INDIANAPOLIS – Yes, the biggest goal of the Colts season was not achieved.
But there were still some individual standouts that need to be mentioned for what they accomplished in 2021.
Here are some Colts awards to hand out after the 2021 season:
MVP: Jonathan Taylor
It says something when the unanimous All-Pro running back, who had 500 more rushing yards than any other rusher, isn’t taking home every single MVP vote on his own team. The season Darius Leonard had did merit some consideration though, but Jonathan Taylor is still taking home this award. With 1,811 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, Taylor blossomed into one of the NFL’s stars. The emergence of Taylor began in the back half of his rookie season and evolved into rare production, consistency and big play ability for a running back in today’s league.
Others receiving votes: Darius Leonard
Offensive Player of the Year: Michael Pittman
Again, we like to spread the hardware around to appease various candidates. Taylor wasn’t eligible for OPOY here. Michael Pittman is our winner after a 1,082-yard season. Pittman caught 88 balls, while receiving hardly any support from other wideouts. The Colts relied on Pittman a lot and he often delivered with 54 of his catches resulting in a first down.
Others receiving votes: Quenton Nelson
Defensive Player of the Year: Darius Leonard
This was obvious. When you have a player who should be high on the list for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year, he’s going to win this team award going away. Darius Leonard complied 8 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries. Leonard played through a nagging ankle injury to still produce the impactful plays that separates him from virtually every other linebacker in the league. Leonard’s season was too good, keeping away DPOY votes to Kenny Moore and DeForest Buckner.
Others receiving votes: None
Rookie of the Year: Kwity Paye
By default, this award is going to Paye. The Colts barely had any other rookie play enough to even qualify for this award. Dayo Odeyingbo (173 snaps in 10 games) was the only other rookie to earn even a bit of playing time. And he had just 6 tackles (none for loss) and 0.5 sacks. Paye didn’t dominate by any means, but he still gave the Colts something to note. Paye had 4.0 sacks and 10 QB hits in 15 games.
Others receiving votes: None
Breakout Player: Michael Pittman
This is always a hard one to define, but Pittman is going to take home another honor. We talked about Pittman a lot above, so here’s some love for a few other guys who showed out. Ashton Dulin continues to be a great special teams player, and took some strides at wideout this year. With Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie hitting free agency in 2022, Isaiah Rodgers offers some ability as a potential every-down corner moving forward.
Others receiving votes: Ashton Dulin, Isaiah Rodgers, Taylor Stallworth
Most Disappointing: Pass Rush Group
Individually, you could go a lot of directions. And those names (for injury, performance and/or contract) are listed below. But the position group that once again underperformed was the pass rushing position. Whether it’s been drafting the wrong guys, a lack of development and/or not using free agency enough, the Colts continue to rank near the bottom of the NFL in pressure rate. It held this defense back for yet another season in 2021. The likes of Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis and Ben Banogu didn’t take big jumps, for various reasons. Denico Autry should have been re-signed.
Others receiving votes: Xavier Rhodes, Eric Fisher, Nyheim Hines, Parris Campbell, Carson Wentz