INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July upon us, and the start of training camp now within sight, it's time for the Indianapolis Colts' Burning Questions series.
We continue today with the linebacker position:
» How can the Colts find more snaps for Bobby Okereke?
It's a good problem to have if you're Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus: the team has so much talent at the linebacker position that not every key contributor is going to be able to be on the field for every snap. So how will he divvy up those reps? While All-Pro Darius Leonard has it locked down at the WILL linebacker spot, will Anthony Walker, the starter at MIKE the last two seasons, and up-and-comer Bobby Okereke, who started at SAM as a rookie last year, possibly find themselves rotating a little bit more than they showed in 2019? The caveat, of course, is it all depends on the formation being utilized, as all three are part of the 4-3 base look. But Okereke played just more than 45 percent of the Colts' defensive snaps last year, and after showing plenty of flashes of his abilities as a stat-sheet-stuffing playmaker — he was Pro Football Focus' top-rated rookie linebacker in 2019, and had 65 total tackles (two for a loss) with one sack, two passes defensed, two forced fumble, one fumble recovery and also added a pick-two — one has to imagine Indy will find ways to get him on the field much more in Year 2.
» Can Darius Leonard keep up his historic pace?
Leonard has been an absolute beast since being selected by the Colts in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year and a First-Team All-Pro selection his first year, and followed that up by being voted to his first Pro Bowl and named Second-Team All-Pro in his second season in 2019. He's one of just three players in the NFL since at least 1982 to accumulate at least 200 tackles and 10 sacks in their first two seasons, joining Duane Bickett and Pro Football Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher. In fact, Leonard is the only player in NFL history to collect at least 284 tackles, 12 sacks and seven interceptions in their first two seasons, according to Pro Football Reference. So what will Leonard have in store in Year 3? Well, at the team level, with 115 tackles, he will pass Bickett (398) for the most tackles in a player's first three seasons in Colts history. And if Leonard really balls out in 2020 and has 190 tackles, he'll pass Luke Kuechly (473) for the most tackles in a player's first three seasons in NFL history. If Leonard were to do that, it'd be just the seventh season of 190 or more tackles in NFL history (the single-season NFL record is 214, set by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Hardy Nickerson in 1993). Heck, Leonard has seemingly done everything else to this point — why not up the ante a little bit more?
» Will Jordan Glasgow force his way into the depth conversation at linebacker?
The Colts have been fortunate in many regards at the linebacker position the last couple years. Not only is their starting unit among the best in the NFL, but their depth at the position has featured terrific continuity with guys like Matthew Adams, Zaire Franklin and E.J. Speed, all of whom are also major contributors on special teams. But that depth is sure to be tested over the next couple months after the team used a sixth-round pick on Michigan linebacker Jordan Glasgow. While Glasgow likely won't be competing for a starting job on defense right away, he was picked up by the Colts primarily for what general manager Chris Ballard believes he'll be able to bring to the various special teams units; at the college level, Glasgow did it all, blocking punts and covering kicks like a madman, which is music to the ears of Indy special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone, who will also have a major say in which fringe players make the final 53-man roster. So maybe the better question is: how quickly can Glasgow translate his special teams prowess in college to the professional game?