INDIANAPOLIS —Darius Butler, a nine-year veteran defensive back, officially made the move to safety from cornerback after re-signing with the Indianapolis Colts last season, and had the opportunity to witness first-hand the talented youth being brought along at the position, as he took on even more of a leadership role in 2017.
The Colts' 2017 first-round draft choice, Malik Hooker, had an impressive start to the year before suffering a season-ending knee injury Week 7 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Matthias Farley, in his second year out of Notre Dame, took massive strides from his rookie season to become a fixture in the starting lineup. T.J. Green continued to develop in his second year out of Clemson. And Clayton Geathers worked his way back from more than a year of neck rehabilitation to see the field once again.
Here's a review of the play of the Colts' safeties in 2017.Farley
Farley put in the work to ensure he was a force to be reckoned with in 2017 and made plays all over the field, as evidenced by his 95 tackles on defense (four for a loss) and four additional tackles in special teams coverage.
He started 15 of 16 games at free safety, and the one game he didn't start, against Denver on Dec. 14, he still contributed 10 tackles.
In a year of firsts for the Charlotte native, Farley earned his first-career NFL start Week 1 against the Los Angeles Rams and added his first NFL interception a few weeks later at Seattle.
With a national audience watching on NBC's Sunday Night Football, Farley fought ahead of tight end Jimmy Graham, tipped the Russell Wilson pass forward, grabbed his own tip and still managed to stay in bounds in front of the Seahawks bench.
Farley also added three quarterback hits, another interception, seven passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery throughout the 2017 campaign.
Hooker also had some notable firsts in his rookie season, two of the biggest of which coming in the second week of the season against the Arizona Cardinals.
In the Colts' home opener at Lucas Oil Stadium, the 15th-overall draft pick started his first professional game and also sprinted across the field and picked off Carson Palmer near his own goal line to secure his first-career interception.
"Oh, it felt good," Hooker said after the 16-13 overtime loss. "I wish it was with a win, of course, but obviously you've got to take (pride) in that and feel good about it."
That was only the start, as against the Seahawks two weeks later he became the first Colts rookie to intercept at least one pass in three consecutive games dating back to 1984 when Eugene Daniel accomplished the feat from Weeks 13-15.
Prior to suffering his season-ending knee injury Week 7 against the Jaguars, Hooker had started six games and had 21 tackles, four passes defensed and the aforementioned three picks.
Geathers was voted the Colts' Ed Block Courage Award winner by his teammates for his tenacity and drive to return to the field in 2017 after suffering a neck injury in 2016 that ended his season. He would require surgery on the bulging disk in his neck, and the recovery and rehab process took him deep into the 2017 season before he was eventually able to work his way back to the field Nov. 26 against the Tennessee Titans — the same team against which he originally injured himself.
The Central Florida product would start one game, against the Denver Broncos Dec. 14, and total eight tackles on the season.
Green, another second-year safety for the Colts, also contributed for the defense and on special teams. His first start of the year, and of his career, was actually at cornerback, and the former Clemson Tiger would end up starting six games at free safety, contributing 42 tackles (three for a loss), one quarterback hit and one pass defensed along with three special teams tackles.
Butler, a pending free agent for 2018 who has expressed his interest in returning to the Colts, started four games, including the season opener and season finale. His totals in his first full year at the safety position were 29 tackles, four passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Number to remember
4: Despite playing in just seven games in 2017, Hooker's three interceptons ranked tied for the fourth-most among rookies in the NFL in 2017. Only Marshon Lattimore (5), Tre'Davious White (4) and Marcus Williams (4) had more picks.
SAFETIES - 2017 Review