The Colts have a two-headed monster at linebacker. Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker Jr. are the NFL’s top young LB duo and will be for years to come.
Partners in crime. That’s the only way to describe Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker Jr. The two linebackers have brought the Colts defense into the top half of the league and the top ten in run defense. The two tackling machines complement each other perfectly and are a historic duo in the NFL today.
Let’s look at the statistics. In the 2019-2020 season, Leonard and Walker both posted totals of at least 120 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and 1 interception. This is the first pairing in NFL history to accomplish such a feat.
The season prior, both recorded over 100 tackles (with Leonard posting a ridiculous 163 tackles), at least 10 tackles for loss and at least one interception. The two combined for a whopping 513 tackles, 35 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, and 9 interceptions since 2018 when Leonard entered the league and Walker was promoted to full-time starter.
Under defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defensive scheme, the two linebackers are on the field for a large majority of all defensive snaps, with Leonard on the outside and Walker in the middle. The Colts defense has been given a good amount of criticism over the last year, especially considering how the unit regressed from 2018.
That, in large part, was not the fault of the front seven but a fault of the secondary. Leonard and Walker, along with Justin Houston and Jabaal Sheard on the defensive line, led the way for the Colts to finish 7th overall in rush defense with 97.9 yards allowed per game.
Leonard and Walker are similar players in their own regards. Both have a non-stop motor and are two great players against the run. Both use the length and size to attack the offense, whether it’s blitzing the quarterback or breaking up the pass game.
The 4-3 scheme allows for the duo to operate in free space, considering that there are only 3 linebackers on the field in that defensive set. This freedom of movement and freedom to affect multiple levels of the opposing offense is what drives the duo to be so successful on the field.
The duo is a culture-setter in the locker. They play tough and physical on every snap, and that translates to the rest of the unit. Young players like Bobby Okereke have stepped up to fill the 3rd linebacker role next to Walker and Leonard with much success.
The team-first mentality of the two is contagious and improve the level of play all throughout the team. The duo is the backbone of the Colts ever-improving defense and will look to be the headlines on a top NFL defense come next season.