INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Irsay’s excitement began by first mentioning his two All-Pros—Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard.
The third name out of Irsay’s mouth in describing how ‘really excited’ he is about the 2020 Colts is a guy who played the 14th most defensive snaps of any Indy defender last season.
Ever since the Colts drafted Bobby Okereke in Round 3 of the 2019 Draft, they’ve always loved him.
And that love has only grown.
“We think (Okereke) can be a big-time player, Pro Bowl player,” Irsay tossed in, before moving on to Kenny Moore and other Colts he’s eager about.
Okereke started 8 games for the Colts as a rookie, playing 45 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.
The talked about competition between Okereke and Anthony Walker for the starting MIKE position never truly developed, but the Stanford rookie earned a notable role at a position group that no longer has 3 guys on the field at all times.
When Okereke wasn’t seeing time on passing downs, the Colts used him in a SAM linebacker role to play him more on the field, even though the MIKE spot is where the staff believes Okereke’s best long-term fit lies.
Drafting Okereke came from the Colts’ obsession over his length and speed—a la Darius Leonard—with Chris Ballard being very high on his projection into the Indy defense.
Some injuries at linebacker led to Okereke making 8 starts in 2019, finishing his rookie campaign with 65 tackles (48 solo), 2 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 2 forced fumbles, 2 passes defensed.
Entering Year Two, do we see Okereke push Walker even harder for that full-time starting MIKE role?
It seems like just a matter of time before the Colts have Okereke on the field on a much more consistent basis.
“Bobby is a smart player,” Leonard says. “He’s like a sponge. Once you tell him one thing or how to do something, he’s going to fix his mistakes. (Earlier this offseason), we were showing a play where he got beat in practice and coach corrected him in practice. Then playing against Jacksonville. He got his (interception). It was the same exact play that he messed up in practice and he got it right in the game.
“A guy like that who can just fix a problem right there and never have a problem again, that’s the type of guy we need to have. He’s going to be a great player and I think he’s going to make a lot plays for us.”