Dec 16, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Indianapolis Colts free safety Antoine Bethea (41) plays against the Houston Texans during the second quarter at Reliant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
The Colts got off to a big start this offseason when they were one of the most active teams in free agency, and one of the big fish they were able to land was former New York Jets and Washington Redskins safety LaRon Landry. Landry has a history of injury problems, but he played at a Pro Bowl level in 2012 and showed he is still capable of making a big impact on the defensive side of the ball.
With Landry in the fold, the Colts’ defensive backfield is significantly upgraded. They’ve struggled at the position in recent years, so adding a guy like Landry could make a huge difference in the way this team plays in 2013.
After the events that transpired with Joe Lefeged this offseason, depth at the safety position behind veterans Landry and Antoine Bethea could be scarce. Here is a quick look at all the players competing at safety for the Colts this season.
Antoine Bethea, 28
The 28-year old Bethea is entering his eighth season as an Indianapolis Colt, and possibly his final season. Bethea is in a contract year with the Colts and is coming off of a really solid season.
Bethea has not missed a game since 2007, and had 100 tackles last year along with two sacks and seven passes defensed. He’s not been much of a ball hawk for the Colts in recent years, picking off just one pass in the last three seasons (2010).
The Colts really need Bethea to step up not only in his ability to be a leader for this defense, but they need him to start making some more plays. He got his hands on seven passes last season, and he needs to start turning those into INTs. As a younger player, Bethea was constantly around the ball, picking off 11 passes in his first four seasons including two seasons with four INTs.
Bethea is a big part of the Colts’ defense and one of the leading returning tacklers. He will have a big role yet again in 2013 as the starting free safety.
LaRon Landry, 28
Landry–like his buddy in the backfield Antoine Bethea–had 100 tackles last season with the New York Jets and earned a big contract with the Colts this offseason.
Known for his ability to knock people out and make big hits, Landry adds a physical presence to the Colts’ safety position like they haven’t had since–dare I say–Bob Sanders roamed around back there.
I don’t know if Landry will go down in Colts lore like Bob Sanders has, but he’s certainly capable of playing at a defensive MVP level when healthy.
The key is going to be just that. The Colts really need Landry to stay healthy because they are thin at the S position with Joe Lefeged’s situation in question at this point. This was a huge pickup for Chuck Pagano’s defense and a guy who can roam all over the place, playing in the box and attacking the ball.
I really like the fit of Landry in the Colts’ defense and I think he can be an absolute stud for them.
John Boyett, 23
I think John Boyett has a chance to start for the Colts in 2014 if Antoine Bethea decides to leave for free agency. The Colts took a gamble on Boyett in the sixth round after he fell due to two major knee injuries, but this is a guy who can really play.
Boyett is a rangy, instinctive safety who was really productive at Oregon, and I think he has starting potential in the NFL. He will start off his career on special teams, and he does have some athletic limitations, but he is a quality player who could be similar to a Jim Leonhard type of player.
I really like Boyett and I think he could help the Colts sooner rather than later.
Joe Lefeged, 25
Lefeged is in trouble with the law right now because of weapons, which is absolutely inexcusable, but he is really important for the Colts’ future. He is absolutely one of their best special teams players and is a big contributor for the defense.
Over the last couple of seasons, Lefeged has been a spot starter for the Colts at safety, and has played in 16 games each of his first two seasons with 65 total tackles, two interceptions, and 646 kick return yards.
Lefeged is a valuable weapon for the Colts and they are hopeful this legal situation will take care of itself, and he’ll be able to be on the field as a core special teams player as well as a top reserve at safety.
Sergio Brown, 25
The Colts claimed Brown off of waivers from the Patriots in 2012, and he ended up being a really nice special teams player for them with 10 tackles on the ST unit last season in 16 games.
Brown was undrafted out of Notre Dame in 2010, and has really good size for the safety position at 6’2″ 217 pounds. If he is going to make this roster, it’s going to be because of his ability to contribute on special teams mainly. He has an uphill battle to climb, but the Colts liked him last year so we’ll see how he fares in 2013.
Delano Howell, 23
Howell is another guy who played five games for the Colts last year that was poached off the Buffalo Bills practice squad. Howell played one game for the Bills after being on their practice squad, and he is another who is fighting for a roster spot this season.
After going undrafted out of Stanford, Howell clawed his way to the active roster in Buffalo and wound up getting signed by the Colts in November. This is another guy they’ve done their homework on, and after a strong season last year of improving and showing that he can hang in the NFL, you have to think Howell is one guy who could at least get a look from another team if the Colts don’t have room for him.
Larry Asante, 25
Former fifth round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2010, Asante was expected to come into the NFL and be a solid special teams player an rotational safety at best.
After a workout with the Colts, Asante was signed after playing some with the Buccaneers and bouncing around a bit. Asante never even made the Browns’ roster, getting waived in September obviously with the hope that he would be able to sneak onto the practice squad, but it never happened as the Bucs poached him away.
Tampa Bay waived Asante, and the Colts picked him up a while later. He is going to have to have a good camp/preseason to have a shot at making the roster.