INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Individual accolades continue to serve as consolation for team shortcomings.
Guard Quenton Nelson has been named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press for a second straight season. He’s first Colts’ linemen to earn consecutive first-team nods since 1965. Linebacker Darius Leonard, a first-team choice as a rookie, was a second-team choice.
Nelson and Leonard, the first two selections in Chris Ballard’s 2018 draft class, already have emerged as cornerstones for the Indianapolis Colts.
“Q is unique, man, not only as a player but as a teammate,’’ Ballard said Thursday. “Y’all don’t get to see the raw stuff right after a game, a win or a loss. I love going into the locker room. You hate it after losses, but when you see this kid’s care factor, it’s like somebody shot him when things don’t go well for us.
“It is a deep hurt and it’s infectious. So fortunate to have him and we’ll continue to get better. He hasn’t reached his ceiling yet.’’
Nelson also was selected to his second Pro Bowl. He’s the first Colts’ offensive lineman to be named first-team All-Pro in consecutive seasons since 1965. Hall of Fame tackle Jim Parker was a first-team choice from 1958-1965.
He has started all 34 games in his career, including the playoffs, and helped elevate the Colts’ offensive line into one of the NFL’s premier units.
Leonard, meanwhile, is coming off another productive season after being named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018.
Despite missing three games with a concussion, Leonard piled up a fat stat line: 121 tackles, including seven for a loss, 5 sacks, and five interceptions, including one at Tampa Bay he returned 80 yards for a touchdown. Leonard’s five interceptions are the most by a Colts linebacker since Cato June’s five in 2005, and tied for the third-most in team history by a linebacker.
In two seasons and 28 games, Leonard has 284 tackles, including 19 for a loss, 12 sacks and seven interceptions. He was the first player since 1982 to have at least 10 sacks and five interceptions in his first 25 games.
“He’s a natural playmaker,’’ Ballard said. “You saw it in college. He took the ball away and made plays in college, and that hasn’t changed. I was talking this morning. He reminds me of Charles Tillman. Tillman was the same way in college. They found ways to strip the ball, take the ball away.
“There’s things Darius needs to get better at and he knows that. But those are two really special, special players and young men.’’
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