Matt Eberflus and the Indianapolis Colts have been working hard to make sure Andrew Luck and the Colts offense don’t have to put up 50 points a game to win – and are doing a fantastic job at it. In recent years they’ve added Quincy Wilson, Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker, and Malik Hooker.
Chris Ballard hiring Frank Reich was one of the best decisions the Colts have made in recent years – the best being firing Grigson for Ballard. While the Colts have always been known as an offensive powerhouse, they’ve slowly been adding pieces to have a top-flight defense. In the past two years, the Colts have gone from nearly dead last in every defensive category to a top 10 defense thanks to good drafting and smart player signings.
"It’s weird to suggest a player who just eclipsed 100 tackles is under the radar, but the Colts’ middle linebacker has largely been overshadowed by his All-Pro teammate, Darius Leonard. Walker’s impressive instincts and awareness, as well as his high-revving motor, make him an ideal fit for Matt Eberflus’ hustle-and-flow scheme. If the Colts’ defense picks up where it left off a season ago, Walker could join Leonard as a household name and one of the top linebackers in football."
He’s spot on. The defense has been focused on Darius Leonard being the great player he is but it’s done so at the expense of Walker. Let’s compare the 2018 stats for Leonard and Walker:
Tackles: Leonard: 163 Walker: 125
Sacks: Leonard: 7 Walker: 1
Forced Fumbles: Leonard: 4 Walker: 0
Interceptions: Leonard: 2 Walker: 1
On the surface, we see both the players have the talent and incredible athleticism. Leonard had a better season overall, but the tackles are what I’m focused on. Having two linebackers with 100 or more tackles on the same team is nothing to sneeze at, and having two talented guys on the field at the same time is something defensive coordinators can only dream of. Not only was Leonard a steal in the draft for his position, but he’s proven he won’t be stopped or told he can’t outplay his draft position. Chris Ballard has been a genius in recent years for draft picks.
More from Horseshoe Heroes
- Colts explored hiring former quarterback and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky
- When is the NFL Combine 2023? NFL Combine schedule, events, how to stream
- Latest NFL mock draft has Colts trading up to No. 1 for star QB
- Eagles offensive free agents that could follow Shane Steichen to Colts
- Here’s why Colts linebacker Shaq Leonard is going to love Shane Steichen
Walker, however, went from 22 tackles in 2017 to 105 in 2018 – a jump of 83 which is about 5 tackles a game. However, a few factors have led to this such, as starting more games and having schemes built around your talent. Also, defenses have focused more on Darius Leonard because of his skill.
Leonard also has a knack for shedding blocks better than most defenders – which is why he led the NFL in tackles. There are also three types of players at the linebacker position: hybrid, pass-rusher, and stuffer. You can have two of three but not all three at the same time. Leonard is a hybrid and a stuffer meaning he can run fast but he can tackle very well and stand people up. Walker, on the other hand, is quick and good at using his strength. He’s more of a hybrid with stuffer on the back end of his skill set.
But enough of comparisons. Allow me to get back to my main point: Anthony Walker and Darius Leonard will be, in the near future, the best linebacker duo on the NFL bar none. The defense for this team is well on its way to becoming one of the best and this front 7 has the potential to be one of the best, if not the best. More importantly, the long drought of terrible run-defenses seems to be over for now. Having a balanced team is better than having a dominating defense or offense.
The Colts have the potential to have a great team and with Andrew Luck being fully healthy and the defense having the potential to be top ten, many fans can’t wait for this season.