Listen Live

Rob Carr | Getty Images


INDIANAPOLIS – When was the last time a linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts looked like the best player on the field in a game?

Before Sunday, it had been a while.

But Darius Leonard took home that honor in Week Two after one of the most impressive performances you will ever see from a rookie defender.

Leonard was seemingly everywhere against the Washington Football Team, piling up 18 tackles (15 solos) —the most the Colts have had in a game since 2011.

Following the 21-9 victory, Frank Reich marveled at the playmaking of Leonard, who finished Sunday with a sack, forced fumble, quarterback hurry and a pass defensed on the final defensive play of the game.

Unbelievable,” Reich said in describing Leonard’s day. “You love him. I remember Chris Ballard talking about him and having his eyes on him in the draft. Not just talking about this guy’s playmaking ability, his athletic ability, but the kind of football character we want on this team…

“Man, what a day.”

Watching Leonard cover ground on Sunday and you almost forgot this was a rookie who missed the entire offseason program with a quad injury.

His first NFL practice occurred at Training Camp. Of course, Leonard picked off Andrew Luck in that first day on the practice field at Grand Park.

Leonard hasn’t looked back since then, as he now leads the NFL in tackles (27) through two games.

This is what Ballard envisioned when the Colts chose Leonard a bit earlier than most in the NFL thought the South Carolina State product should have gone back in April (36th overall).

But Ballard was adamant that Leonard’s skill set—a 6-2 and 235-pound linebacker, who has 4.5 speed—was the perfect fit for the Colts transitioning to a new defense.

“The athlete, the speed, that’s what we want at linebacker,” Ballard said after drafting Leonard. “We want guys that can play in space, close to the football and you have to do that with speed. The way we play, speed is a premium. Our linebackers have to be able to run. I mean, we set a limit on it.

“And he has got speed.”

As Ballard broke down film of Leonard’s 19-tackle performance against Clemson, or an 11-tackle day in the Senior Bowl, the GM couldn’t hide his excitement.

“This is one of my favorite guys,” Ballard said while watching the film of Leonard.

Colts’ fans are now saying that in unison after Leonard wrecked what Washington was trying to do on Sunday.

Against the Washington Football Team, the Colts had Leonard handle communication duties for that side of the ball, too, something that is typically assigned to the MIKE linebacker.

Even though Leonard plays the WILL, and is a rookie, the Colts are clearly not shying away from giving him even more responsibility in his second ever NFL game, knowing that he is playing every defensive snap.

“Great, great dude,” is how veteran defensive tackle Al Woods was describing Leonard on Sunday.

“He comes in early and he leaves late. He’s always asking the right questions. He’s not scared to ask a question. He’s just a guy who’s really humble. He’s a blue-collar guy that’s just like, ‘Look man, I’m here to play, point blank, period.’”

And play better than anyone on the field in the Colts’ first victory of 2018.