INDIANAPOLIS – When it comes to the class of young NFL safeties, the Giants' Landon Collins is atop that throne.
Collins earned All-Pro honors last year, and was considered one of the main finalists for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award.
But people should not forget where Collins was following his 2015 rookie season.
Per Pro Football Focus, Collins was the NFL's 83rd ranked safety in 2015.
One year later, no safety had a higher grade than Collins.
In Indianapolis, the Colts have taken note of what Collins did from one year to the next.
They hope their own young safety, T.J. Green, can follow a similar path.
"You look at a guy like Landon Collins, the jump that he made from Year One to Year Two, defensive coordinator Ted Monachino says, "we would hope T.J. could make a similar jump."
Green's rookie season in the NFL was not all smooth sailing.
The inexperienced safety (Green played safety for just two seasons in college) played sporadically in sub packages, with Mike Adams, Clayton Geathers and Darius Butler above Green on the depth chart.
"T.J. made quantum leaps in some areas (and) needs to continue to grow in a lot of areas," Monachino says. "I don't think he played to the level he believed he could have.
"(Green's) another role guy (in 2017). We can do a lot of things with T.J. I see the arrow way up on T.J. Green."
Projecting the role for Green in 2017 will come from how often the Colts want to use their sub packages.
Geathers and Butler are the likely starters at safety. But if Green is the first defensive back used in those sub packages, he's going to play a whole lot, possibly more than 50-60 percent of the team's defensive snaps.
Solidifying, and perhaps simplifying, a role for Green is something that Chuck Pagano knows is key.
Pagano says he takes some responsibility for overwhelming Green a bit last year, when the Colts tried to use their rookie all over the defense, after Geathers was injured.
"When we lost (Geathers), we tried to put T.J. in some of those roles. And him trying to process and learn the safety stuff and move into some nickel linebacker spots probably wasn't fair," Pagano says.
All offseason long, Pagano and the Colts have preached the need to get faster on the defensive side of the ball.
They don't get much faster than Green.
That's why the Colts really need an in-tune Green this fall.
"T.J., you don't found guys like that---6-3 and change and 200-plus pounds and run 4.34 (40-yard dash)," Pagano says.
"It's got to translate to the field now. From a football standpoint and football IQ and being able to learn the game, go play fast, go make plays, is going to be huge."
Happy Birthday T.J. Green!
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