INDIANAPOLIS — With the month of July upon us, and the start of training camp now within sight, it's time for the Indianapolis Colts' Burning Questions series.
We continue today with the cornerback position:
» Can Xavier Rhodes find his All-Pro form working with familiar coaches in his first season in Indy?
Despite being selected to his third-career Pro Bowl, Xavier Rhodes admitted he didn't feel he was on top of his game for a variety of reasons last season. After being released by the Minnesota Vikings earlier this offseason, Rhodes signed a one-year free agent deal with the Colts, which could very well pan out to be a prove-it type scenario for a cornerback who was one of the league's best just three seasons ago, when he was named First-Team All-Pro. To help accelerate that process, Rhodes this season will be reunited with two of his former Vikings coaches in Colts cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon (Vikings assistant defensive backs/quality control coach with Rhodes from 2014-17) and safeties coach Alan Williams (Vikings' defensive coordinator with Rhodes in 2013).
» Can Rock Ya-Sin keep the momentum going from a solid second half of his rookie season?
Selected 34th overall in last year's NFL Draft, Temple's Rock Ya-Sin was thrown right into the fire in his first NFL season in 2019. In 15 games, Ya-Sin, who played more defensive snaps (853) than any other Indy defender, had 61 tackles (two for loss), one fumble recovered, one interception and five pass breakups, and after some expected ups and downs out of the gates, Ya-Sin really seemed to start to figure things out over the second half of the year. From Weeks 10-17, Ya-Sin was Pro Football Focus' No. 12 overall cornerback in the NFL with a grade of 78.1, and his grade in run defense was eighth (79.7) during that time, and was named to PFF's All-Rookie Team. Ya-Sin's evolving skillset and obvious maturity and confidence should serve him well heading into Year 2.
» How will the depth end up playing out at the nickel cornerback spot?
The Colts are fortunate to have one of the league's better nickel cornerbacks in Kenny Moore II, who does it all in one of the more critical spots within their defense: in the base formation, Moore II plays tough in 1-on-1 matchups on the outside, and in nickel, he's able to bait quarterbacks into costly interceptions, he provides solid support in the run game and he's also one of the best blitzing defensive backs in the NFL. But Indy figured out last season that during times when Moore II isn't able to play, it needed a little bit better support behind him to step up in his place. The team addressed that backup nickel cornerback job in a couple ways this offseason: in free agency, the Colts signed veteran T.J. Carrie, who has played in 92 games with 50 starts over the past six seasons with the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns and has collected 331 total tackles (12 for a loss) with five interceptions, 43 passes defensed, six forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries, two sacks and five quarterback hits. In the draft, the Colts used a sixth-round pick on UMass' Isaiah Rodgers, who has elite speed (4.28-second 40-yard dash) and the versatility to play both outside and inside at the NFL level.