Ask EJ Speed about his favorite play from his breakout 2022 season, and it might not be one you expect.
It's not his Week 1 strip-sack of Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills, or his late-game fourth down stop of Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne in Week 6.
Instead, Speed quickly pointed to a play he made on special teams. On the opening kickoff of overtime in the Colts' Week 15 game against the Minnesota Vikings, Speed scythed downfield to tackle Vikings returner Kene Nwangwu at his own 17-yard line. Minnesota's ensuing eight-play, 44-yard drive ended with a punt, though, because Speed made that tackle so deep in Vikings territory.
"I knew we needed to pin them," Speed said. "... That was my favorite play of the season because we lost Zaire (Franklin) on special teams, so it was one of those times where, this is my turn. This is my chance to be a soldier — like, you got to step in this situation because you know how important special teams is in overtime."
Speed earned a contract extension with the Colts – which he signed Wednesday – because of his impact on both defense and special teams. The 2019 fifth-round pick set career highs in tackles (63), tackles for a loss (seven) and special teams snaps (384) in 2022, growing his role not only as a linebacker but as a four-phase special teamer.
Speed primarily played Sam (strongside) linebacker in Gus Bradley's 4-3 base defense and graded as one of the NFL's better run defenders in that role: His 82.8 Pro Football Focus run defense grade ranked eighth among linebackers in 2022. Bradley put trust into Speed early in the season, and Speed reinforced that trust throughout the year with strong play on the field.
"(That trust) means everything," Speed said. "It means that I can't fall short of what's expected, just because I know those opportunities will be presented because (Bradley's) already expressed to me that I trust you, I want to do this, I want to do that. So he already laid down the game plan for me of what's expected for the season.
"So for me, when I'm in summer workouts, I take that into consideration. I take that trust and I don't take that for granted."
Speed signed his contract extension on Wednesday with an "unfinished business mindset." He wanted to stay in Indianapolis not only for his own career, but to help the Colts turn things around after a 4-12-1 season. Speed said he came to an agreement with general manager Chris Ballard not only on the monetary side of signing an extension, but it in what the direction of the organization will be going forward.
"There was never a time that I was second-guessing if I wanted to come back to the Colts, and that's how I knew it was time," Speed said. "Let's get this done early, let's get back to work and do what we need to do."
Linebacker E.J. Speed re-signs with the Colts.