INDIANAPOLIS –Rich Gannon peered at opposing defenses in 157 games over 17 seasons and viewing from the broadcast booth last Sunday, he saw a much different Indianapolis secondary than ever before.
The difference was LaRon Landry.
"I did five Jets games last year, and without question I thought he was the best player on the field, and I'm talking about offense and defense," said Gannon. "He was the tone-setter for that group."
Landry hoped for 20 takedowns in his first game, but had 15 to his chagrin. He and Antoine Bethea (six) ranked first and third in stops, and both have the ability to switch safety positions to create versatility for Indianapolis and trouble for opponents.
"We both know each position," said Landry. "It's wherever we wind up, right or left safety. There's no real set free or strong (safety)."
That is the rub for teams preparing for Indianapolis.
"From a quarterback's perspective, you'd like to know if it's going to be one or the other, 'Okay, the blitz is 30 (Landry),' " said Gannon. "If it's 30 (Landry) and 41 (Bethea), then you get the seed of certainty because you don't know if it's coming from either side.
"In the running game, you have run game roles. You may work away from the down safety, 'In the game this week, we want to run opposite 30.' Now you have to ask, 'Is it 30 or 41, is it both, who's the down player who can kill you?' They can show you 30 being down and roll 41 down the other side and 30 goes back to the middle."
A checklist at the line always involves the 'mike' linebacker, but noting the safeties is high priority.
"It clouds the judgment of the quarterback, 'Who's doing what? What's happening and when is it happening?' You want to create a little doubt and slow down the process for the quarterback at the line. That's what it gives you. A quarterback would rather have one or the other, not both. That fact it's interchangeable allows you to do a lot of things defensively."
Bethea said the team had talked before Landry arrived about creating such confusion in the past, and he loves the inability opponents now have in drawing a bead on the defense.
"Bethea can do a lot of things Landry can do, but with a different body type," said Gannon.* *"You can press one or both. You can feel good about one being in the middle of the field and being a deep third defender. Both play the halves very well, have good range and play the ball well in the air.
"That's become a position of strength with those two guys. It's really going to free up from a scheme standpoint because of their versatility and flexibility back there."
Landry, however, may be the straw that stirs a different drink for Indianapolis.
"I think he changes the personality of the defense. He brings that effort, energy and passion and certainly the physicalness you want from a safety," said Gannon. "He's a great box player and tackler. He's very comfortable around the line of scrimmage. He's comfortable in the middle of the field, but he does the most of his damage down on the line. He's also a timely blitzer."
Chuck Pagano spoke of defensive dominance when he arrived in Indianapolis. Year Two may be a big step in that direction, and Landry is a player for whom to be accounted.
"When you're an opposing tight end or receiver, he gets your attention. If you're going to go across the middle, you'd better have some courage. There's a good chance he's going to be in the vicinity, and there are consequences of him being on the field," said Gannon. "You'll have to deal with him.
"I've been a Landry fan from doing Jets games. I think he's a guy who maybe is overlooked when you talk about really good safeties who have flexibility and give you some versatility back there. I think (his addition) changes the personality of that defense, really the entire defense. He's a (thumper). He's not going to back down.
"That's a powerful message when you sit in a wide receiver meeting room and you watch the tape. You're going to have your head on a swivel when you go across that secondary against the Colts."
PRACTICE REPORT – Did not participate: TE-Dwayne Allen (hip), LB-Kavell Conner (ankle), LB-Jerrell Freeman (quadriceps), WR-David Reed (quadriceps); Limited participation: LB-Erik Walden (hamstring), RB-Vick Ballard (knee); Full participation: LB-Pat Angerer (concussion).