INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard today spoke to local reporters via video conference about a multitude of topics, including his goals for Year 3, the addition of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and how he's handling offseason workouts.
You can listen to that entire conversation above, but here are some top takeaways from the session:
See some of the best images of Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard.
» Leonard, as always, has lofty goals for himself in 2020: Always with a chip on his shoulder, Leonard has made it a point to prove people wrong along every step of his football career. His individual goals from Day 1 with the Colts included being named Defensive Rookie of the Year, which he accomplished in 2018, being named All-Pro, which he's accomplished in both of his seasons, and being selected to the Pro Bowl, which came to fruition last year.
So what are Leonard's goals for 2020?
"Super Bowl MVP, league MVP, Defensive Player of the Year," he said.
Considering Leonard's first two seasons, those accomplishments sure don't seem too farfetched.
Leonard said he wrote down about 15 goals for himself last season and "only met three or four," despite being named Second-Team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl.
Leonard hopes to check off more of those boxes this year.
"That's unacceptable in my book," he said of not reaching some of his goals last season. "I'm going to strive to reach every goal I have instead of just three or four."
To give his best effort to reach those goals, Leonard says he's once again spending his time going over his film from his first two seasons, focusing more on his negative plays than the positive ones.
» The defense is stoked about the addition of DeForest Buckner: After going over the 2019 season, Colts general manager Chris Ballard knew the defense could really benefit from a dominant presence within the interior of the defensive line.
So in March, the team made a major splash to address that need, sending its 2020 first-round draft pick (No. 13 overall) to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
Buckner, who just turned 26, projects as a perfect piece to the Colts' defensive puzzle. He's one of the top three techniques in the entire NFL; the 6-foot-7, 295-pound Oregon product has collected 262 career tackles (38 for a loss) with 28.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed, seven fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. He also has one fumble recovery for a touchdown and six career multiple-sack games.
Buckner's addition should affect the Colts' defense in waves, the most obvious of which being his individual talent and ability to quickly collapse the pocket and make plays. But Buckner should attract plenty of extra attention from opposing blockers, which helps free up guys like Leonard who are coming from the second level.
Then, in the back end, the less time an opposing quarterback has to think, the less time he has to read the secondary, which should lead to more opportunities to take advantage of mistakes.
"Just very excited to add another monster to the defense," Leonard said of Buckner. "It starts up front. The D-line is the engine of our defense. … If we got all the dawgs up front, there's no way the offensive line can climb up quick. We can run free and make more plays."
» Leonard's getting creative to get his workouts in: The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people across the world, which, of course, has made its mark on NFL players and the ways they can stay in shape this offseason.
With fitness centers and gyms closed across the country, players have had to find other ways to get in a workout. For Leonard, a self-described "country boy" spending his days in his hometown of Lake View, S.C., population 807, that initially meant running in fields and literally pushing a lawnmower around.
Over the last few weeks, however, as the Colts have started up their virtual offseason workout program — four days a week which is split in half between team/positional meetings conducted via video conferencing and then players working out on their own — Leonard has figured out other ways to add to his workout options.
He said he's turned his "man cave" at home into a temporary fitness center, utilizing equipment made available from the league, as well as some borrowed from his former high school, to pump some actual iron.
"You've got to find a way to fight through adversity and get the job done," Leonard said.
The South Carolina State product also is still getting a competitive edge this offseason, despite not actually being in Indianapolis with his teammates. He said he's been going back and forth with fellow linebacker Anthony Walker, comparing workout results and even what times they're waking up and hitting the gym.
"He might've got me on the two-minute, three-minute (runs)," Leonard admitted of Walker. "But I'm waking up earlier, getting my workout in earlier than he does. … Who's working out harder? I think I do. … I think he's gonna be upset when he sees that."