Malik Hooker, Darius Leonard Make PFF's 'All-Clutch Team'

The Indianapolis Colts' defense features two of the best in the league with the ability to come up big in late-game situations, as Pro Football Focus recently placed linebacker Darius Leonard and safety Malik Hooker on its "All-Clutch Team."

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INDIANAPOLIS — As the saying goes, "Clutch is everything."

There's a ton of players who show up early in the game, but what about the closers? The guys that show up with the game on the line?

According to Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus, the Indianapolis Colts have a couple of those guys on defense in safety Malik Hooker and linebacker Darius Leonard.

Linsey recently published PFF's NFL All-Clutch Team, which was put together by "selecting the players who graded the best in the fourth quarter and overtime of one-score games (within eight points)."

Using 2019's data, Hooker nabbed First-Team honors, while Leonard landed as a Second-Team selection. Here's Linsey on Hooker:

"The job of a free safety can be without glamour and hard to judge at times. If they're doing their job well, the ball isn't going to come their way all that often, leaving them with fewer opportunities to make the splash plays on the ball that bring the recognition. Both Hooker and Boston [Tre Boston] did excellent jobs of both limiting throws into their coverage and making plays on the ball when passes did come their way. Boston was targeted as the primary coverage defender just once in this sample, but he came away with one forced incompletion and one interception anyway. Likewise, Hooker was targeted only four times with two interceptions to his name. It's hard to get much better than that."

Hooker is a ballhawk in the truest sense, and it's fitting that he's made this All-Clutch Team because some of his biggest plays have come late in games with the score close together.

The fourth-year pro out of Ohio State had two interceptions in the fourth quarter of one-score games in 2019. In fact, four of his seven career interceptions meet those thresholds. One of his two career fumble recoveries have come in crunch time as well.

While quarterbacks know to generally avoid Hooker downfield late in games in passing situations, his range and instincts manifest themselves and he makes plays.

Like Hooker, Leonard has ice water in his veins and knows how to take the ball away from the offense.

During "clutch time" in 2019, Leonard recorded one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovered and two interceptions. That's been a theme throughout his two All-Pro seasons in the league, as he's notched four clutch-time sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovered and two interceptions.

When it's late in the game and the Colts' defense desperately needs a play, it becomes Leonard's time to shine.

PFF had Leonard graded as the No. 6 linebacker overall in the NFL in 2019 with a grade of 79.2. His tackling grade — ever important in keeping offenses from moving the chains — ranked even better, as he came in as the second-best-tackling linebacker with a 88.8. He also ranked very high in pass rushing (78.4, third) and run defense (78.8, ninth).

In its two years, this All-Clutch Team award has been very kind to the Colts.

In the inaugural collection of this award in 2018, three-fifths of their starting offensive line in left guard Quenton Nelson, right guard Mark Glowinski and right tackle Braden Smith as well as Leonard made the First-Team. Defensive end Justin Houston also made the First-Team as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Running back Nyheim Hines and Glowisnki's predecessor at right guard, Matt Slauson, made the Second-Team.

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