What should the Colts do with star linebacker Shaquille Leonard?

After Shaquille Leonard didn't see the field in overtime in a Week 4 loss, Colts fans are beginning to question what is going on with the All-Pro linebacker.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard / Perry Knotts/GettyImages

After fighting back from a 23-point deficit, the Indianapolis Colts inevitably fell short to the Los Angeles Rams in their seventh-consecutive home loss. The Colts were held to zero points through nearly three quarters, with Los Angeles dominating the first half of the game.

After an incredible fourth-quarter effort, Indianapolis forced the game to overtime with three consecutive touchdown drives led by Anthony Richardson. The rookie tallied over 250 total yards with three total touchdowns in a huge comeback effort.

Unfortunately, Indy’s defense wasn't able to stop the Rams offense from driving down the field for a game-winning touchdown in overtime. Richardson didn't touch the field in overtime, since fellow rookie Puka Nacua led the Rams to victory in a stand-out performance against a weakened Colts secondary.

One thing that stood out from the overtime period is that Colts All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard didn't touch the field. Even with Zaire Franklin suffering an injury in the second half, defensive coordinator Gus Bradley opted to put in offseason-signee Segun Olubi to close out the game.

Why didn't Shaquille Leonard see the field for Colts in overtime?

According to Steichen, its due to player rotation. "We're just, obviously, rotating them in there," said Steichen. With Leonard coming back from an injury involving nerve issues, the Colts are opting to try and slowly get him back to full form. Leonard, who is highest paid player on the roster, saw only 45% of defensive snaps on Sunday.

Gus Bradley explained the plan for Leonard throughout the season, admitting that he hopes that he’s fully back sometime in November.

Colts hope for Shaquille Leonard to be all the way back by November

After missing nearly all of the 2022 season, Leonard is looking to bounce back from injuries and put up more historical numbers. There's been discourse between Colts fans on whether or not he will be able to make a full return, but Leonard is staying patient. "I just have to trust... and when you get opportunities, take full advantage of it," said Leonard.

Against the Rams, the Colts were forced into nickel packages often which meant less time for linebackers. Leonard's lower snap count is partly due to this, but also the overall goal of staying patient and keeping Leonard from feeling overwhelmed in his return.

According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Shaq Leonard was the sixth-lowest rated linebacker in the NFL for Week 4. It's evident that the star needs more time to get back into top form, and week-by-week improvement is the ultimate goal for the 28-year-old.

The three-time First-Team All-Pro linebacker is looking to rejoin one of the best linebacker groups in the NFL with the emergence of Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed. Colts fans should be excited to see an electrifying, youthful group with this much potential leading the defense. Should Leonard return to his prime, the Colts defense will be a tackling and turnover forcing machine that can stop any top-tier offense.