*INDIANAPOLIS — *The interior of the Indianapolis Colts’ linebacker corps found some consistency during the 2017 season, as starters Jon Bostic and Antonio Morrison missed only three games combined, giving the likes of third-year player Jeremiah George and, later in the season, rookie Anthony Walker the opportunity to fill in when needed.
The inside linebackers also played an important role on special teams, with four at the position recording multiple tackles on kickoffs and punt returns with a key punt block late in the season.
Though this young group showed some signs of jelling as the season moved along, it also was part of a squad that had trouble closing out games in the second half. But the valuable live snaps for the less-experienced players, along with the expected return of Edwin Jackson — who spent the season on Injured Reserve — should set the Colts up for tremendous competition at the position moving forward.
Here’s a review of the play of the Colts’ inside linebackers in 2017.
Veteran presenceBostic, though in his first year with Indy, was the senior member of the squad during his fifth NFL season in 2017.
Although he was placed on injured reserve Dec. 18 after injuring his right knee, missing the final two games, Bostic still made an impact all over the field during the season. He not only collected 97 tackles (six for loss), one sack and two quarterback hits, but also dropped into coverage, providing three passes defensed and a fumble recovery.
Steady sophomoreMorrison, who started every game except Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals due to an elbow injury, led the team in tackles with 108 during the 2017 season.
It was a big step for the second-year player and 2016 fourth round draft pick out of Florida who showed early in training camp that he could handle the starting spot alongside a fellow Gator in Bostic.
Morrison, the Colts’ primary WILL linebacker, added three tackles for loss and one pass defensed on defense, and also contributed a pair of special teams tackles while showing his versatility and value to the Colts.
Finishing strongWalker, selected by the Colts in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, was another member of the team’s strong draft class who contributed during his rookie year.
A hamstring injury during the season opener against the Los Angeles Rams derailed the early part of the season for the Northwestern product, but he worked his way back, and as he got healthier he also got a better grasp of the defense, earning two starts to close the season after the injury to Bostic.
In his first NFL start at the Baltimore Ravens on Dec. 23, Walker tied Morrison with nine tackles to lead the Colts and had a key special teams play. One score from tying the game late in the fourth quarter, Walker broke through and blocked a punt setting up the Indy deep in Ravens territory. Though the offense was unable to punch it in the end zone, it was another example of the big plays Walker can offer.
In the three games he played defensive snaps, Walker totaled 19 tackles (one for a loss). Beyond his blocked punt he also contributed three special teams tackles.
Other notesGeorge, who earned the start Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals in place of the injured Morrison, had 18 tackles (one for a loss), a half-sack and two quarterback hits on the year.
George and rookie Jermaine Grace were primarily special teams players during the 2017 season. George had five special teams tackles and a fumble recovery and Grace added three special teams stops.
Darnell Sankey, a first year player, saw action in six games with the Colts in 2017 and also spent time on the team’s practice squad. Jackson, meanwhile, was placed on IR prior to the start of the 2017 season; he started eight games for the Colts in 2016, finishing third on the team with 61 total tackles, while adding two sacks, one tackle for a loss and two quarterback hits.
Number to remember201:* *Morrison and Bostic, the team’s starting inside linebackers, combined for 201 tackles on the year — nine for a loss — in 2017. The two were the Colts’ leading tacklers, followed by safety Matthias Farley (91 tackles).
---------------2017 Colts Review:
• Defensive Linemen
• Running Backs
• Inside Linebackers
• Tight Ends
• Outside Linebackers
• Wide Receivers
• Offensive Linemen
• Special Teamers