Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

This Indianapolis Colts Linebacker Will Need to Step Up in 2024

E.J. Speed will have a lot of pressure going into 2024 as the Indianapolis Colts will look to him as a primary starting linebacker.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker

Last season, the Indianapolis Colts waived three-time Pro Bowl and Defensive Rookie of the Year linebacker Shaquille Leonard. Within a couple of weeks, he was signed to a one-year deal by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Colts released Leonard due to his decline in health and subsequent decline in production. Therefore, upon his release, Indy relied on fifth-year linebacker E.J. Speed to step up in Leonard’s absence.

The 2023 season was Speed’s first season, starting the majority of games. With the leadership and dominance of Zaire Franklin, the two combined for 185 solo tackles. Heading into the 2024 season, the Colts will look to these two linebackers to continue to produce and dominate opposing offenses. Franklin has shown that he can produce consistently each season. Speed will need to prove to the Indianapolis Colts that he can be the dominant linebacker that they need him to be.

E.J. Speed Will Need to Step Up in 2024

His Career Thus Far

E.J. Speed was drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Tarleton State University. After having minimal playing time in his first two seasons, Speed started his first NFL game in a road victory against the Arizona Cardinals. In that 2021 contest, he accumulated eight solo tackles and displayed athleticism and potential to be a starter in this league.

Entering the 2022 season as a backup, Speed was given more opportunities to start due to Shaquille Leonard sustaining injuries. In 2022, Speed started five games and appeared in all 17 games. He accumulated 37 solo tackles, seven tackles for loss, one quarterback hit, and recorded his first sack. While the injury to Leonard was unfortunate, the Indianapolis Colts were fortunate to have comparable depth at linebacker.

As injuries piled up for Leonard, Speed was given more opportunities to start games. In 2023, he took over as a starting linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts. He started 11 games and subsequently recorded career highs in every major category by mounting over 100 total tackles, 78 solo tackles, 12 tackles for loss, and 24 assists. Although Speed’s numbers are unquestionable, the 2024 season will be his first season entering as a primary starter. Therefore, there is some added pressure to perform and keep the momentum that he started last season.

Looking Ahead as a Primary Starter

E.J. Speed will enter the 2024 season as a primary starting linebacker alongside Zaire Franklin. After these two accumulated monster numbers in 2023, the hope is that both will continue to dominate in 2024. The Colts defense got better with player extensions and draft picks. However, the middle of the defense remains relatively the same. The primary starters in that unit are still Franklin and Speed, but there is room for some depth pieces to make a splash. Fourth-year linebacker Grant Stuard will look to move into a starting position. Rookie linebacker Jaylon Carlies will also look to compete for a starting position.

Regardless, E.J. Speed’s position as a primary starter is his to keep. He has proven that he can produce and dominate for this team. Speed also has room for development and growth. Keep in mind that he is going into his first season as a primary starter and only has 17 total starts in his career over five seasons. If the Indianapolis Colts want to keep this linebacker unit in a place of dominance, E.J. Speed will need to step up and keep the momentum from last season.

Main Image: Grace Hollars – USA Today Sports


More Posts

Send Us A Message