In picking up a tough win over the Washington Redskins, the Colts’ coaching staff showed their mettle. A red-hot Skins’ offense sputtered as a result of meticulous preparation and game planning. Bamboozled by Matt Eberflus’ unit, the Washington Redskins were denied a scant touchdown on Sunday. On the field, the individual players were just as much as a factor as the unit as a whole. Let’s dive into three players who made this win possible and three who the Colts hope show some improvement moving forward.
Wow. What more can I say about the Darius “Maniac” Leonard? I was not the biggest supporter of the Colts drafting of Leonard. I did have a high grade on Leonard; a small school player with solid athleticism and great instincts. However, his lack of strength and elite athleticism combined with his lack of dominance at his level left me, and many others, questioning. I certainly wouldn’t have used an early second round pick on him. And that’s why I’m not an NFL general manager.
Chris Ballard seems to have hit the nail on the head with the fiery Leonard. Vivacious, fierce, and energetic, Leonard was all over the field on Sunday. He finished the night with 18 tackles, a sack, a pass deflection, a tackle for loss, and a forced fumble. Reading the game like a seasoned veteran, Leonard executed Matt Eberflus’ game plan perfectly for a rookie who is barely acclimated to having a voice in his ear.
The Colts wanted to give Alex Smith check down to the backs and tight ends and make tackles. Leonard’s pursuit was excellent and he read run game exceptionally well. He was also adept in pass coverage, breaking on balls well. Darius Leonard looks like a future Pro Bowler in the making and a surefire Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. The quarterback of the defense, Leonard looks to emerge as the star backer that the Colts have always yearned for.
If you have been following my articles, you know how I feel about Jordan Wilkins. On draft night, I was distraught when the Colts passed on John Kelly for Wilkins. Throughout the preseason, when the Wilkins hype train was at its peak, I was riding the horse beside the train, proudly waving my Christine Michael flag. Wilkins’ tape really didn’t impress me in the preseason and leading into week one. My biggest gripe was how many gaps he missed and poor cuts he made. He didn’t seem to run with much authority, either. On against the Redskins, though, Wilkins impressed.
He was much more decisive and fluid in his cuts and finished runs with power. Wilkins hit all of his gaps and was a force between the tackles.
Jordan Wilkins patience on gap run pic.twitter.com/cpZ693NP4e
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) September 17, 2018
He posted a pedestrian 61 yards on 10 carries but made the most of his opportunities. Marlon Mack was active but did was not fully healthy. He just wasn’t moving with the same burst and “oomph” that he did last season. Luckily, Wilkins shouldered the load with some impressive running. Partly because of this, Andrew Luck only threw the ball 31 times, a massive 22 attempts less than in week one. Considering Washington’s excellent defensive line, Wilkins’ performance boosted his ranking up my totem pole.
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With Andrew Luck returning to the football field, the offensive line has been put at more of a premium than ever. Keeping Luck upright became more difficult when Anthony Castonzo went down. Luckily, Joe Haeg has stepped up in a big way. Drafted in 2016, Haeg has always been a solid, versatile depth lineman but struggled as a starter.
Haeg has been thrust into a starting role this season, at right tackle. Through the first two weeks, his performance has been commendable. The Colts have faced two stout defensive lines against the Bengals and Redskins and they have only conceded three sacks so far. Against Washington, Haeg garnered an above average 64.6 PFF grade. He moved well in run blocking and protected well, stifling the elite Ryan Kerrigan.
Next week, the Colts’ line faces their toughest test yet in the vaunted Eagles’ defensive line. With Castonzo back, the Colts are in a good as a position as ever to contend with Philly’s star-studded unit.
Kenny Moore, Margus Hunt, Pierre Desir
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that there is only one dud this week. The bad news is that it is Quincy Wilson, a player who the Colts have so much hope in. Drafted in the second round last season, Wilson tested as a potential number one cornerback. Last year’s cornerback is one of the best ever, producing names such as Marshon Lattimore, Tre’Davious White, and Shaquill Griffin.
Unfortunately, it seems Wilson is the only corner in that class who hasn’t looked spectacular yet. He was pedestrian against Washington. I understand he’s playing injured but he just hasn’t looked sharp in coverage. Given the excellent play of Kenny Moore and Pierre Desir, Wilson will need to improve his play if he wants to keep his starting outside job.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.