Make your home page

Colts likely without key defensive player against Panthers

Zaire Franklin #44 of the Indianapolis Colts on the field during training camp at Grand Park Sports Campus on Aug. 11, 2022, in Westfield, Indiana. (Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin is having an impressive season.

Franklin leads the NFL in tackles with 102 tackles. That’s an average of nearly 13 tackles per game.

It’s easy to see just how much of an impact he has on the defensive side of the ball for the Colts.

“There are a lot of big plays – single tackles, solo tackles – that he’s making,” Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “When he does hit, it’s explosive.”

But this Sunday, Indianapolis will likely have to play without him after Franklin was downgraded to doubtful (knee) for the Colts (3-5) game against the Panthers (1-6) in Charlotte, North Carolina.

If Franklin misses the game, it would be the first game he’s missed in his NFL career.

Last weekend against the Saints, Franklin had 14 tackles, despite missing some time in the middle of the game after injuring his knee, he would return and finish out the game.

“It shows how much grit he’s got,” Colts linebacker Shaq Leonard said. “He’s not going to back down from any challenge. No matter if he’s hurt or not, he’s going to go out there and put his best foot forward. His leadership roles that he’s having on the team and this defense, the way he has played and the intensity he brings – the hard hitting that he brings to the team. That’s something that you love, especially from a MIKE linebacker, and he’s been doing a great job at it.”

Since tackles became an official NFL stat in 1987, only two players have ever had 100 tackles through the first eight games of a season. Those players are Franklin (102) this year and former Miami Dolphins linebacker and Hall of Famer Zach Thomas (102) in 2005.

Kickoff on Sunday between the Colts and Panthers is set for 4:05 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium.