ATLANTA -- Colts linebacker Darius Leonard was named Defensive Rookie of the Year at NFL Honors on Saturday. The 2018 second-round pick started 15 games, led the league with 163 tackles and helped transform Indianapolis' defense from one of the worst in the league in 2017 to a top-10 unit this season.
And while Leonard was a big part of that success, he had a lot of help.
"I couldn't do it as a linebacker -- you can't run free without a defensive line," he said from the Fox Theatre. "I appreciate y'all boys for allowing me to do my job."
And Leonard has done that job at a high level all season.
"We certainly thought he had the attributes to do that (and) the physical traits to take that step and that leap. We have felt that all along," first-year defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said in December. "We just didn't know how fast the development would be there. That's really attributed to him. I mean he has accelerated his learning and (has) done a good job of picking up the package."
The 23-year-old from South Carolina State also had two interceptions, four forced fumbles, eight passes defended and seven sacks during his rookie campaign. Leonard beat out the Chargers' Derwin James and the Broncos' Bradley Chubb for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.