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How Is Darius Leonard Trying To Improve Going Into 2019 Season?

As Darius Leonard heads into his second NFL season, he watched ‘his bad plays’ from his rookie campaign in which he won the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Joe Robbins | Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS – This time of year for Darius Leonard isn’t about gushing over the highlights.

And there were many of those for Leonard last season.

Of course there were for the Defensive Rookie of the Year, who compiled an NFL-best 163 tackles, 7 sacks and 2 interceptions---numbers this league has never seen.

When Leonard and the Colts reported for the start of their 2019 offseason program back on April 15, the tape he was watching wasn’t anything you see a high school recruit make.

This tape was filled of Leonard’s ‘lowlights’ from 2018.

And defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus was ready to watch it with Leonard.

“(We) watched every last bad play I had,” Leonard said of his first day back in the spring. “It taught me a lot, because especially coming off the season I had, and just thinking, ‘OK, maybe I did something.’ Then you go back and watch film and say, ‘OK, wait a minute, hold on. You’re not as good as you think you are.’


“So it makes you sit and think, and even though the playbook is very simple, sometimes you just want to say, ‘Yeah, I know what to do here’. But now in the offseason I sit down, I look at every run play, every pass play. I see how I get beat or what things I can do better, so all it is now is just mental preparation and technique and how to get better each day.”


And what did Leonard discover from watching plays of his that will never appear on any highlight reel?


“I would say getting off blocks a whole lot quicker,” the 2018 second-round pick says. “A lot of times when I engage in blocks I tend to stay a little longer than I want to. So just getting off the blocks quicker.”


Earlier this offseason, Leonard spoke about the goal of changing his body a little bit going into Year Two.


He wants to be south of 225 pounds, so he can rely on his strength of speed and range.


And if he can learn from the lowlight film he watched with Eberflus?


“I’m always about being on top,” the Maniac says of his goals. “I didn’t win a Super Bowl or a ring. I didn’t win MVP. I wasn’t a Pro Bowler. So I still thrive from that. Every year you want to be classified as the best. Every game I want to make every tackle, every sack, everything. If my name isn’t at the top, I’m not happy. Last year my name wasn’t at the top so I’m going to keep working until I get there.”

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