With NFL free agency right around the corner, the Colts are evaluating their roster and looking for ways to improve the team. One of the areas General Manager Chris Ballard will be scrutinizing is the defensive secondary. Injuries and inconsistent play plagued the Colts secondary in 2016, as described by the Indianapolis Star.
Free agent signee Patrick Robinson was supposed to be the team’s No. 2 cornerback, but he missed more than half the season due to injury, and didn’t always produce when he was healthy. As the season began, the Colts had so many injured cornerbacks and safeties that they had to sign multiple free agents off the street just to get enough healthy bodies on the field. Nine different players started at the four secondary slots in 2016, so there was no continuity in Indianapolis’ defensive backfield.
Going into 2017, the Colts’ secondary could undergo significant changes once again. Vontae Davis is set as the team’s top corner, but beyond that, jobs in the defensive backfield are up for grabs. Corner/safety Darius Butler and safety Mike Adams are free agents, and after a disappointing first season in Indianapolis, cornerback Patrick Robinson is a potential salary cap casualty. Two of the emergency fill-ins from last year, corners Darryl Morris and Rashaan Melvin, played well considering they had to be thrown into the fire immediately after being signed. Safety T.J. Green has a great deal of physical talent, but he is raw and needs more development to be considered a solid starting safety.
The wildcard in all this is Clayton Geathers, who has shown promise as a hard-hitting safety. However, given the team’s weakness at the linebacker position and Geathers’ ability to play in the box, the Colts are toying with the idea of moving Geathers to linebacker next season (per SB Nation). That move would further cloud the picture when it comes to the team’s secondary, particularly if Mike Adams doesn’t return.
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Geathers had a pretty good rookie campaign, but he stepped up his play in year two. Pro Football Focus rated Geathers as one of the most improved second-year safeties in the league this past season, eclipsed only by New York Giants Pro Bowler Landon Collins. Clayton Geathers may move to a linebacker spot permanently, or he may drift between safety and linebacker as he did in 2016. Either way, the aggressive young standout will be a plus for an Indianapolis Colts defense that needs all the playmakers they can get.
With the complete NFL schedule finalized for 2017, we can now see who has the toughest and easiest schedules among the 32 NFL teams (based on each team’s record in 2016). There is some very good news for Colts fans, since Indianapolis has the easiest schedule in the NFL as reported by Fansided. The combined 2016 winning percentage of Colts’ opponents in 2017 is 42.4, which beat out the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Tennessee Titans (43.9 percent) for the bottom spot in terms of schedule difficulty.
The Colts will only play two teams in 2017 who won 10 or more games last season: the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) and the Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1). Everything considered, this friendly schedule should help Indianapolis return to the playoffs in 2017 after a two-year absence. The Denver Broncos have the most difficult schedule in the league next season (57.8 opponent winning percentage), followed by the Kansas City Chiefs (57.6 percent) and the Los Angeles Chargers (56.8 percent). Last year’s AFC South Champion Houston Texans have the seventh-easiest 2017 schedule in the league, with an opponent winning percentage of 45.5.
The Indianapolis Colts and their new general manager have plenty of roster holes to fill before the 2017 campaign gets underway, but with approximately $56 million to spend in free agency, the upcoming NFL Draft and the league’s softest regular season schedule ahead, there is reason for optimism — as long as star quarterback Andrew Luck gets enough protection from his offensive line to keep him healthy for 16 games, and hopefully, for a playoff run once the regular season ends.
[Featured Image by Eric Christian Smith/AP Images]