INDIANAPOLIS — In what has been an accomplishment-laden rookie season for Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard, he added a significant feather in his cap on Sunday night against the Tennessee Titans.
With his sixth tackle of the game — coming just before the end of the first half — Leonard reached 161 total tackles on this season, which breaks the Colts’ franchise record for tackles in a season. The record had stood for 27 years, previously set by linebacker Jeff Herrod in 1991 with his 160 tackles.
Coming into Week 17's winner-take-all showdown in Nashville, Leonard’s 155 tackles led the entire NFL by a wide margin; the next closest player being 23 tackles behind him. Leonard was also the only player with over 100 solo tackles to that point (107), the next closest with 99.
Herrod had a terrific season in ‘91, adding 2.5 sacks, an interception and three fumble recoveries to his 160 tackles, but Leonard’s 2018 campaign will sit near the top of individual seasons for a Colts linebacker in team history.
Leonard has compiled one of the most impressive resumés for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in recent memory; so much so that he is also a dark horse candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Leonard entered tonight's game at 155 tackles (12 for loss), 7.0 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered (including a blocked kick recovery), one interception, six pass breakups and eight quarterback pressures.
He is first among all off-ball linebackers in sacks (second among rookies) and forced fumbles (first among rookies) and is tied for first among rookies in fumbles recovered. Leonard is tied for first in the NFL in games with 10-plus tackles (seven), and he has led the Colts in tackles in nine games.
Historically, Leonard and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Broderick Thomas are the only players in NFL history to record at least 150 tackles and 7.0 sacks in a single season.
Despite some considering the selection of Leonard out of South Carolina State in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft a reach, the recognition for him since very early on in the season has been endless.
Leonard was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Month for September, as well as NFL Defensive Player of the Week for his Week 2 performance. He was also crowned the NFL Rookie of the Week twice, earning the honor in Weeks 2 and 8.
The local and national outcry when Leonard was not initially named to the Pro Bowl when rosters were announced last week was loud and far-reaching. Despite the Pro Bowl snub (he was named as an alternate), Leonard is near the top of the race for Defensive Rookie of the Year and could be named to one of the All-Pro teams at season's end.