After serving a four game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, safety LaRon Landry returned to the Colts this week. Aside from last weekends thrashing in Pittsburgh, the defense has played very well in his absence.
Landry has been the punching bag for many analysts and being busted for PED use, which was bound to happen, seemed like the final straw for him.
Now the question is should Landry once again be the starting safety?
Chuck Pagano seemed vague on the issue this week and they have a one-week roster exemption to evaluate Landry.
“If we want him to play on Monday, then we have to do it by 4 p.m.,” Pagano said. “If he’s not, and we don’t want to throw him out there after being gone for a month – which I hope everyone would understand – then we don’t have to do that.”
The Colts face the New York Giants on Monday Night Football this week.
Landry is essentially an in-the-box safety, meaning he’s best used close to the line of scrimmage to help in run support. The problem is that position isn’t very valuable in a league that continues to make passing easier.
Many wanted to compare Landry to Bob Sanders (blasphemy) except Sanders was great in coverage and knew how to tackle (although both are fairly injury prone). The only similarity between the two is the ridiculous physique as both seem to develop muscle in an unnatural way.
Brown is more of a coverage safety who can operate in space. He will occasionally make mistakes, but has been at least average if not slightly above over the past four weeks.
In the four games with Landry, the Colts surrendered 95 points. With Brown in coverage, the Colts gave up 92. Not much of a difference, but consider the 51 vs the Steelers compared to a shut out the week before with Brown on the field.
Landry only faced two compete offenses in the Broncos and Eagles. He struggled in both games. Pro Football Focus gave him a combined -3.8 overall and he was -3.4 in coverage. Landry bounced back against the Jaguars, but a tackling dummy could have had a good game against Jacksonville back then.
Landry returned to form in Week 4 against the Titans with a -1.0 performance. He failed the random drug test after this game. In four games, Landry was -2.6 overall and a huge liability in coverage.
Brown had a sneaky good game in his first start this season against the Ravens. PFF gave him a +o.5 for that performance, but he made a number of impact plays in crucial moments. His second start, against the Texans, wasn’t nearly as good and he had a -2.0 overall (although most of this was due to a -1.8 in run support).
Over the past two games, Brown has recorded a +2.1 (and even played well against the Steelers) and he sits at +0.6 over his four starts.
Simply based on what we’ve seen in the first half of the season, it’s clear that Brown is a better option at safety. Landry has had more than enough chances to prove he can be a starter (he finished last season with a -4.7 from PFF).
Brown might not be setting the world on fire, but he has been fairly consistent and is clearly the more reliable safety. Landry is just too much of a liability to keep on the field.
One of the issues might be that the Colts gave Landry a $24 million contract with $11 million guaranteed. That is a lot of money for someone who isn’t starting and was just one of the bad contracts that GM Ryan Grigson has doled out over the past three years.
If the Colts value merit and on field play, then Brown should be starting against the Giants and for the rest of the season.