Return Of Darius Leonard Comes At Important Time

Return Of Darius Leonard Comes At Important Time

Blog > Kevin's Corner > Colts Coverage > Return Of Darius Leonard Comes At Important Time

Return Of Darius Leonard Comes At Important Time

The return of Darius Leonard this week comes at a critical time for the Colts as they take on Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans this Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.

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INDIANAPOLIS – Obviously, his return for the Kansas City game would have been more than welcomed.

But if you are going to pick another game on the 2019 schedule to have Darius Leonard playing in, a matchup against Deshaun Watson and the Texans has to be right at the top of that list.

Leonard’s return to the lineup comes this Sunday, after missing the last three weeks due to a lengthy concussion.

And it comes at a very important time.

“This team is so talented on offense,” Frank Reich says about the Texans. “This team has some really talented players on offense. You can tell that they have smart football players and physically talented players. So we need to have as many of those guys as well.

“Darius is one of those guys. When Deshaun Watson gets in the open field, Darius can make it interesting and not many guys can. So you need guys like Darius that can make it interesting.”

With the Colts changing their approach to finding linebackers in the Chris Ballard era, a common phrase used by the GM has been ‘run and strike’ in seeking out the attributes wanted at LB.

Ballard has tried to pursue linebackers that can make plays in the open field, especially against dual-threat quarterbacks, like Watson.

That’s where having Leonard in a week like this is vital to a game plan.

Leonard offers the Colts an opportunity to use No. 53 in some spy-type of roles, so Watson might think twice about trying to extend a play out of the pocket.

“He reminds me of a receiver playing quarterback,” Leonard says of Watson. “He can throw the ball, he can run the rock. He’s very dangerous, so you definitely have got to keep him in the well and hopefully go from there.”

Earlier this week, Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus mentioned that Leonard’s return means the Colts will have to see how they can still use Anthony Walker and Bobby Okereke on the field, at times. The Colts will have all 3 of those linebackers involved in the game plan, occupying various roles at the WILL and MIKE, with Walker and Okereke likely to split some time at the MIKE.

What Leonard brings on the field can be seen by many people, but just his presence will change the oomph of that defense.

“He’s a special player,” Walker says of No. 53. “You just feel the juice and the energy that he brings. It goes throughout the whole defense.”

There were times last season against the Texans where Leonard made some plays against Watson, or even DeAndre Hopkins, that drew the All-Pro attention he eventually received.

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien actually coached Leonard at the 2018 Senior Bowl, so he saw some of that potential even before he had to game plan against The Maniac.

“He can run, he’s a really good blitzer, he’s really good in coverage,” O’Brien says. “He was very, very impressive to us (at the Senior Bowl).

“He’s a very unique player and a great player.”

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