3 young Colts players that should see the field more
1. Linebacker EJ Speed
The Indianapolis Colts have been solid at the linebacking core with Shaq Leonard, Bobby Okereke, and, as of late, Zaire Franklin. However, Leonard has shown to struggle with injuries and soon, like really soon, the Colts will need to focus on their future. Leonard is going to be a $20.2 million cap hit and he will join Grant Stuard ($940 thousand), Jojo Domann ($875 thousand), and Zaire Franklin ($3 million) as the only linebackers on the roster next year.
If Indianapolis decides to move on from Okereke and trades Leonard and/or Franklin to begin the inevitable rebuild, it may be next man up for EJ Speed. Speed is playing his fourth season in the NFL, all with the Colts. In each year he has played in more games playing in a career-high 17 last season. This year he has played in 13 games but has already surpassed his career total tackles (46) and solo tackle (27) mark. He also recorded the first sack of his career this season and has added 7.5 stuffs stopping that many runs either behind or at the line of scrimmage. According to PFF, Speed is currently ranked 13th among 81 eligible linebackers. That is the highest mark for a linebacker on the Colts this season and is nine places ahead of the next linebacker which is Okereke (22nd).
He warrants more playing time based on the injury currently suffered to Leonard. Indianapolis currently lists Speed as the first SAM linebacker ahead of Domann. In addition to covering for Leonard, his play would give the front office a chance to see what they have in Speed whose contract is also up this season. If he continues to improve while seeing more playing time he could play a bigger part on the defense in the future. His stats this season have also warranted more playing time. The writing is on the wall for Indianapolis and with the season winding down and not a great chance of postseason success it wouldn’t hurt to let the young guys get some action.