Colts land 7 in Pro Bowl; Kenny Moore II finally included

Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – DeForest Buckner is team-driven, but embraces individual accomplishments as well.

That includes the Pro Bowl.

“The majority of the vote comes from players and coaches,’’ the Indianapolis Colts’ veteran defensive tackle said. “That’s what really matters.

“As a player, you want to know what your peers and other players around the league think of you as a player.’’

Apparently the perception is positive regarding the Colts en masse as they make a strong push to secure a second straight playoff berth.

Buckner is one of seven Colts selected to the Pro Bowl, the team’s most since 2014.

Joining Buckner on the all-star squad are running back Jonathan Taylor, guard Quenton Nelson, linebacker Darius Leonard, center Ryan Kelly, cornerback Kenny Moore II and longsnapper Luke Rhodes.

Moore, Taylor and Rhodes are first-time selections; Taylor was the leading vote-getter in the fan balloting.

Nelson joins Hall of Famer Alan Ameche as the only Colts named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons while Leonard and Kelly were selected for a third time.

This is Buckner’s second Pro Bowl nod to go along with two All-Pro selections, including one first-team selection. Again, he embraces it.

“I mean, yeah,’’ he said. “As a player, yeah you do, you care. Those little personal accolades, you definitely care. You pour your heart and soul out into this game throughout the offseason when nobody is watching, when there are no cameras.”

“Obviously, some of those personal things you definitely want to achieve. So, yeah, I do care about the Pro Bowl, All-Pro, all those personal accolades. But obviously, the No. 1 goal is a Super Bowl.’’

Taylor’s inclusion was announced Monday, and totally expected. He leads the NFL in rushing (1,518 yards), total yards from scrimmage (1,854 yards), rushing touchdowns (17) and total touchdowns (19). He’s rushed for at least 100 yards in eight of his last 11 games and has thrust his name into the MVP discussion.

“It’s amazing,’’ he said. “I mean, you watched guys become Pro Bowlers as you’re going through college, high school, and those are some of your favorite players. To be able to be named one of those guys is really special.”

“It’s really special because a lot of the guys that I grew up watching were Pro Bowlers. So being able to be kind of in that same category as that is an honor.’’

Taylor is the first Colts’ running back named to the Pro Bowl since Joe Addai in 2007.

“The kid can do it all,’’ Buckner said. “He’s a walking touchdown. Anytime he touches the ball – it doesn’t matter what point of the game or what play it is – you’re always thinking, ‘This could be a touchdown.’

“When you’re looking at an all-around football player, J.T.’s the guy. J.T MVP, baby.’’

That’s a discussion for another day.

While each player has earned his spot in the Pro Bowl – it’s scheduled for Feb. 6 in Las Vegas – Moore’s selection might be applauded most internally.

Since entering the NFL as an undrafted rookie with New England in 2017 and being claimed off waivers in September ’17, Moore has developed into a defensive cornerstone and one of the league’s premier nickel corners.

In five seasons, he’s started 59 of 72 regular-season games and made a difference with 14 interceptions, 45 passes defensed, 7 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. This season, he leads the team with four interceptions.

“He’s played at a high level and he’s competed,’’ defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said. “Every single time, and you saw it last week, he’s competing on the go-balls, on the intermediate passes, on the quick passes, on the screens. He’s one of the better players against the screen.

“He’s done an outstanding job.’’

Moore also is the Colts’ nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

The selections of Nelson, Leonard and Kelly are becoming routine.

Again, Nelson now is 4-for-4 in his brief career while Leonard and Kelly have been selected to three straight Pro Bowls.

One more Pro Bowl tidbit. This is the first time the Colts have had at least two offensive linemen chosen in three straight seasons since Chris Hinton and Ray Donaldson strung together four seasons (1986-89). Ron Solt joined them in ’87.

Leonard yearns for more. He believes his impactful season – 107 tackles, three interceptions, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a league-high 10 takeaways – merits consideration for Defensive Player of the Year.

“Of course it is,’’ he said. “That’s every year. Me personally, I think I should have been in the conversation at least three times already. Playing for the Colts and not on (national) TV a lot, so we kind of get the backburner.

“I’m not actually saying I’m going to win it. I just want some respect and at least be in the conversation of the Defensive Player of the Year because I think I’ve earned that.’’

While this is Rhodes’ first Pro Bowl selection, he was named second-team All-Pro last season.

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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