When Denico Autry looks across the field on Sunday, he will a few familiar faces. However, unlike last year, this game will potentially decide the last AFC playoff spot. For Autry, this moment feels years in the making. Yet, he’s far removed from the player that left Oakland for Indiana. Instead, he stands a vital cog within a defense that can serve a season-ending blow to his former team. More importantly, this moment justifies the fact that Autry took a chance, bet on himself. The Raiders will need to stop their former defensive lineman to win this game. If not, their playoff hopes will crash to the ground.
Diamond in the Rough
Entering the league, undrafted from Mississippi State, former Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie delighted in the physical gifts. Autry’s angular frame belied an explosion and power that would benefit him later. Yet, Autry, in Jack Del Rio’s eyes, didn’t see the burn of others. Yet, despite only eighteen starts in fifty-six games, Autry produced. With 10.5 sacks and twelve batted passes, he proved his worth. Unfortunately, the Raiders seemed content with lining up unproductive second and third-round picks, instead of a surefire playmaker. The organization overthought and lost an opportunity to retain a versatile playmaker that could line up in various fronts. Like the classic spades adage, ” study long, study wrong”
Bet on Himself
With his exodus from Oakland, Autry decided to place himself on the open market. The Colts inked him to a three-year deal in 2018. Autry moved his chips into the middle of the table and cashed in. Plus, unlike many, he rewarded the Colts’ faith in him. Through thirty-four games, Autry tallied 18.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Providing that level of interior disruption, allowed the Colts to rush with four. Autry, surrounded by Houston and Buckner, gives DC Matt Eberflus luxuries that many don’t. First, Autry can play the three-technique or either end spot. Regardless of down and distance, Autry can play up and down the line with aplomb.
In signing a three-year deal, Autry becomes an unrestricted free agent again, after this season. On top of that, his 6 sacks will most certainly draw lucrative offers from a myriad of teams.
As mentioned, with enhanced talent around him on the line, Sunday, Autry could see himself single-blocked for the majority of the game. The Colts blitz only 17.4 percent of the time. As a result, Autry figures to play a significant role on the team. To stop him, the Raiders, who possess a substantial size advantage, need to wear Indy’s line down with a steady diet of the run game. Whether Josh Jacobs is ready or not.
Denico Autry returns to face his former team again. He’s a more polished version of the player that set to chart his own path years ago. With the playoffs and a payday ahead, look for the former Raider to wreak havoc, if given the opportunity.