“Excellence is not an instance, it’s a habit.”
A motto Colts linebacker and team captain Zaire Franklin lives by. Franklin met with fans Tuesday in the parking lot of Meijer in Westfield, Ind. to sign hundreds of autographs and take photos with an assembly of supporters.
Franklin currently leads the NFL with 77 tackles, 49 solo tackles, and five games with 10-plus tackles. The Colts seventh-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft made his mark in his first full-season as a starter and broke the franchise single-season record with 166 tackles in 2022.
“I’m gonna break the record again, that’s legendary,” Franklin said while signing a 2023 Official NFL Record and Fact Book.
The 27-year old molded his game watching film of Seattle Seahawks’ linebacker Bobby Wagner. At Syracuse, Franklin became a first-generation college graduate while earning status as the first three-time Orange captain since Robert Adams in 1896.
Franklin is heavily active in the community with Colts events, including Colts Youth Football Camp and Uniform blitz. He named his own non-profit organization, Shelice’s Angels, after his late mother in an effort to support teens and young women with resources and experiences outside of their own inner-city communities.
Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley mentioned during Tuesday’s zoom meeting the defense was not in tune during Sunday’s blowout loss until a pair of captains brought the stampede together while huddled on the sidelines.
“Buck (DeForest Buckner) and Z (Zaire Franklin) did a great job of calling the group together on the sideline and just said, ‘Hey, let’s get back to what we do. Do things right’,” Bradley said. “I think it settled us down a little bit, but still far too many points regardless of the situation.”
The Colts lead the NFL with five strip-sacks and are tied with the Buffalo Bills for the most tackles for loss with 39 each. Besides the cornerback carousel, the Colts have primarily stuck with the same defensive personnel compared to the offense. At least two players have started multiple games on offense at quarterback, running back, left tackle, center, and tight end.
Colts 2023 free agency addition Taven Bryan will get the starting nod at nose tackle in his reunion Sunday against Cleveland after defensive tackle Grover Stewart was suspended six games without pay for violating the NFL’s banned performance-enhancing substances policy. Bryan played for Cleveland in 2022 and was a late first-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2018 NFL draft, seven picks before Indianapolis selected Shaquille Leonard.
The Week 7 matchup will feature a significant homecoming for opposing Indianapolis-natives as Colts rookie CB JuJu Brents will line up against Browns receiver David Bell in a game for the first time in their lives. The former teammates played together at Indiana powerhouse Warren Central High School for three seasons from 2015-17.
Cleveland’s offense has converted just 22-of-72 of its third down opportunities, which is the second-lowest percentage (30%) in the NFL. The Browns have been outscored 21-9 in the first quarter this season, so the Colts must prioritize scoring out of the gate to avoid playing catch up for a second consecutive game.