When looking at the defense of the Indianapolis Colts, there are many things to be excited about.
They possess one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the league, intriguing young pass rushers, All-Pro talent at linebacker, and a young safety duo with fantastic potential.
The group that may have the most question marks surrounding them is the cornerback group.
While two of the three starters are entrenched, the third cornerback spot is definitely up for grabs.
It’s time to look at the corners suiting up for the Colts in 2021.
Kenny Moore II
While there may be some questions surrounding the cornerback position for the Colts, that does not apply to Kenny Moore II.
Moore has established himself as one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL. Not only can he make plays and stick with anyone in the slot, but he has also shown to be a great tackler and someone who can be a weapon as a blitzer. There’s no denying Moore is one of the most important players on the entire Colts defense.
However, Moore is not satisfied with where they are at and wants to continue to get better, as the Colts’ secondary strives to be great.
“I think in the back half in general we have some cleaning up to do,” Moore said in OTAs. “We just have to play together more. I think we should hang out outside of the building. I think we should stay together after practice … Coach (James) Rowe made a point after practice as far as knowing each other’s job and creating that chemistry of knowing what Rock (Ya-Sin) is going to do on third down or if someone is going to do something you’ve got to clean up for him. And that goes into the chemistry of what we want to achieve as a defense.”
Moore knows that they have some work to do as a group to get where they want to be. As far as his 2021, expect Moore to once again be an integral part of the Colts defense, possibly receiving his first Pro Bowl selection as he garners more recognition for his talents around the league.
When the Colts signed Xavier Rhodes as a free agent in 2020, it was seen as a gamble.
Rhodes was coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro and many around the league thought he could no longer perform at a high level. The Minnesota Vikings certainly thought this when they cut him in the spring of 2020.
The gamble turned out to be a major success for the Colts. With Rhodes playing in the Colts’ zone defense, he saw a resurgence in play and was graded as the ninth-best cornerback in the league according to Pro Football Focus while only allowing a passer rating of 64.4. He also racked up 42 tackles, 12 pass deflections, and 2 interceptions.
His great play warranted another year in Indianapolis, with the Colts agreeing to bring Rhodes back on a one-year, $6.5 million deal.
“I’m happy with the end result,” Rhodes said when talking of his free agency. “I’m a Colt. I played well with the Colts. I got along with the players and the coaches at the same time so it was a great bond with us and I was willing to see the potential in the team … I was more than glad and happy to come back.”
Rhodes will once again be the starter at right cornerback for the Colts. His aggressiveness and instincts in coverage combined with his solid tackling in run support give the Colts a great starter on the outside. His leadership will also be a valuable asset for a team with many young members in the secondary.
The left cornerback spot will have an open competition going into training camp. The incumbent starter, and the guy with the most pressure to solidify his spot, is Rock Ya-Sin.
Ya-Sin has been the starter at the left cornerback for the Colts since he was selected by the team in the second round of the 2019 draft. His first two seasons in the NFL have been filled with inconsistent play.
Starting with the good, Ya-Sin has been an asset as a tackler in run support and has shown flashes of good instincts in the passing game. His games last year against the Cincinnati Bengals and Las Vegas Raiders showed why the Colts are high on his potential as a reliable starter.
Where Ya-Sin needs to improve is on his penalties and use of hands when he gets behind in coverage. According to NFLPenalties.com, Ya-Sin had six penalties on the year that accounted for 102 yards. Five-of-six of those were for defensive pass interference or illegal contact.
He also needs to take a step up in coverage. Ya-Sin allowed a 67.2% completion percentage and a passer rating of 98.7 when he was targeted. These numbers, along with the penalties, caused his snap percentage to drop from 82% in 2019 to 53% in 2020.
Year three is a huge one for Ya-Sin. He could either take the next step and prove that he can be a starter at outside corner for the Colts long-term, or he could be replaced in the lineup putting his future with the team in doubt.
Competition for CB3
The competition for the last starting cornerback spot will have some intriguing names ready to prove themselves if Ya-Sin struggles in training camp and the preseason.
T.J. Carrie is a player who took over for Ya-Sin last year when he was injured, or when his play struggled. Carrie originally signed with the Colts as a free agent in 2020 to be a backup but proved he could perform well as a starter with 25 tackles and 2 interceptions. Carrie is likely to be a backup again this year, but could once again step in if a boost in play is needed.
Marvell Tell III returns to the team after opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. He was a fifth-round pick of the Colts in 2019 and converted to cornerback from safety. He has great height and length for a corner at 6’2” and displayed promising development in 2019, proving he could be a physical presence outside. It will be interesting to see if the year away hurt his development, or if he has improved on his game and will be ready to battle Ya-Sin for the spot.
Isaiah Rodgers is a young corner who showed great promise in his rookie season last year. While drafted to be a special teams contributor and kick returner for the Colts, he performed admirably towards the end of the year when given the opportunity at cornerback. While a little on the smaller side at 5’10”, 170, he has a fighter’s mentality and does not back down, making him someone to watch as a potential playmaker in the secondary.
See Below for More in This Series:
- Running Backs
- Wide Receivers
- Tight Ends
- Offensive Tackles
- Interior Offensive Line
- Defense Ends
- Defensive Tackles
Have thoughts on the Colts' cornerback depth ahead of the 2021 season? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel!
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMooreSI.