Pair Of Colts Linebacker Jobs Remain Up For Grabs

Pair Of Colts Linebacker Jobs Remain Up For Grabs

Blog > Kevin's Corner > Colts Coverage > Pair Of Colts Linebacker Jobs Remain Up For Grabs

Pair Of Colts Linebacker Jobs Remain Up For Grabs

The final week of Training Camp is here for the 2019 Colts. What is the latest on the linebacker group around Darius Leonard?

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INDIANAPOLISIn 11 of the 16 games for the Colts’ last season, Darius Leonard didn’t come off the field for a single snap.


So the playing time at one linebacker spot for the Colts is of no worry going into the 2019 season.


Leonard doesn’t come off the field, no matter the down.


But the Colts have some decisions still to make at the other two linebacker spots.


At MIKE, Anthony Walker had the early lead in retaining his starting job, but rookie Bobby Okereke has received a significant look there as of late.


In Thursday’s preseason opener, both guys started (with Leonard resting), with Okereke getting his first NFL game-look at the MIKE position.


Walker, the third-year vet, played 11 snaps against the Bills, with Okereke logging 42 snaps, as Frank Reich said the Colts wanted to get an extended look at the young guys.


For now, it appears Walker has the slim lead at the MIKE.


“Anthony has a lot of positives about him,” linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi says. “He’s really smart, he loves football, he works at it. He’s so much better from this point last year. He’s gotten so much better. He’s cut his body fat down. He’s re-shaped his body.


“Just the mental part of it, he sees things and as linebackers you see formations pre-snap and indicators. Anthony studies the game and works really hard.”


Borgonzi notes that Okereke is a ‘smart kid’ that is also ‘football smart.’ If the Colts feel the mental hurdle for Okereke isn’t too immense, he very well could see a big role in 2019.


Given their supposed strengths, the MIKE position could be a mix and matching on run downs (Walker), versus pass downs (Okereke).


The MIKE position is one that the Colts will count on a lot in 2019.


The same cannot be said, at a high level, for the SAM spot.


At the third linebacker position, the Colts typically only use that role for around 10-15 snaps per game, depending on how much of an emphasis the opposition brings from a run game focus.


Matthew Adams is the returner at the SAM, but he’s being pushed quite a bit by the intriguing E.J. Speed.


On Thursday, Adams was the first SAM linebacker into the game, with this duo ending the night atop the tackle chart (Adams had 4 tackles in 34 snaps; Speed had 6 tackles in 42 snaps).


Evaluating film of Speed coming out of Tarleton State was not the easiest process for the Colts. But they quickly liked what they saw.


“Obviously it looked a little bit different than the SEC film,” Borgonzi said of Speed’s college tape. “It was a little bit grainier.


“But what I did see was a big man, running fast, making a lot of plays. And that’s what E.J. is, he’s a big man that is very rangy, takes up a lot of space. The thing about E.J., he loves playing football, too. You see the stuff on the video, but then his love for the game, too, really shows up when you get to be around him.”


All 5 of these names are draft picks of Chris Ballard, with each of them being selected in the first five rounds.


The body types have changed at linebacker in Indianapolis and while some decisions are needed to be solidified, the Colts have options they like, which is something that you couldn’t say with much confidence in prior years.



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