Skip to main content

Gus Bradley Glossary: What is the LEO Position?

One of the most important positions in Gus Bradley's defense is the LEO. What is this position and why is it so important?
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

The Indianapolis Colts have made a new hire at defensive coordinator, as they have agreed to terms with long time coach Gus Bradley. In this new series for the site, I will be defining some important terms for this defense to give you all a better understanding of them when they pop up in future articles.

The next topic of discussion for this series is the LEO position. If the 3-Tech is what drove Matt Eberflus' system, the LEO drives the Gus Bradley/Seahawks' defensive system.

In today's article, I'll define what this position is and talk about how it has varied in Bradley's scheme over the years.

What is the LEO?

The LEO position is the weak-side defensive end in Bradley's hybrid defensive front. When the front is in a standard 4-3 alignment, the LEO will typically be out in a wide-nine position to the open side of the field.

Here is an example of Yannick Ngakoue, Bradley's LEO in Las Vegas, out as the weak-side defensive end. Notice how the defensive line is stacked away from the LEO, giving the LEO more room to work as a pass rusher off the edge.

LEO Pic 2

Bradley's defense isn't a typical 4-3, as it mixes in some 3-4 looks as well. In these situations, the LEO would then act as a stand up linebacker.

Here is another example of Ngakoue as the LEO on the weak-side of the defense. In this front, he is up in a two-point stance, which gives the defense more of a 3-4 base alignment.

LEO Pic 1

That is why the LEO position is typically referred to as a hybrid. He can stand up and play a pseudo-linebacker role or have his hand in the dirt and play as a natural weak-side defensive end.

The LEO is typically protected by the three-technique defensive tackle on pass rush downs in order to make it harder for the offense to double team out wide. The main goal of the LEO in this defense is to pin his ears back and get after the quarterback.

What happens next for the Colts? Don't miss out on any news and analysis! Take a second and sign up for our free newsletter and get breaking Colts news delivered to your inbox daily!

Why the Position is So Important?

This position has been one of the staples of Bradley's scheme for a long time. Chris Clemons had his career best seasons with the Seattle Seahawks at this spot. Melvin Ingram III was one of the league's best pass rushers when Bradley was with the Los Angeles Chargers. Ngakoue also had himself an outstanding season in this role a year ago.

This position is so vital because so much of the team's pass rush production has to come from this spot. In Bradley's typical front, the other three down linemen (typically the 1-Tech, 3-Tech, and Big End) are traditional run stuffers that will have to eat blocks and control gaps.

The LEO's job is to rush from the wide-nine position and create havoc on pass downs. The position is set up to have one on one situations from an advantageous position throughout games.

When Bradley's defense has a legit star at this spot, his defenses can produce at a high level:

Do the Colts Have a LEO on the Roster?

So many people see the words "hybrid" and immediately think that the position entails a lot of coverage snaps. In actuality, that is far from the truth. Ngakoue logged 883 snaps this past season (according to Pro Football Focus) and he was only in coverage one time.

Melvin Ingram III played 2,960 snaps for Bradley from 2017-2020 as the team's LEO. He only accrued 113 snaps in coverage over that time span. While the LEO is a hybrid position, it is primarily not one that sees coverage snaps. It is the role designated to the team's most talented pass rusher (in most situations).

That is why I think the early favorite for the LEO position on the Colts is Kwity Paye. Paye showed some great flashes as a rookie, but he was limited a bit by having to play run contain. As the LEO, he would be able to sit out in his wide-nine and crash downhill at opposing quarterbacks.

He may not be near the same level as the pass rushers I have mentioned in this piece, but this position would be one step closer to unleashing his true potential.

Final Thoughts

The LEO position is essentially just a weak-side defensive end that will stand up in a two-point stance in some 3-4 looks. The goal of the position is to get the team's most explosive edge player the freedom to attack off the edge.

While the entire defensive front is important in this scheme, this is the position that will make or break the pass rush. Without a LEO that can consistently win one on ones, the pass rush simply won't be good enough. Whether this position is addressed in-house or in free agency (or the draft), the Colts have to make sure that a capable player is in this role next year.

Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.

Follow Horseshoe Huddle on Twitter and Facebook.