Sat, 01 Apr 2023

Colts 2022 Position Recap: Linebackers

Indianapolis Colts
08 Feb 2023, 16:39 GMT+10

Zaire Franklin set a franchise record for tackles as the Colts' linebacking corps played at a high level, even without All-Pro Shaquille Leonard for most of the season. JJ Stankevitz

2022 Depth Chart

Zaire Franklin (17 games, 167 tackles, 12 TFLs, 3 sacks, 6 QB hits, 6 pass break-ups, 2 forced fumbles)Bobby Okereke (17 games, 151 tackles, 6 TFLs, 5 pass break-ups, 2 forced fumbles)E.J. Speed (17 games, 63 tackles, 7 TFLs, 1 sack, 2 pass break-ups, 2 forced fumbles)Shaquille Leonard (3 games, 11 tackles, 1 interception)JoJo Domann (16 games, 8 tackles)Grant Stuard (15 games, 11 tackles)Forrest Rhyne (3 games, 1 tackle)Segun Olubi (2 games, 1 tackle)Cameron McGrone (1 game, 1 tackle)

3 Things To Know

Zaire Franklin more than made the most of his opportunity. With Shaquille Leonard sidelined during training camp, and out for the first three weeks of the season, Franklin took over as the mike linebacker in Gus Bradley's 4-3 scheme and quickly made a tremendous impact. By the time Leonard was ready to go in Week 4, Franklin established himself as a can't-take-him-off-the-field guy - even with Leonard available, he still played 100 percent of the Colts' defensive snaps that week. Franklin commanded the Colts' defense all season and was incredibly productive - he had double-digit tackles in 10 of 17 games and set a new franchise record for tackles in a season with 167.Bobby Okereke's versatility shined. Okereke primarily played the mike in Matt Eberflus' scheme since joining the Colts as a third-round pick in 2019, but Bradley valued his length and athleticism and moved him to will in 2022. He set career highs in tackles (151) and tackles for a loss (six), and his three-play sequence at the end of the Colts' Week 11 win over the Las Vegas Raiders showcased his skillset. Okereke will become an unrestricted free agent in mid-March.E.J. Speed provided impactful depth. While Speed only played more than 50 percent of the Colts' defensive snaps in two games - Weeks 1 and 18, both against the Houston Texans - he was disruptive when he was on the field, especially against the run. Speed's 82.8 Pro Football Focus run defense grade ranked eighth among linebackers, and he had as many tackles for a loss/no gain (nine) as 49ers standout linebacker Fred Warner in 171 fewer run defense snaps. Speed, like Okereke, will become an unrestricted free agent in mid-March.

1 Big Stat

Let's start with Franklin's 167 tackles - Franklin became the 40th player since 1987 (when tackles became an official statistic) to have 160 or more tackles in a season. But diving deeper into how Franklin stuffed his stat sheet in 2022 shows how remarkable a season he had:

Players with 160+ tackles and 3+ sacks in a season (15):

Zaire Franklin (2022)Roquan Smith (2021, 2022)Zach Cunningham (2020)Shaquille Leonard (2018)Bobby Wagner (2016)Vontaze Burfict (2013)Paul Posluszny (2013)Patrick Willis (2007)Zach Thomas (2006)Jamie Sharper (2003)Ray Lewis (1997, 2001, 2003)Mike Johnson (1993)Broderick Thomas (1991)Scott Case (1990)Jessie Tuggle (1990)

Players with 160+ tackles, 3+ sacks and 6+ passes defensed in a season (7):

Zaire Franklin (2022)Roquan Smith (2022)Shaquille Leonard (2018)Vontaze Burfict (2013)Paul Posluzny (2013)Zach Thomas (2006)Ray Lewis (1999, 2001)

Players with 160+ tackles, 3+ sacks, 6+ passes defensed and 2+ forced fumbles in a season (3):

Zaire Franklin (2022)Shaquille Leonard (2018)Zach Thomas (2006)

Players with 160+ tackles, 3+ sacks, 6+ passes defenses, 2+ forced fumbles and 12+ TFLs in a season (2):

Zaire Franklin (2022)Shaquille Leonard (2018)

What's Next

Talking one day after the 2022 season ended, Leonard sounded optimistic in explaining where he stands health-wise heading into the offseason.

"As of right now, I have zero doubt in my mind that I will be back to being me," Leonard said. "I know that I will and I can't wait to come back out here, compete and prove everybody wrong. I love this game, I love to compete, I love to play and I love to prove everybody wrong. I'm looking forward to that opportunity."

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