Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard took home another award after a strong 2021 season and continues to get recognized for his efforts during his fourth season.
Leonard, who earned his third All-Pro nod, was incredible when it came to making impact plays. On top of that, he was named the best run defender in the NFL by Pro Football Focus as a part of their year-end awards.
LB Darius Leonard, Indianapolis Colts
Darius Leonard was a turnover machine this season. He has perfected the art of the “Peanut Punch” tackle, forcing fumbles without risking the play if his attempt to jar the ball loose isn’t successful. Leonard had four forced fumbles in the run game, twice as many as any other linebacker, and his average depth of tackle was just 2.87 yards down field.
Run defense goes beyond just those statistical plays, however, and is about how you deal with blocks and whether you can negatively impact the blocking scheme or the path of the running back, spilling him toward other defenders who can make the play even if you can’t. Leonard understands offensive tendencies and keys as well as any defender — he was consistently pointing out plays and reading things before they happened, alerting teammates to what was coming and blowing up the play to let them clean up behind him. He was the best run defender in football in 2021.
It was a spectacle watching Leonard play in 2021. It seemed that in every game he was finding a way to force out a ball from the hands of a ball carrier. The precision he had when it came to his punches was uncanny.
Now the highest-paid linebacker in the NFL, Leonard continues to be the heart of the defense while making a spectacular impact against the run.