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Previewing Colts’ SAF Depth Chart Entering 2021 Season

The Colts have a terrific young duo at safety, but some questions remain about the quality of depth for the group.

For quite a few years in the 2000s, the Indianapolis Colts had quite the formidable tandem at the safety position.

Former Colts head coach Tony Dungy’s defense featured a hard-hitting Bob Sanders, the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year who changed the Colts’ defense on the way to a victory in Super Bowl XLI, and an always dependable Antoine Bethea roaming the secondary.

Since both of them left Indy, the Colts have been looking for another safety duo to take over the reins and help lead the defense back to prominence. They may finally have that today.

In our last preview before training camp begins this week, let’s look at the safety group for the Colts.

Indianapolis Colts rookie safety Julian Blackmon has started to practice about nine months removed from knee surgery.

Julian Blackmon

When the Colts drafted Julian Blackmon in the 2020 NFL Draft, questions were surrounding the pick.

Blackmon was coming off of a torn ACL suffered in the Pac-12 championship game, and the Colts had Malik Hooker as their starting free safety. It was uncertain how much Blackmon would be able to contribute. But once again, general manager Chris Ballard had found a diamond in the rough.

Blackmon recovered very quickly from his ACL injury and was made available to play Week 2. Coincidentally, Hooker tore his Achilles during that matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, and Blackmon was forced into action almost immediately. Becoming the starter the rest of the way, he proved to everyone why Ballard was so excited about him.

Blackmon exemplified great playmaking ability as he grabbed two interceptions and a forced fumble. He also racked up 42 tackles, including three for a loss, and six pass deflections. Now with a full offseason of health, Blackmon looks to take full advantage of it.

“I think definitely last year I could tell that by the end of the season my legs, just because I was coming off of injury were kind of, you know, just a little weak,” Blackmon said. “So just being able to have this offseason and be around these great trainers, getting my legs stronger has been a blessing.”

Blackmon started off very fast last season and started to hit the rookie wall towards the end of the year. With no injury to return from, along with doing self-scouting, he has plenty of room to grow and that should excite Colts fans as Blackmon looks to become a dominant force roaming the secondary.

Dec 13, 2020; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Indianapolis Colts strong safety Khari Willis (37) returns an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Khari Willis

One of the most underappreciated players on the entire Colts roster has to be Khari Wills. Ever since the Colts traded up for Willis in the fourth round of the 2019 draft, he has made this Colts defense better.

Willis is an enforcer at strong safety and is always around the ball making plays. In the 14 games he played last year, he ranked third on the team with 85 tackles, including three for a loss. He also was a menace in the passing game as he tallied six pass deflections and two interceptions, even returning one for his first touchdown.

When Willis was out for two games due to injury, it was obvious the team missed his presence out there in all phases of the game. He has become one of the leaders of the defense, and he looks to continue to expand upon that this season.

“I think it’s something I’ve been doing since I got here,” Willis said when asked about his leadership role. “It’s something I’ll continue to grow the more experience I get in this league on this team, the more my teammates trust me. But I definitely embrace that role. I feel like it’s just, it’s part of my personality but it’s something that this team, we need from me. Good leadership in the back end, great leadership in the back end.”

Willis becoming a leader for the secondary is something the Colts would very much welcome. Although heading into year three, he is much wiser beyond his years and looks to continue ascending as a playmaker for the Colts defense.

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Dec 8, 2019; Tampa, FL, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive back George Odum (30) forces the fumble of Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Dare Ogunbowale (44) during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

George Odum

One of the Colts’ four First-Team All-Pro selections last year was from the safety group. Not Blackmon nor Willis, but George Odum.

Odum was named an All-Pro for his tremendous work on special teams. He led the league with 20 special teams tackles and a forced fumble, making his mark as one of the best in the league.

While Odum was used as a backup at safety his first two seasons in the league, playing around a quarter of the defensive snaps in those seasons, he only saw 25 defensive snaps total in 2020.

The Colts definitely see value in Odum as they kept him on a restricted free agent deal to return in 2021. While Odum has position versatility and can play both safety positions if called upon, it seems as if his role will primarily be on special teams as the team hopes he continues his All-Pro ways.

Nov 14, 2020; Gainesville, FL, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks running back Rakeem Boyd (5) is defended by Florida defender Shawn Davis (6) during a football game against Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Shawn and Sean Davis

Depth at the safety position of the Colts may be confusing for people that do not follow the team closely. The two primary backups will be a couple of players who share the same name, with the only difference being in how they spell it.

SHAWN Davis comes to the Colts as a rookie out of Florida. Selected in the fifth round of the 2021 draft, he is a playmaker known for generating turnovers and dishing out big hits. Although he may have struggled with confidence early in his career, he has overcome that and brings a mature mindset for a rookie, looking to improve and find a role with the team.

SEAN Davis comes to the Colts via free agency after spending the first five years of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. While mostly used in a backup role for the Steelers after being injured in 2019, he brings plenty of starting experience to the group with 42 starts in his career. He will look to bring another veteran presence to the secondary and contribute on special teams for the Colts as well.

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