So getting back to watching a full game of coaching tape I wanted to take a look at something else on defence and a quick check of the NFL league leaders brought me back to a player I was hearing buzz about earlier in the season, namely Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts who currently leads the league in tackles. So for this week’s amateur adventures in film I watched the Colts number fifty-three as they hosted the Buffalo Bills.
Sticking on the game the first thing that leapt out to me about Leonard was his fast feet that were twitching on the snap of the ball and allowed him a quick response to what was going on in front of him. A true three down backer he plays weakside or will linebacker in the Colts base 4-3 defence but the Colts spent a lot of this game reacting to the Bills’ 11 personnel package with nickel and dime defences but Leonard didn’t leave the game until the Bill’s final drive in the fourth quarter. This is not surprising as the rookie second round pick is a long athlete who very much moves well in space. He tends move round blocks although I did see him take on the Bills’ fullback Patrick DiMarco, shed the bloc and make the tackle, but I did also saw lineman and tight ends get their hands on Leonard and take him out the play. However, mostly he made the tackle, which is hardly surprisingly given he leads the league in tackles despite missing a game through an ankle injury. He is always around the ball and even if he is not the first there he will be helping with the tackle. It’s strong trait and whether he’s quickly diagnosing the play and rushing forward, reacting having dropped into a zone, spying on the running back, or following someone on a route he reacts and gets there quickly. A couple of times he couldn’t quite make the initial tackle and on one play Chris Ivory got round him to the edge and made a big pickup although Leonard did make the tackle in the end.
Leonard is not a big hitter and doesn’t look to set the edge which is why he play on the weak side, but he very much looks like a modern linebacker, athletic and able to play in space, which is increasingly necessary in the current NFL. The tackle statistic is one that is a slightly dubious one to put too much faith in as a bad team will give a player more opportunities to make a tackle as the opposing offence will be on the field longer but in a game where the Bills kept giving the Colts the ball with short fields, the defence was on the field without much rest and Leonard kept coming. It is early but he looks very promising and already the Colts defence ranks over ten places higher than last season by DVOA and I would say Darius Leonard had a big part in that.