INDIANAPOLIS – From his first days on an NFL field, Clayton Geathers has always been a player the Colts have felt comfortable moving around their defense.
As a 2015 rookie in OTAs, Geathers began his role with the dime package of what Indy was trying to install defensively.
Not many fourth-round picks immediately slide into such a valuable position.
Sure, Geathers wasn't starting. But with how the NFL has evolved, an extra defensive back or two are often asked to play starting type reps during a game.
That was the case two weeks ago for Geathers.
In 2016, Geathers is now a starting safety, in the team's base defense.
His role as a dime linebacker comes as an added wrinkle in passing situations.
So with the Green Bay Packers chucking it nearly 50 times, Geathers might as well have been listed as a 'LB' on the roster for Week Nine.
"It gave us a chance to have one more speed guy on the field that could cover a running back, for instance, that really is by trait a wide receiver," defensive coordinator Ted Monachino said in explaining the rationale of moving Geathers down to linebacker for nearly the entire win over Green Bay.
"He's comfortable down there and he makes enough linebacker plays that he doesn't hurt you in the run game. But we would love to continue to grow that role as we move forward. I know that teams will attack us differently down the road and different teams have a different philosophy in how they want to operate on first and second down and we'll adjust accordingly. When teams do what the Packers do, then it's a great situation for Clayton to get more reps down there."
The hybrid safety/linebacker role that the Colts are using for Geathers is something the NFL has adapted to as well.
These players are a luxury and it allows the Colts, for one, to better match the opposing personnel.
At 220 pounds, Geathers is physical enough to more than hold his own near the line of scrimmage.
Couple that with above average speed for a "linebacker" next to D'Qwell Jackson, and the Colts can use Geathers when backs come out of the backfield or tight ends try and muscle their way to carve out space in the passing game.
On the roster, the "safety" label is still going to be there for Geathers.
However, fans should not be surprised at all when No. 26 starts to creep up to the line of scrimmage.
"I think when you can start to focus on the three or four things that you ask any player to do they'll get better quickly," Monachino said of the specific package shifting Geathers to linebacker. "By taking (Geathers) out of some of the things in the back end and putting him down there into the front a little more often it's allowed for that.
"What we've done is we've continued to ramp up T.J. (Green) and we've found ways to get Darius (Butler) involved in the back end. By doing that we were able to strengthen two different positions and that was the focus going in."