INDIANAPOLIS –The Indianapolis Colts picked their free safety of the future in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.
But (no) thanks to offseason surgery, as well as a tweaked hamstring, for that player, Malik Hooker – not to mention a healing neck injury for strong safety Clayton Geathers – the team heads into the start of training camp with more questions than it certainly would've liked at the safety position.
The answer, for now, is solidifying an already-planned move of a veteran cornerback, Darius Butler, at one safety spot, while counting on the progression of an ultra-athletic second-year player, T.J. Green, at the other spot, while hoping that the competition behind them results in at least a couple players that can be plug-and-play options if and when early this season as Hooker and Geathers try to get back to the field as soon as possible.
One of those options could be second-year Notre Dame product Matthias Farley, who was a special teams standout for the Colts last season, but impressed this offseason as he filled in during on-field drills.
"He's very, very sharp," Colts defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said of Farley. "He's athletic enough. He's a run-and-hit guy in the run game. He can get guys aligned. … We've been able to operate at a pretty high level with Matthias towards the top of the depth chart. So yeah, we're not surprised, but we sure are excited to have him."
Here's an all-encompassing look at the Colts' safety position heading into the start of training camp this week:
— Clayton Geathers
— Matthias Farley
— T.J. GreenNOTABLE ADDITIONS:
— Darius Butler (moved from cornerback)
— Malik HookerNOTABLE CAMP BATTLES:
— Tyson Graham Jr.
— Lee Hightower
— Tyvis Powell
— Andrew WilliamsonNOTABLE LOSSES:
— Mike Adams (free agency)
Last season, the Colts took five safeties – Geathers, Winston Guy, Adams, Green and Farley – from training camp to their Week 1 roster.
Two of those names, barring injuries, will be back for the Colts' Week 1 game this season, while a third, Geathers, should be back later in the season.
When the Colts are fully healthy this year, they could feature one of the best young safety duos in the entire league.
But that word, "when," is the kicker here.
Hooker was taken out of Ohio State, where he was among the national leaders in interceptions and pick-sixes last season for the Buckeyes, and the Indianapolis front office took him with the 15th-overall pick in this year's draft with high hopes he could replicate that production early and often in the NFL.
The team knew Hooker was already going to miss most, if not all, of the team's offseason workout program after he underwent surgeries to his hip and labrum earlier in the year, but he suffered another setback this week when he tweaked his hamstring during Monday's rookie conditioning test. Hooker was placed on the PUP list, and the team hopes to see him get onto the field soon.
Geathers, meanwhile, underwent neck surgery in March, and general manager Chris Ballard announced this week that he is expected to miss at least the first six weeks of the season.
That leaves the two starting spots to Butler – who played well switching over at times from cornerback to safety last season – and perhaps a mix of Green and Farley.
Four others – the rookie Graham Jr., Hightower, Powell and Williamson – will start training camp with a prime opportunity to show what they can do on the field with Hooker and Geathers working off to the side.
2017 Colts Training Camp Previews:
• Offensive Line
• Defensive Line
• Running Backs
• Inside Linebackers
• Tight Ends
• Outside Linebackers
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