Defense, Approaching Season Has Colts Pro Bowl Safety Sanders Excited
INDIANAPOLIS – The OTA season is ending, and the regular season is approaching.
And for Bob Sanders, that means a time to smile.
The Colts' defense doesn't hurt, either.
Sanders, a Colts safety entering his sixth NFL season, did a lot of smiling during the team's three-day mandatory mini-camp at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center and Franklin College this past weekend. Although he didn't participate in drills, he said he's feeling good.
And as far as the Colts' defense, he likes what he sees.
"There's a lot of excitement," Sanders said Sunday, the final day of the team's 2009 mini-camp. "He's a smart, intelligent coach. We're excited to have him here."
The 'he' to whom Sanders referred is Larry Coyer, hired by Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell earlier this offseason to take over as defensive coordinator. Through the OTA sessions, defensive players such as four-time Pro Bowl selection Dwight Freeney, cornerback Marlin Jackson and defensive captain/middle linebacker Gary Brackett have spoken of a more aggressive version of the Colts' 4-3 defense under Coyer.
Sanders, the 2007 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year, said Sunday he also anticipates a few new looks.
"There are a lot of different wrinkles for us – good things," Sanders said. "He'll be able to move us around a little bit more. We're excited."
Sanders, the Colts' second-round selection in the 2004 NFL Draft, made the Pro Bowl in 2005 and 2007, and is considered one of the NFL's elite safeties. A hard-hitting safety who often lines up close to the line of scrimmage, he often has been credited with being a key part of the Colts' run defense.
Former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy, who helped repopularized the Dungy Defense, or Tampa 2 – the scheme the Colts have used since 2002 – said strong safety play was critical to the scheme. Coyer and Caldwell each have said this offseason the concepts of the scheme will stay the same, and Sanders said he so far likes the tweaks and new approaches installed.
"Everything has not been installed yet, but from what we've seen there are a lot of good things that we haven't done, which is good," Sanders said. "It opens up everyone's game."
Asked the specifics of his role under Coyer, Sanders said he didn't yet know.
"It's hard to answer that question now," Sanders said. "There are some things we're doing a little bit different. A lot of things are the same. The terminology has changed a little bit, but I'm not sure. I think once camp rolls around we'll know a little more about what it is I'll be doing, as well as some of the other safeties."
The safeties, which include Antoine Bethea, Melvin Bullitt, Matt Giordano and Jamie Silva, make up one of the NFL's deepest, most-talented units at the position. Not only has Sanders made two Pro Bowls, but Bethea made the game following the 2007 season. Bullitt played extensively in Sanders' place last season, leading the Colts with four interceptions.
"It's great to have one good safety on the team, but when you have three or four different guys who can play at the same level, it's great," Sanders said. "Twan has done an excellent job. He's a Pro Bowler. Bullitt is coming along well and we've got a lot of younger guys I think can make this team and prove to everyone they can be here. It's great to have those guys around.
"You just never know when guys are going to be injured, who's going to be playing, but you need the backups and other guys to be ready."
Sanders, who never has missed a postseason game for the Colts, missed 10 games last season with a knee injury, and Colts President Bill Polian said earlier this offseason Sanders may start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform List.
But as OTAs come to an end this week, Sanders said this week he is upbeat.
"I feel good," Sanders said. "That's basically all I want to say about that. My soul is good and I'm in good spirits, so I'm doing all right."