INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July — and training camp — right around the corner, it's time for the Indianapolis Colts' Burning Questions series.
We continue today with the safety position:
• When will Malik Hooker be back at 100 percent?
Malik Hooker was showcasing exactly why he was such a highly coveted first-round prospect in last year's NFL Draft — until his terrific rookie year was cut short until it could even hit the midway point.
In the Colts' Week 7 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Hooker was pursuing a wide receiver along the sideline when another Jaguars player went for a low block, taking the safety out at his knees.
The resulting ACL and MCL injuries from that hit required surgery and ended Hooker's season, which had already featured a streak of three straight games with an interception.
Hooker has been working his way back to the field since that point, and last month Tweeted a video of himself back in cleats and cutting and sprinting. It was about the six-month point since his injury, and was undoubtedly an exciting turning point in his rehab work.
But Hooker also was unable to participate in the on-field portion of the Colts' offseason workout program, and, accordingly, will need to play catch-up once he is ready to fully grasp his key role in the team's new 4-3, Tampa Cover 2 base defense.
Hooker and the team have not set a public timetable for his return to the practice field, but if he's not yet ready to go by the start of training camp, it's possible he could be placed on the preseason Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list until he can get to that point.
• What's going on with Clayton Geathers?
A fourth-round pick of the Colts back in 2015, Clayton Geathers showed signs of being a terrific playmaker for the Indy secondary his first year and a half in the NFL.
But injury issues have slowed him down since that point.
Geathers suffered a neck injury midway through the 2016 season in a game against the Tennessee Titans, and would miss the rest of the year. 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, again, the Titans.
Geathers would end up playing in five of the Colts' final six games of the 2017 season, starting one, and collected eight tackles on the year. He was also voted by his teammates as the Colts' Ed Block Courage Award recipient for his tenacity and drive to return to the field.
Because Geathers was able to return to the lineup by the end of the season, the general expectation was that he would be on the field with the Colts' defense when the team participated in the offseason workout program, beginning in April.
But Geathers never participated in the on-field work — at least the sessions available to be watched by the media.
The team is not obligated to provide any sort of an injury report during the offseason, and head coach Frank Reich has not provided a definitive reason why Geathers was not participating in recent practices, so it's not prudent to speculate about why he hasn't been on the field.
Reich did say he's hopeful that Geathers will be ready to go by the start of training camp on July 25, though, so we'll have to wait until then to get an update on one of the team's more talented defensive playmakers.
• Can T.J. Green find consistency in Year 3?
When the Colts selected T.J. Green in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, they were getting an user-athletic prospect with limited playing experience in the secondary.
Since that time, Green has certainly gotten a good bit of NFL experience — he's played in 31 of the Colts' 32 games his first two years in the league, with 11 starts — but he's yet to show the consistency needed to become more of a significant role beyond a spot starter or key backup.
Because of injuries, the team even experimented with moving Green to cornerback at the beginning of the 2017 season, but quickly decided to move him back to safety.
Green did seem to improve as the 2017 season wore on, and broke into the starting lineup most of the second half of the season after the injury to Hooker, however. And now, as the Colts move to a new defense under first-year coordinator Matt Eberflus, Green hopes to take a huge step forward in Year 3.
"I want to be the guy. It's year three for me," Green told reporters last month. "I'm focused. I have a family to take care of and a daughter to take care of. I'm just here to work."
With both Hooker and Geathers not participating in the offseason workout program, it was Green and Matthias Farley mostly working in with the theoretical first-team defense. If that trend happens to continue into training camp, Green hopes to keep sharpening his skills in a new scheme that he says is much simpler.
"It just allows you to break on the ball and use your athletic ability," Green said. "I mean, the scheme is a lot easier. There are things you have to study and get used to, but just being able to read the quarterback and being able to break when he gets ready to throw the ball – that just allows guys to play fast, be fast and use their God-given ability."