Linebacker EJ Speed has been a big-down menace for the Colts

Indianapolis Colts linebacker EJ Speed has developed a great reputation for consistently making big stops on key downs.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker E.J. Speed (45) celebrates Baltimore Ravens incomplete pass on Sunday,
Indianapolis Colts linebacker E.J. Speed (45) celebrates Baltimore Ravens incomplete pass on Sunday, / Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY

A fifth-round pick out of Tarleton State, EJ Speed was arguably the biggest "who?" name out of the Indianapolis Colts 2019 draft class. However, his name and presence was quickly learned by the fanbase after he made his impact known early as a very good special teamer.

His knack for making plays showed up early and often during his sophomore campaign in 2020. Speed is the definition of a playmaker, whether that be on big downs (third and fourth defensively) or on special teams like this game-changing punt block against the AFC South foe Tennessee Titans.

Speed has since blossomed into much more than a top-notch special teamer. He's more than just servicable depth amidst a stacked linebacker room. He's a quality starting NFL linebacker who has proved to be among the most clutch defenders in big moments.

EJ Speed has emerged a big-play player for Colts

Speed has essentially replaced Zaire Franklin as the team's primary run defender from the linebacker spot. Since 2018, Shaq Leonard has been the freelancing takeaway king, Bobby Okereke was the coverage guy, and Zaire Franklin as the tackling machine.

Leonard is still in the process of getting back to 100% health, Okereke has since left for the New York Giants, and Franklin has emerged as one of the better all-around off-ball LBs in the NFL (while still tackling the opposition as if it's oxygen). This has allowed for the always improving EJ Speed to prove his doubters wrong.

Speed recorded the fifth-best run stop rate in the NFL a season ago and Pro Football Focus rated him as a top-10 run defender. His influx of playing time, unfortunately thanks to a season-altering Shaq Leonard injury, paid dividends for the Colts defense.

Last season was certainly his coming-out party for the rest of the league as he posted career-best numbers in the following categories: tackles (38), stops (21), forced fumbles (2), and pressures (5). What didn't change was his ability to show up in big moments. More specifically, this big time sack strip against a different AFC South foe, the Houston Texans.

EJ Speed thrives in big moments

As previously mentioned, EJ Speed logged 21 stops in 2022. As defined by Pro Football Focus themselves, a stop is a tackle that constitutes a 'failure' for the offense. Of his 38 total tackles, Speed had stops on 21 of them, a 55% rate.

Already this season, in the team's Week 2 game against the Texans, Speed had a game-defining sack in the first quarter and of course it was on a big down, third down to be specific. Also, to provide legitimacy to EJ's last name, the sack in question was registered as being the fourth-fastest sack at 2.4 seconds, according to NextGenStats.

Speed has become someone that not only makes big plays, but has become relied upon. He's seemingly always in position to make a play thanks to his preparation, and his talent is constantly following through with the execution. With a starting role carved out for Speed in the forseeable future, Colts fans should feel comfortable knowing he'll be readily available for more than just punt blocks and coverages.