Colts are preparing to unleash Shaquille Leonard like never before

• Star linebacker Shaquille Leonard is finally healthy and back on the field for the Indianapolis Colts.

• Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley recently revealed how Leonard will be used in the defense.

Indianapolis Colts Training Camp
Indianapolis Colts Training Camp / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

After pretty much missing all of last season, Shaquille Leonard is back healthy and is on the field with the Indianapolis Colts in training camp. That wasn’t the case last year. Multiple surgeries limited the perennial Pro Bowl linebacker to just 74 snaps over three games. During last year’s training camp, Leonard was on the PUP list for all of it.

He’s been available since day one of this year’s training camp, and as he works his way back to form, he’s already been looking pretty good according to his coaches and teammates. They’ve been raving about how smart and instinctual Leonard is at linebacker, and how that’s been on display in training camp.

Leonard’s instincts have also earned him a special privilege in Gus Bradley’s defense. Bradley, in a recent conversation with the media, spoke about how gifted Shaq Leonard is, being able to see things before they happen. Because of that feel for the game, Bradley and the defensive staff are giving Leonard a green light to follow his instincts.

Colts are giving Shaquille Leonard the freedom to play instinctively

As simple as allowing a player to follow their instincts may seem, not all players get that freedom. Some players are told to follow their assignment to a T, even some really good players. However, special players are allowed to ad-lib. That’s typically seen with great quarterbacks at the line of scrimmage, or elite wide receivers, but the best defenders also have that freedom as well.

In 2023, that will be the case for Leonard. It should come as no surprise that a linebacker that’s considered undersized, that has also become the NFL’s turnover king, is an instinctual player. During Leonard’s DPOY-caliber season in 2021, he showcased his elite instincts, racking up 122 tackles, four for a loss, eight forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, and four interceptions.

He’ll now have a real chance to showcase his skills in Gus Bradley’s defense. Bradley, of course, is no stranger to elite linebackers. Guys like Bobby Wagner, Denzel Perryman, Paul Posluszny, and David Hawthorne have all played some of their best football as middle linebackers in Bradley’s defense. Throwing a healthy Leonard, that will be allowed to play free, in that defense should scare the rest of the NFL, and excite Colts fans.