Colts rookie Darius Leonard ‘graded out really well’

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 16: Tight end Jordan Reed #86 of the Washington Redskins is tackled by linebacker Darius Leonard #53 of the Indianapolis Colts during the second half at FedExField on September 16, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Matt Eberflus, admittedly tough when it comes to grading his defensive players following a game, had a difficult time finding holes in Darius Leonard’s performance Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

“Yeah,’’ he said Tuesday, “Darius graded out really well.’’

Eberflus is the Indianapolis Colts’ first-year coordinator, and relies on a grading system that’s been in place since 1995 to evaluate individual performances.

“It’s hard to score out the right way,’’ he said. “You can’t just come up and get a sack on the first play and, ‘Man, you played great.’’’

Players must perform at a high level over four quarters. Benchmarks include effort, striking ability, execution. Loafs are handed out to motivate players and point out where more could have been – should have been – given.

In his second NFL game, Leonard might have come close to earning an A-plus from Eberflus. Remember his stat line in the 21-9 victory: 18 tackles, including 15 solos, 1 sack, 1 defended pass, 1 forced fumble. Leonard was one of five defensive players on the field for all 74 snaps.

“I’ve been using this production chart since 1995,’’ Eberflus reiterated. “He ranked in the top-5, which is saying something. I’m not going to mention any names.’’

Where did Leonard’s game rank in that top-5?

“He was at 5,’’ Eberflus said.

After researching Colts’ stats at our disposal that date back to 1985, Leonard’s 18 tackles are the most – ever – by a rookie and tied for the third-highest total in team history. Four players have piled up 20 in a game: Pat Angerer (2011), Bob Sanders (2005), Scott Radecic (1991) and Jeff Herrod (twice in 1994). Another six have had 19 in a game, and four have finished with 18.

Despite now residing in an exclusive group, there’s apparently little chance of Leonard getting full of himself.

The second-round draft pick was asked if during video review of the Washington game Eberflus pointed out more of his good plays or bad plays?

“Bad plays,’’ Leonard said. “You always want to look at bad plays because there’s always room for improvement. He points out more bad.

“Even if I made a tackle, my breaks could have been better, I could have run in the hole a lot faster, things like that.’’

Leonard isn’t interested in being showered with praise.

“No, not at all,’’ he said. “If I get that then I get comfortable. From where I came from, I always wanted to be the best and I wanted to get to the top. I know I’ve got to outwork everybody each and every day and that’s what I plan to do.’’

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