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The Indianapolis Colts finished their 2021 season on a disappointing note but it still included a number of strong individual performances.
Though that doesn’t matter much in the way of the big picture, especially with how the season ended for Indy. But we can still take a look back at the best performances from this season.
There are several question marks the Colts have entering this offseason starting with quarterback Carson Wentz.
Regardless, here are our year-end awards for the Colts from the 2021 season:
Most Valuable Player
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Winner: Jonathan Taylor
It’s hard to find anyone more deserving than Taylor. His historic season put him in the race for the actual MVP award. Earning an All-Pro and Pro-Bowl nod in just his second season, Taylor became the youngest running back in NFL history to eclipse 1,800 rushing yards in a season.
He broke the franchise record for rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in a season while becoming the youngest player to ever record 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 total touchdowns in a season.
It was truly a remarkable season for the young running back, and the future is extremely bright entering his third campaign.
Honorable Mention: LB Darius Leonard
Offensive Player of the Year
AP Photo/Darryl Webb
Winner: Jonathan Taylor
Typically, I would choose someone else just to avoid having the same player win multiple awards. But that’s simply not possible. The Colts offense would have been dead in the water without Taylor. His season was truly immaculate.
Honorable Mention: WR Michael Pittman Jr.
Defensive Player of the Year
AP Photo/AJ Mast
Winner: LB Darius Leonard
This was one pretty close. That said, earning his third All-Pro nod in four seasons gives Leonard the edge.
Dubbed the best run defender in the NFL by Pro Football Focus, Leonard had 31 run stops and just three missed tackles. His 90.0 run defense grade was the highest among qualified linebackers for the 2021 season.
Then, there were the turnovers. Leonard’s knack for perfecting the Peanut Punch meant the Colts defense had the chance to take the ball away at any given moment. His eight forced fumbles led the entire NFL while his four interceptions were tied for the most among linebackers.
Despite battling through a nagging ankle injury, Leonard remains the heart of the defense and it showed throughout the 2021 season.
Honorable Mention: DT DeForest Buckner
Special Teams Player of the Year
Justin Casterline/Getty Images
Winner: LS Luke Rhodes
I’m not going to sit here and act like I can evaluate long snappers. However, Rhodes earned himself both an All-Pro and Pro-Bowl nod for the 2021 season. That’s enough right there to give him this award.
Honorable Mention: Ashton Dulin
Rookie of the Year
AP Photo/Tony Avelar
Winner: DE Kwity Paye
The Colts didn’t get a whole lot out of their rookie class. Some of it was due to the lack of roles open given the foundation of the roster. Some of it was also due to the fact that many of the rookies needed continued development.
Paye earned himself a starting role from the get-go. It was a slow start for the rookie but he eventually had some stretches that showed he can reach that ceiling the Colts hope for.
Finishing his rookie season with 4.0 sacks isn’t all that impressive. However, his 39 total pressures were tied for the fourth-most in the NFL among rookies. There was enough promise to show that he can develop into a cornerstone piece of the defense.
Now, the Colts just have to continue working on his technique and consistency so that he can be more of a threat throughout the season.
Honorable Mention: TE Kylen Granson
Assistant Coach of the Year
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
Winner: Bubba Ventrone
It was a big year for Ventrone and his special teams unit. The group had a massive impact for the Colts this season, especially when it came to punt defense.
Ventrone had one of his players named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team while another one of his players was named to the All-Pro Second Team (Dulin).
Ventrone’s intelligence and knack for finding weaknesses in another team’s special teams units helped the Colts immensely.
Honorable Mention: Matt Eberflus
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Winner: CB Isaiah Rodgers
While Xavier Rhodes battled injuries for the majority of the season, this gave Rodgers the opportunity for more snaps. The second-year cornerback excelled with those extra snaps and became one of the biggest surprises for the Colts in 2021.
Rodgers posted a 72.2 passer rating in coverage, which was 13th-best among all qualified cornerbacks (PFF). This is despite the fact that he posted 5.7 snaps per target, which was the 11th-most among qualified cornerbacks.
The Colts may plan to lean more on Rodgers in 2022 and that’s because he made an incredible leap during his second season.
Honorable Mention: Rock Ya-Sin
Breakout Player of the Year
AP Photo/Jeff Lewis
Winner: WR Michael Pittman Jr.
I’m not really sure what Chris Ballard was talking about when he said nobody though Pittman Jr. was good during his year-end press conference. I detailed what his breakout campaign would look like in 2021. I don’t often take victory laps—mostly because I can’t—but I was proud of this one.
I projected that if Pittman Jr. were to have a breakout season, it would look something like this:
This wound up being his actual numbers from the stellar breakout campaign:
Pittman Jr. certainly established himself as the alpha in the passing game but it got to the point where no one else was contributing. Not one Colts player recorded more than 385 receiving yards behind Pittman Jr. in 2021.
Regardless, Pittman Jr. was able to enjoy a breakout campaign as the only threat in the passing game. Giving him more consistent quality targets could only benefit the young stud even more.
Honorable Mention: CB Rock Ya-Sin
Comeback Player of the Year
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Winner: QB Carson Wentz
The end of the season has left a bad taste in the mouths of the organization and the fan base. However, considering the fact that his 2020 season was one of the worst we have seen from a quarterback, his 2021 comeback was enough to get him this award.
In 2020, Wentz was 34th in DVOA. In 2021, he finished 16th. Even with how much grief yours truly has given him for his late-season collapse, even I have to admit it was a decent turnaround.
The issue with Wentz comes from the fact that he likes to revert back to bad mechanics while his ability to recognize the blitz and set proper protections is lacking big time. Not only that, Wentz simply does not get rid of the football if his first read is covered.
Wentz finished the season as a league-average quarterback and while his volatile play was a factor in tanking the season, we still have to acknowledge the strides he did make when he was playing well.
AP Photo/Matt Patterson
Winner: LT Eric Fisher
The Colts had high hopes after signing Fisher to a one-year deal to keep the left side of the offensive line stable. However, it was a very disappointing season for the veteran.
It should be noted that Fisher was coming off of an Achilles tear, which is no easy feat. That said, Fisher’s production in pass protection was brutal. According to Pro Football Focus, Fisher allowed 41 pressures and 7.0 sacks—ranking 11th and 10th among tackles, respectively.
He was a very strong run blocker, though. That should be noted but his failures in pass protection certainly had an impact in the struggles off the passing game