Colts defense gets reinforcements vs. the Jaguars: Shaquille Leonard cleared to play

• The Colts defense could give the Jags fits in the season opener

• Indy has gotten reinforcements in Shaquille Leonard, who's cleared

Aug 12, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53).
Aug 12, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard (53). / Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Indianapolis Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard was one of the most dominant defenders early in his career. However, injuries limited his availability last season. He's now healthy and ready to go against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 1, having been cleared to play.

Leonard was on concussion protocol but was cleared Thursday. This means he'll suit up against the Jags Sunday. A second-round pick in the 2018 draft, he product earned three Pro Bowl selections and First-Team All-Pro designations in his first four NFL seasons. However, injuries derailed his 2022 campaign. The South Carolina State product missed the early portion of the season while rehabbing from back surgery. He then broke his nose and suffered a concussion. He ended up appearing in just three games with one start.

Now 100 percent, Leonard will join a front seven that includes defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart and Kwity Paye. All things considered, this could be the most intriguing matchup in Week 1. The Colts' secondary is good not nothing to write about. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have a wide array of weapons that should be able to find favorable matchups throughout the contest.

The Jaguars offense will have a tough matchup vs. Shaquille Leonard and the Colts defense

On defense, the Jaguars stack up favorably against the Colts' offense. Anthony Richardson will be making his NFL debut. Although he's flashed immense potential he's still a work in progress and might need a couple of seasons before he can be a serious threat to Jacksonville. Similarly, Indy's receiving corps looks underwhelming.

Beyond Michael Pittman Jr., they don't have many viable targets in the passing game. Alec Pierce showed talent as a rookie but he's far from a game-changer. The fact that the Colts are down to third-string running back Deon Jackson doesn't help matters.

That said, the Colts' front seven could give the Jaguars fits. Via John Shipley of Sports Illustrated, offensive coordinator Press Taylor praised Paye along with Dayo Odeyingbo, noting that they're different types of pass rushers and they'll both be a good test for right tackle Anton Harrison.

In the middle, the Jaguars will need to keep an eye on the duo of Grover Stewart and DeForest Bucker. The former has flown over the radar the last couple of years while the latter has been one of the most dominant defensive tackles in the league in recent seasons.

Working in the Jags' favor is that Ben Bartch, who missed most of the 2022 season with a dislocated knee, is back at left guard. Right guard Brandon Scherff, for his part, is healthy ready to bounce back from a somewhat down year. Last but not least is sophomore center Luke Fortner, who had growing pains as a rookie but also showed promise.

The Jaguars haven't beaten the Colts at Indianapolis since 2017. They have a realistic chance to buck the trend in Week 1. For that to happen, they'll need to overpower Shaquille Leonard and the front seven.

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