Place strategy

Colts will place LB Shaquille Leonard on IR

Shaquille LeonardThe difficult season will include another extended injury absence. Colts place top linebacker on injured reserve, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweet.

Leonard, who has only been active for three games this season, suffered a setback with his back injury in training this week. This will result in at least a four-game absence. It’s not a lock Leonard returns in his first eligibility, which would be Week 15, because this back problem has been going on for some time.

It’s been a tough year for Leonard, who has struggled with three separate injury issues. A concussion and nose surgery have taken their toll on the All-Pro defenseman, but the back issue has been Leonard’s biggest hurdle in 2022. After struggling with back and lower body issues last season, Leonard underwent back surgery earlier this summer.

The Colts expected Leonard to be ready for Week 1; He was not. Leonard, 27, didn’t make his season debut until Week 4. During that game, he suffered a concussion. The Colts did not place Leonard on IR before the season; his importance to the team dictated a week-to-week strategy.

After drafting Leonard in the second round of 2018, the Colts have seen him become one of the best linebackers in the league. He earned three first-team All-Pro honors in four seasons, totaling a telling 17 forced fumbles during a versatile start to his career. Leonard, who led the league with eight boards in 2021, built on his early career success to become the NFL’s highest-paid off-ball linebacker. He is tied to a five-year, $98.7 million contract. The first year of this contract is not going well.

Indianapolis, which made plenty of non-Leonard-related headlines this week, has a one-year contract backing Bobby Okereke helping to take over. The former third-round pick ranks among the top five non-emergency backers, according to Pro Football Focus. The Colts also have Zaire Franklin and EJ speed in the mix at this position. Overall, however, Leonard’s injury epitomized one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history at Indianapolis.

The Colts led the NFL with seven Pro Bowlers last season. Each of these players remains in the team. Indy also added veterans Yannick Ngakoue and Stephen Gilmore to the mixture. Less than a year after those accolades, the Colts fired coaches, including head coach Frank Reich – and will now be under the microscope due to Reich being replaced by a head coach (jeff saturday) during his first week in the profession. Colts (3-5-1) still rank fifth in total defense under new DC GusBradleybut the unit – already sidelined by a 32nd-ranked offense – will be tested with another interruption from Leonard to come.