Darius Leonard – LB
The Vikings definitely need to be concerned about the Colts’ pass rushers this week, but if they overlook this great player in the middle of their defense, they will regret it later.
Darius Leonard is arguably the best middle linebacker in the league right now. He’s a heat seeker in the running game and he can cover and make plays in the passing game. He’s about as complete a player as there can be at the position and he has the type of ability to take over a matchup on defense.
Leonard is going on just his third season in the NFL, but he already has 293 career tackles. In addition, he has also accumulated an impressive 19 tackles for a loss, 15 pass breakups, seven interceptions, two forced fumbles, and he has hit the quarterback 14 times. The guy is simply a stallion and Minnesota needs to make sure they keep a body on this guy at all times.
The Vikings will want to get their run game humming this week, so Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison should see plenty of touches.
If they want to be successful on the ground, Minnesota can’t let Leonard roam free. If he doesn’t have a body on him, he will fly in and tackle Cook before he gets to the line of scrimmage.
The Vikings offensive linemen have to get to the second level and take Leonard out of the play if Cook is going to have a big game this week. Minnesota could also use the tight ends to crack down on the talented linebacker or use fullback C.J. Ham to ensure Leonard isn’t disrupting things.
Kirk Cousins also needs to be aware of where Leonard is on the field every time he drops back. As stated above, he’s an excellent coverage linebacker with seven career interceptions.
Cousins needs to be aware of when Leonard drops into coverage and not force a ball to a receiver or tight end who may be coming over the middle. If he does, Leonard could make him pay with a game-changing interception.