INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July — and the start of training camp — upon us, it’s time for the Indianapolis Colts’ Burning Questions series.
We continue today with the safety position:
» Will health be a factor once again in 2019?
Last season, the Colts saw their top three safeties — Clayton Geathers, Malik Hooker and Matthias Farley — all battle through various injury issues. Geathers continued to experience problems with his knee and missed four games; Hooker battled through knee and foot issues and missed two regular season games, as well as the Colts’ Divisional Round matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs; and Farley suffered a season-ending wrist injury Week 5 against the New England Patriots. Heading into training camp, all three players should be good to go; Hooker and Farley were able to participate in the offseason workout program (see more below), while Geathers had a minor procedure to clean up his knee and missed the offseason program as a precaution. If those three players can stay healthy, then the Colts can boast one of the more talented safety units in the league. If not, then they'll once again have to count on their depth stepping up in their absence.
» How will Malik Hooker benefit from a full offseason of work?
When Malik Hooker was selected by the Colts in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, he was recovering from hip and hernia surgeries that caused him to miss the on-field portion of the offseason workout program. Last year, Hooker was recovering from knee surgery and, again, missed the on-field portion of the offseason workout program. This time around, however, Hooker was available the entire offseason program, having put the knee and foot issues that hampered him throughout the 2018 season fully behind him. “Right now I feel just as good as I did in college going into an offseason,” Hooker said. “So there is nothing that I can complain about. I’m moving great, feeling great. Weight wise and everything, I am the best I have been since I have been here.” Not behind the eight ball to begin training camp this time around, we’ll see what positive effects this has on the talented safety heading into the 2019 regular season.
» How many safeties will be on the Week 1 roster?
Those aforementioned injuries at the safety position last season led to George Odum, an undrafted rookie, getting an opportunity to showcase his talents, especially down the stretch. General manager Chris Ballard has sang Odum’s praises multiple times this offseason, and Odum was seen getting plenty of first-team reps throughout OTAs and minicamp with Geathers out. But if Hooker, Geathers and Farley are fully healthy, and Odum is also in the mix, how many more safeties will be on the Colts’ Week 1 roster? The team moved up 20 spots in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft to select safety Khari Willis out of Michigan State; the Colts feel Willis can play just about everywhere in the secondary, as well as in the box. The team also claimed safety Derrick Kindred — who has 42 games and 17 starts to his credit with the Cleveland Browns — off waivers, while two other safeties, Isaiah Johnson and Rolan Milligan, are also on the 90-man roster heading into training camp and are hoping to catch some eyes. The Colts last offseason didn’t typically have more than four or five safeties on the 53-man roster at one time, so that should lend itself to some quality competition over the next couple months.