Chris Ballard, and he’s spent a good chunk of resources retooling the defensive tackle positions. The biggest move, of course, was trading the 13th overall pick to the San Francisco 49ers for all-pro DeForest Buckner – who Indianapolis believes is a perfect fit for its all-important three-technique role.
Ballard also imported Buckner’s former San Francisco teammate – Sheldon Day, an Indy native and former Notre Dame captain – to play a depth role. Last year’s starters, Denico Autry and Grover Stewart, are set to return, and Tyquan Lewis could factor into the mix here or as a defensive end.
It all adds up to a deep position group with a lot of experience, which could cast Windsor in a familiar underdog role.
The lowest-ranked recruit in Penn State’s 2015 freshman class, he rose to become a productive starter in his final two college seasons. As a three-technique in 2018, he set career highs with 7.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Moving to nose tackle as a senior last year, he tacked on just 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss but made a career-high 40 total stops.
Questions about his size – he hopes to play at 290 pounds after fluctuating between 315 and 280 for the Nittany Lions – helped fuel his fall into the sixth round. But Windsor is no stranger to overcoming doubt.
“Well, it’s just kept me hungry, to be honest, because I know my worth, and I acknowledge that,” he said. “If everyone else doesn’t acknowledge it – that just keeps me hungry.”
Just as he did in college, Windsor will need to wait his turn with the Colts.
But the defensive scheme works in his favor in a couple of ways. Indianapolis asks its defensive linemen to penetrate the offensive backfield and be disruptive rather than holding their gaps and reacting. That should play into Windsor’s strengths, which include short-area quickness and high-level instincts.
To keep that aggressive style consistent from down to down, the Colts also like to employ a “wave” of defensive linemen throughout the game. There are multiple advantages to that approach – keeping fresh legs on the field, changing up the look individual offensive linemen are getting from snap to snap and taking advantage of position flexibility are among them.
Windsor, for instance, can play the three technique in the base defense and move to nose tackle in sub packages to increase the overall quickness of the defensive line.
“Robert’s gonna be a really good pro,” Colts area scout Mike Derice said. “Robert has had success at a very high level. He knows how to play with technique with his hands and obviously the motor and the effort that he plays with. But he really is a student of the game. It’s undeniable how hard he plays, and he really loves the game.”
Windsor applies that same constant motor to the mental side of the game.
No detail escapes his sight in preparation for game day according to former Penn State defensive line coach Sean Spencer, who joined the New York Giants coaching staff this offseason.
“He’s scientific about everything he does, almost to a fault,” Spencer told the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania. “He analyzes everything. You kind of look at him and say that’s not the type of guy he is. But he’s very, very bright in the football world and outside the football world.”
He’s also got a very, very big chip on his shoulder.
Windsor has exceeded expectations at every level throughout his playing career, and he sees no reason for the NFL to be any different.
He’s had to earn everything he’s gotten through hard work and that notoriously relentless effort. Those traits should again serve him well in Indianapolis.
“Being under the radar, I’m just kind of used to it at this point,” Windsor said. “At some point in my career, I’m going to break through, and I don’t think I will have that talk anymore about being under the radar.”