INDIANAPOLIS — Darius Leonard's impressive stat-stuffing performance in just his second NFL game has earned him some recognition from the league.
The Indianapolis Colts rookie linebacker today was named the AFC's Defensive Player of the Week.
Leonard racked up 18 tackles — with 15 solo stops — and logged the first sack, forced fumble and pass breakup of his career in last Sunday's 21-9 win over the Washington Redskins at FedExField, the Colts' first victory of the season.
The South Carolina State product becomes the first Colts rookie to earn AFC Player of the Week honors since former outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Week 17 of the the 2014 season against the Tennessee Titans.
Leonard became the first Colts player to log 18 tackles in a game since Kavell Conner's 18 stops Week 4 of the 2011 season, and is believed to be the first Colts rookie to achieve that milestone since 1994.
Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has been using the same production chart to grade his linebackers' performances since 1995, and said Leonard's game against the Redskins "ranked in the top-five" all-time on that list — "which is saying something."
"Darius graded out really well with all the production he had in terms of tackles and all of those things," Eberflus said Tuesday. "He hit the ball. It's all about hitting the ball. If somebody is sitting at the top of the stands there at any stadium should be able to say, 'Man, who is that player?' And you should be able to notice them at linebacker."
Through two weeks of the regular season Leonard is leading the NFL in tackles (27), and Colts head coach Frank Reich said the second-round (36th-overall) pick "might be" the steal of the 2018 NFL Draft.
"Certainly after two weeks," Reich said Monday in his weekly appearance on "Colts Roundtable Live" on 1070 The Fan. "I mean, with the numbers and you just watch him on film, he's done himself right — and done the Colts right."
Leonard said Tuesday he won't be complacent about his game just because of one standout performance, however.
"(I'm) just going to try to take it play by play like I always do," Leonard said. "I'm going to try to make every tackle, try to hit the ball each and every play. So no pressure at all."
Leonard, by the way, is also up for another weekly league award. Fans can vote for the linebacker as the NFL's Rookie of the Week by clicking here.
Leonard is the first Colts player to win AFC Player of the Week accolades since Week 9 of last season, when wide receiver T.Y. Hilton was named Offensive Player of the Week after catching five passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns in a road win over the Houston Texans.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri was also named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Week 5 last season after hitting four field goals, including the game-winner in overtime, in the Colts' victory over the San Francisco 49ers.
Leonard becomes just the fourth Colts rookie to earn AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, joining defensive end Steve Emtman (Week 8, 1992), defensive end Dwight Freeney (Week 10, 2002) and outside linebacker Jonathan Newsome (Week 17, 2014).
Indianapolis has now had 10 rookies earn NFL Player of the Week recognition on 12 occasions:
» 1992: Steve Emtman, DE (10/25 at Miami)
» 1996: Marvin Harrison, PR (9/8 at NY Jets); Marvin Harrison, WR (12/15 at Kansas City)
» 1998: Peyton Manning, QB (11/15 vs. NY Jets)
» 1999: Edgerrin James, RB (10/31 vs. Dallas); Edgerrin James, RB (11/21 at Philadelphia)
» 2002: Dwight Freeney, DE (11/10 at Philadelphia)
» 2006: Joseph Addai, RB (11/26 vs. Philadelphia)
» 2012: Andrew Luck, QB (11/4 vs. Miami); T.Y. Hilton, PR (11/25 vs. Buffalo)
» 2014: Jonathan Newsome, OLB (12/28 at Tennessee)
» 2018: Darius Leonard, LB (9/16 at Washington)