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Darius Leonard aiming for 40 tackles after snub

The dark side of the Pro Bowl -- the snubs -- looms a little larger this season.

Perhaps the largest of them all (click here to read my top snubs, which are listed by number but don't really have much separation, so feel free to depart my mentions) is Colts linebacker Darius Leonard. You know it, I know it and he knows it -- and he's out for vengeance.

"He told me he wanted 40 tackles, but I told him it's humanly impossible," ColtsPro Bowl tight end Eric Ebron said of Leonard, via ESPN. "He doesn't care... Things like [the Pro Bowl] should really go by statistics rather than names. He's one of the all-time great rookie linebackers statistically in a long time."

The stats don't lie. Leonard -- who we should emphasize is a rookie -- leads the league in tackles by a healthy margin (his 146 tackles are 22 more than the next closest defender, Carolina's Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly). He's recorded 7.0 sacks, six passes defensed, one interception and forced four fumbles. Leonard has been a one-man wrecking crew and a big reason why the Colts are in the thick of the playoff hunt.

In reviewing these rosters for the last few years, I've come to the conclusion that they need to be larger. There's no reason there should be as many guards as there are quarterbacks when two guards and only one quarterback start in a game. The same goes for inside linebacker, especially with some defenses relying on two inside linebackers as starters.

With these tight roster requirements (which, in theory, would save teams from paying a boatload of contract incentive bonuses), some position groups become tough to crack. Look at the NFC running backs situation. But Benardick McKinney and C.J. Mosley are really considered to be better than Leonard?


"I was heartbroken at first because I thought I did enough, but it is what it is," Leonard said.

Welcome to the popularity contest portion of the Pro Bowl, which does a decent job of rewarding on-field achievement but too often elevates household names over the league's top performers. Sometimes, it also becomes a case of achievers on a good team, or a good unit. Mosley is the best-known Ravens defender (fellow Pro Bowl pick Eric Weddle is also in this discussion) and part of one of the league's best defenses. McKinney is having another solid season that is essentially in line with what he's done over the course of his four-year career.

If we're looking at just the numbers (and also the overall impact), though, there's no reason Leonard isn't on this list. Leonard's aforementioned statistics are significantly better than Mosley's and McKinney's. The Colts are contending. There's no reason for this omission, other than those selecting simply overlooking the Colts.

"Like I always say, numbers don't lie," Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton said. "[Leonard] is playing phenomenal, especially as a rookie. You just don't see that."

Leonard should continue doing what he's doing, because it's working, and wait for the All-Pro teams. Those tend to more accurately reward the league's best. And he'll also get a chance to speak his piece on America's favorite sports morning show, Good Morning Football, on Friday.

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