Colts Chatter: Khari Willis On Fixing First-Half Defensive Issues, Comparing Julian Blackmon To Malik Hooker

Indianapolis Colts safety Khari Willis on Tuesday talked to local reporters via video conference. What did he have to say about the defense's recent issues in the first half of games, and how to fix it, as well as comparisons he sees between rookie Julian Blackmon and veteran Malik Hooker? Here's the latest edition of "Colts Chatter."

101820_cin-ind-willis

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Colts safety Khari Willis on Tuesday talked to local reporters via video conference. What did he have to say about the defense's recent issues in the first half of games, and how to fix it, as well as comparisons he sees between rookie Julian Blackmon and veteran Malik Hooker? Here's the latest edition of "Colts Chatter."

Safety Khari Willis

» The Colts' first-half issues on defense of late aren't too complex to figure out: While the Colts' defense overall has been solid throughout the season, the last couple games have featured some head-scratching moments against the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, who combined for 514 yards of total offense in the first two quarters of their respective matchups, most of which was accumulated through the air.

The good news for the Indy defense is that, in both instances, they got it figured out in the second half, as they allowed a combined 269 yards over the final two quarters the last two weeks, or about 134.5 second-half yards per game.

But Willis and the Colts' defenders would rather not have to rely on such strong second halves to salvage their recent first-half struggles. The issues the last couple weeks, however, are pretty simple to dissect.

"I think we just have to lock in, be focused and everybody be on one accord, slow down and just play Colts defense," Willis said. "Once we've done that we've shown – it's really been like three halves this year where we didn't play good ball. We know that and that is something we're going to focus on for a lot of this bye – coming out ready to play. But once we lock in, I feel like we won't beat ourselves. We've been doing that the last two first halves."

» Willis sees "a lot of similarities" between rookie safety Julian Blackmon and veteran Malik Hooker: The Colts saw Hooker, their veteran free safety, go down with a season-ending Achilles injury Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings; that same day, Blackmon, the Colts' third-round pick this year out of Utah, made his NFL debut just a little more than nine months after undergoing knee surgery to repair a torn ACL suffered in his final collegiate game at Utah.

Blackmon had two tackles and two passes defensed that day against the Vikings, showing a glimpse of his exciting combination of physicality and cover skills. Since that time, Blackmon has flourished in a starting role; he has 10 total tackles, six passes defensed and two interceptions, both of which sealed wins in the fourth quarter for the Colts.

In fact, his interception of Joe Burrow with less than a minute left last Sunday thwarted a potential game-winning drive for the Cincinnati Bengals; the Colts would just need to kneel it out from there to earn a 31-27 victory to move to 4-2 heading into their bye week.

Willis, who started alongside Hooker as a rookie last year, said Blackmon brings a lot of the same qualities to the table as the veteran out of Ohio State.

"I think it is a lot of similarities. I think they're both obviously ultra-talented human beings as far as football is concerned, two really great players," Willis said. "Hook is a little older (with) a little more experience, but J.B. is great – tackling when he does, making plays on the ball.

"I think Hook was heading in that direction as well this year," Willis continued. "I think both of them have their strengths and their weaknesses just like we all do, but they are both fun to work with, both fun to play with. I don't prefer one or the other at all. I love them both. They're both my brothers. They both do a great job."

Related Content

Season Tickets On Sale!

Season Tickets On Sale!

Indianapolis Colts 2021 season tickets are officially on sale, giving fans everywhere the opportunity to join the team's season ticket member family for the 2021 season and beyond.

Advertising